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Where is your MOM?

Oct. 1, 2006
Ask a group of dentists what the number one problem in practicing dentistry is today and they will answer with one simple noun - “staff.

Ask a group of dentistswhat the number one problem in practicing dentistry is today and they will answer with one simple noun - “staff.” Ask them to elaborate and they’ll convert the noun into an adjective - “staff turnover, staff shortage, staff training, staff motivation, and staff management.” The challenge for everyone is, “How do we create, develop, and maintain a skilled workforce, even through periods of staff transition?” Dental office staffs work to their highest skill levels, but the missing link to practice success is advancing skills in a practical and fun manner. Most dental practices now use a wide array of digital technologies, yet despite these advancements, only minor improvements have been made in the way people think, learn, and improve their work.

Cercon® Coach software, powered by MedVisor | dental, contains multimedia patient education and tutorials for procedures.
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Advancements in digital photography, as well as the software to manipulate digital images, allow the dental team to benefit from a Multimedia Office Manual (MOM). Properly implemented, MOM creates a stable infrastructure and an easy-to-access knowledge base about procedures and protocols in the practice. Staff can produce intuitive, visual, self-teaching materials about what they do and how they do it. They may write a simple document, include photos, or produce a video clip that illustrates how they perform their tasks.

When someone leaves the practice, a successor can learn detailed information about how the practice works from MOM. Everyone’s stress level is reduced because training requires minimal involvement from other staff members who are already occupied with their duties.

How to use MOM

MOM makes practice knowledge accessible to anyone at any time. And we all know that MOM knows best what to do and how to do it. MOM uses standard technologies such as Microsoft Word, video cameras, and Adobe Acrobat. This makes it affordable and supportable. The greatest implementation challenges involve establishing a vision for your practice, and preparing and executing a plan.

The following example illustrates how MOM works:

An office manager takes a two-week vacation, and upon her return, discovers a pile of work. Everything that could have been postponed is waiting for her return. Other staff members may have wanted to help while she was gone, but they didn’t know how to do her job. Enter MOM.

Implementing MOM will allow the office manager to have a great vacation because all her normal work can be done in her absence. Using the digital video camera, she can create video clips depicting her various tasks. For example, one video can show how to use the credit card authorization terminal, discuss the end-of-day procedure, and contain a friendly warning about waiting for the first ticket to print before printing again so the printer won’t jam. After shooting the video, the office manager can plug a wire from the digital camera directly into a computer that has video editing software. The video can be transferred from the camera to the hard drive in seconds. Anyone who wants to learn a front office skill can simply click on the appropriate icon, and MOM trains with infinite patience and repetition.

Instructions for using billing software

In addition to creating video clips, the office manager can use Camtasia Studio software ( to produce multimedia instructions for using the practice’s dental billing software. Camtasia electronically records everything that happens on the computer screen, along with the office manager’s narration, and saves it on the hard drive. She can create multimedia tutorials about generating e-claims, posting treatment, end-of-day procedure, and other tasks, simply by doing these tasks and speaking into the microphone of a computer headset.

Camtasia faithfully records every mouse movement, click, keystroke, and screen, along with narration, and stores the tutorial on the computer’s hard drive. No more cumbersome manuals. MOM never forgets how to do a procedure and runs the office with the consistency that only MOM does best. Watching MOM during the office manager’s absence will reduce stress and provide comfort to staff who know they can update their skills anytime by reviewing MOM’s electronic video clips or Camtasia tutorials.

Cloning staff knowledge

Cloning staff knowledge with MOM is the most powerful way to build and retain a knowledge base in a dental practice. With MOM, the office manager is available 24/7 to share her knowledge. If she leaves the practice, her knowledge remains behind for others to benefit from.

Cloning offers phenomenal knowledge-transfer mechanisms. How much would you be willing to pay for a new dental assistant who reports for her first day of work already familiar with your equipment, instruments, and style of practice? MOM’s multimedia video clips allow you to give the new assistant a CD-ROM containing quality instruction about your practice. She can spend an hour or so a day observing “over the shoulder” instructions via video developed by you and your dental assistant. The new assistant will arrive in the office and perform as though she has worked with you for months.

MOM provides useful knowledge transfer for most office activities, including office procedures, clinical procedures, case presentation skills, patient education, patient management, and verbal skills. It is the ultimate way to benefit from the knowledge accumulated over time, irrespective of who is working in the office.

Implementing your Multimedia Operations Manual will change the way you think about training, education, and staff transition. A subtle, yet extremely significant benefit, is expanding the universe of prospective staff members. You probably already have most of the technology you need to bring MOM into your practice. Make 2006 the year to get MOM, and give the gift of knowledge and personal satisfaction to everyone. There is nothing more rewarding.

Steven Seltzer is one of the most innovative dental practice-management consultants, inventors, and business researchers in the world. He lectures internationally and has written more than 100 articles about practice management and technology. Seltzer developed the TLC Technology Lighting Center and is the founder of Seltzer Institute. You may e-mail him at [email protected] to receive an Acrobat file containing MOM’s sample content.

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