The Jameson Method of Dental Practice Management believes in investing in the development of people, and that there is never an end to learning. We practice that in our own company, for our own consultants. We stay on a continuous path of improvement, realizing that our improvement translates into better results for our clients. Everyone wins!
One of the principles mandated to us by those who consult for our company is cross-training. Everyone and everything in our company needs to be duplicated. This means that the company will not be at risk if someone is not available.
The same business principle applies to your dental practice. You do not want progress to stop because you don’t have the people to carry out the necessary tasks that keep you on course. Also, there is drastic danger if only one person knows the “ins and outs” of a system. What would you do if someone was not available, but no one else on the team knew what that employee did, how she did it, and where things were located?
It is important and efficient to have a specific person on the team ultimately responsible for each system. However, everyone on the team should understand how each system is set up, how it works, and how it is administered. Plus, it should be mandatory to have detailed descriptions of each system in your operations manual.
In addition, you need to identify who will be the immediate backup should there be a need. For example, a specific person may be responsible for setting up a financial agreement and collecting fees. However, you need to make sure that another person is ready to carry out those tasks should your primary person be unavailable. If you have one financial coordinator and she is out for some reason, the last thing you want is for the other team members to say to patients, “Oh, Sherry is out today. I will have her send you a statement when she gets back.” This could lead to accounts receivable nightmares! There are similar examples related to every system in your practice. Plan for difficult situations - i.e., damage control!
As you plan for damage control, carefully outline how the practice will respond if the doctor or hygienist is absent. Having a plan of action in place will not only provide guidance for your employees, but a great deal of stress relief. Even if you have more than one doctor or hygienist, a plan of action regarding how you will take care of their patients, how you will maintain the required level of productivity, and how you will access temporary caregivers is a valuable part of your cross-training, business plan, and security.
Think of cross-training as business insurance. Everyone buys insurance, yet everyone hopes they don’t need it. That doesn’t stop people from making this wise investment. Do the same thing with your practice - invest the time and effort into ensuring the safety of your practice should someone be out of pocket for any reason.
The basic premises of cross-training
1) List the major systems in your practice. Identify which are mandatory for the practice to function. Note which systems already have back-up support. Identify those systems that need support.
2)Teach the system to your backup personnel exactly as you want it to be administered. Don’t assume the trainee knows anything about the system. Take the time to go through each system. You could do this at team meetings. In some instances, one-on-one training may be best.
3) Demonstrate how to perform the skills. Let others see or hear you performing the tasks. Do this both with and without patients.
4) Have the trainee recap for the trainer what needs to be done, including how and why each step within the system is important, how it impacts other systems, etc. Then, have the trainee perform the task with the trainer present.
5) Have the trainer shadow the trainee as he or she is doing the task.
6) Over time, evaluate the success of the performance and give appropriate feedback about what is working and what needs adjustment.
7) As systems change and evolve, make sure changes are reviewed with everyone on the team. Make sure everyone knows what is going on and that you have trained someone to duplicate the integral tasks of your practice.
Dr. Cathy Jameson is president and CEO of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental practice-management consulting, lecturing, seminar, and product provider. An accomplished speaker, writer, and workshop leader, Cathy earned a doctorate in organizational psychology, focusing her studies on effective stress-controlled management. Cathy’s books, “Great Communication = Great Production” and “Collect What You Produce,” are top sellers for PennWell Books. You may reach her toll-free at (877) 369-5558, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her Web site at www.jamesonmanagement.com.