Are Your Systems/Protocols Getting Watered-down?

Operating rooms and surgeons are famous for their protocols and checklists to ensure that no detail is every overlooked. In the dental industry we can apply some of these same principles to ensure that our days run as we intend them to. 

We all know that repetition of the same action in the same order will lead to successful results if we are using successful systems. This is why we have written protocols and checklists in our offices. The problem with protocols is once they are presented, they may never be looked at again and they very often get modified by one person or another and the intention of the original protocol may become a watered-down version of the original intention. In the case of training new team members very often it is done without the written protocol in hand and the modified version is being used as the teaching model. 

So why even take the time to develop protocols if they are going to be modified? You want consistent delivery to the standards you expect because you can’t be everywhere and know what your team is delivering, these protocols are your representation of the manner in which you want your office to succeed. I strongly suggest that protocols/checklists are devised and delivered in your office and are reviewed in detail at least once a month. Very often, your team will think they are following a protocol to the letter even though they may have cut out some steps without even realizing it.  For the following tasks in your office I suggest you have detailed protocols/checklists that will cover all steps:

  • Scheduling an appointment from a phone call, especially a new patient call. You want to ensure that each and every contact with a patient has a uniformity of delivery, a new patient needs to feel welcomed, heard and thanked for reaching out to the office. The collection of information needs to be consistent to make a visit comfortable with the patient knowing that they were heard by the communication of the details they provided between team members. I am happy to provide a complimentary “conversation” for new patient calls if you would like to contact me. If it is an existing patient calling the office you want them to feel recognized, that their information is being shared with other team members and that they can have confidence that they have had the expected result from their phone call.
  • A checklist for patient arrivals has to be more than the COVID prescreening that we are now performing. There needs to be warm welcoming smiles, patient recognition and updating of any necessary information.
  • Chair time protocols/checklists need to be developed for the tasks that are expected to be completed prior to the dentists joining in the room, right from helping with the patients personal belongings, updating medical/dental information, any radiographs to be taken and any clinical prep that may be needed. 
  • Very definitive protocols should be developed around Dentist/Hygienist handovers, treatment planning and treatment acceptance. If these protocols aren’t followed, then it is very easy for diagnosed treatment to fall through the cracks. There can’t be enough protocols/checklists for scheduling diagnosed treatment.
  • Patient retention is a very broad topic that requires a number of protocols and checklists. It ranges from pre appointing only your low risk patients for their hygiene appointments, the way your hygiene recall system is set up, the way your treatment is planned in your software and all methods of communication with patients. 

The follow through on making all of these protocols/checklists will help with consistent delivery to your patients without shortcuts unintentionally sneaking in without you or your team realizing it. You can have your team contribute to writing the protocols, with training on any changes that you would like implemented. I also suggest that you review the protocols with the specific team members once a month and not just by them initialing a copy of the protocol but actually having the protocol in front of them when they are performing a pertinent task. Everybody performing in a consistent manner provides comfort and safety to our teams and our patients.

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