Crafting a Welcoming Environment: Patient-Centered Oral Surgery (episode 109)

11/01/2023 | Podcast

Here are the resources and transcript from episode 109 of our podcast Oral Surgery Admin’s Time Out Podcast: Practice Management Success Tips, which you can listen to below or find wherever you listen to podcasts. If you enjoy it, please subscribe, leave a 5-star review, and share it with your oral surgery colleagues.

patient asking oral surgeon questions on jaw model

Episode Resources

Here are a couple ways to get in touch with Josh, the Intiveo team, and customer serivce.

  • Reach out to Josh DeVries, podcast co-host, at Josh at Intiveo dot com
  • If you’d like to contact the Intiveo sales team, email Sales at Intiveo dot com
  • If you’re already an Intiveo customer and you need some help, reach out to


Episode Summary

“Patient-centered care” is more than a buzzword; it’s a fundamental shift in developing treatment plans and providing patient care, and it benefits patients as well as the practices. In this episode moderated by Josh DeVries from Intiveo, our panelists explore curating the experiences of oral surgery patients. You’ll hear practice leaders discuss innovations that transform the patient experience at their oral surgery practices, and you’ll find out how they are using technology and compassionate care to make a difference in oral surgery.

SOMSA thanks Wendy (Wellesly Oral Surgery in Wellesley, MA), Dawn (Southern Maine Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Windham, ME), Scott Graham (OMS Consulting Firm in St. Louis, MO), Donna Kotsios (Northwest Oral Surgery in The Woodlands, TX), and Josh DeVries (Intiveo in Vancouver, BC) for contributing to this podcast episode!

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Donna Kotsios: Welcome to the Oral Surgery Admin’s Timeout Podcast for Practice Management Success Tips.

This podcast is brought to you by the Society of OMS Administrators. On today’s episode, we are going to explore how the office manager can create a happier practice through intentionally crafting patient experiences.

Now I’m going to turn it over to Josh with Intiveo.

[00:00:25] Josh DeVries: Wonderful. Thank you for the great introductions. For those who are tuning in for the first time, my name is Josh. I’m the chief executive officer at Intiveo and co-founder. Uh, super excited to have everyone here today. So we’ve got some wonderful guests and I’m just going to take a second here to allow everyone to introduce themselves, share a little bit about what they do and yeah, we’ll kind of get kicked off here.

Maybe we’ll start off with you, Scott.

[00:00:47] Scott Graham: All right, well, thank you very much, Josh. My name is Scott Graham, and I’ve been in practice management for probably 25 years, and I’m the one that helped develop the JAWS Society, as it was called back in the day, and now it’s called SOMSA. So now my new role is I am a practice consultant. I travel around and I help practices, oral surgery practice

[00:01:09] Josh DeVries: Awesome. Well, great to have you as one of our subject matter experts here, Scott, today. I appreciate that. Wendy.

[00:01:15] Wendy DeOliveira: Thank you, Josh. I’m Wendy DeOliveira. I’m from an oral surgery practice in Wellesley, Mass. We’re a two doctor practice. I have over 20 years of dental assisting experience, and then for the past 16 months, I’ve been doing office manager work, and it’s been a challenge, a change, and fun at the same time.

[00:01:39] Josh DeVries: Wonderful. Well, great to have you on to hear some of your shared experiences over the last 16 months and 20 years before that. Dawn, maybe you can do a little intro for us as well.

[00:01:47] Dawn Bryant: Yes. So I work for Southern Maine Oral Surgery. We, I’m the patient service manager here. I’ve been here for 14 years. We have six surgeons in three locations.

So it’s a private practice, but we have three locations. We’ve been using Intiveo for about three years now, and we are just learning and utilizing more tools constantly. We have had some training recently and, uh, some of the templates that we’ve learned and some of the things that we’re learning. It’s, uh, expanding our patient communication greatly.

[00:02:17] Josh DeVries: Oh, wonderful. Great to hear uh, some of your history using Intiveo as well as other patient engagement tools. We’re excited to hear a little more insight on that.

So, maybe we’ll just kind of kick off with some guided questions here. Maybe Wendy, you can start off and share, you know, you’ve done 20 years in uh, dental assisting, that’s obviously a career in itself. What made you kind of change roles and take on the responsibility of office manager? Yeah, what kind of created that change?

[00:02:51] Wendy DeOliveira: So, I’ve done all aspects of dentistry from general to ortho to oral surgery. Oral surgery is definitely my favorite. I never was given the opportunity to go to the front because they like me always in the back clinical. And then the doctor I work for now was growing and he needed a practice manager and he said, I’ll get you training and let’s do it.

And so I said, okay, let’s go. I guess it’s the last step I need to learn in the dental practice so I was up for the challenge enough to do it.

[00:03:27] Josh DeVries: That’s great to hear. And it’s a wonderful role. You have so much responsibility and ability for you to really see the changes that you’re implementing, which is such an awesome thing to be a part of. I guess, in your own words, how would you define the patient experience at your office? Wendy.

[00:03:45] Wendy DeOliveira: Our patient experience, you know, we try and provide best practice. We try and provide everyone as they walk in, like, they’re treated with respect. They get the education that they need. They’re part of the Wellesley Oral Surgery family. We want them to have all the information they have when they leave so they can make a proper decision for treatment.

You know, we just want them to feel welcome. No one really likes to go to an oral surgery practice, but if they had to and had to come back, we want them to come back to our practice to get services done.

[00:04:21] Josh DeVries: Yeah, definitely. I always share with our clients and, you know, it’s. Because it’s our day-to-day, it’s often difficult to remember for our customers, our patients, this is actually extremely memorable occasion. Not always positively memorable, but this is surgery, this is oral care, this is a specialty appointment, this is not mundane for them, this is maybe something they see anxiety over, or are anxious about, and it’s always interesting to remind ourselves that we are really the ones that can put them at ease, we are the ones that can comfort them in this difficult time.

So I really appreciate you chatting about that, uh, the patient experience there. Dawn, uh, maybe you could share us a little bit why you came in office manager in oral surgery clinic and you know, what is your view of patient experience and how do you try to facilitate that?

[00:05:05] Dawn Bryant: I mean, I always say I’m kind of the bridge between, you know, the protocols that we run here at the practice and we always want to have our patients at the most priority, so I’m kind of that in between. Like our staffing with the protocols that we want to implement with our patients and then the compassion and the empathy that the patients need because they’re coming in for surgery. A lot of people that come into an oral surgery office are not doing it necessarily by choice.

I just kind of got into the role. I started out as a PSR or a Patient Service Representative and I’m just very, very good at speaking with the patients and making them feel at ease when they come in the office. So that’s kind of how I led it. This role actually was created kind of for me, the Patient Service Manager.

So it was an office manager and then they kind of changed it to a patient service role just so that our patients understand that they are our top priority. And if we didn’t have our patients, we wouldn’t be in practice. So that’s just kind of how it came about and we do the best we can to always put them first and still be able to keep our doors open and provide services to the community with the tech.

We try to stay on top of the highest technology too. We typically in our region are usually the first when it comes out with new technology just because that allows us to open up new doors for our patients as well.

[00:06:20] Josh DeVries: Ah, it’s really good, and I’m glad that you guys have such a focus on that. Scott, you have, like, the distinct honor of having insight in so many different oral surgery clinics.

Maybe give me a little bit of insight in our listeners here. Why did you choose oral surgery? I imagine you could have made your mark in any area of dentistry or healthcare. What made you choose oral surgery? Why have you stuck with it so long? You know, a lot of credit goes to you for helping found JAWS and the work of others, but, yeah, obviously this has a special place in your heart. Maybe you can tell and share a little bit to our listeners why and how this came to be.

[00:06:52] Scott Graham: Okay, that’s a fun story. So my background, I had a master’s degree in health administration and I worked for an orthopedic practice. And back in the day in orthopedics they had what they called The Bone Society for the administrators and it was a support group so when I changed jobs into oral surgery I was seeking the support for practice management knowledge and benchmark and network with my colleagues and share ideas.

Well, they didn’t have anything out there. You know, AAOMS didn’t provide any support for the administrators. So we all got together and said, “Hey, how about if we create a vehicle, then we can all communicate and network and share our ideas.” So we came up with the idea, and so I came up with the Bones, I’m sorry, the JAWS Society, similar to the Bones Society.

[00:07:46] Scott Graham: So then, from there, it just took off, and up to this date, thanks to Linden and her management group, and I think we’re up over 300 members. And it’s been a phenomenal experience. I keep advocating this to all practice administrators to join this group because it’s… As you know, when you talk to your friends and family, nobody really knows what you do, when you say you work for an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, they think you work for a dentist. So it’s really not the same, but it’s just people that you can reach out to. Wendy, and reach out to Dawn, and you know, share our trials and tribulations, and cry on each other’s shoulders if we could, and just talk about our stories.

And that was really the impetus to starting the, uh, the JAWS Society. And I’ve been in oral surgery since, and then about five years ago, I got into consulting. So now I still pay it forward. I still enjoy going to practices. In fact, I just got back last night from a practice who was, you know, wanting to increase their patient- centered care, as they call it now.

You know, the bottleneck that we see in these practices is they all come in and they don’t do their registration and the receptionists are, you know, trying to find ways to alleviate some of that stress. So, it’s nice to have these appointment reminders and tell the patients to do their patient registration prior to their visit.

So, hopefully that answered that question for you, Josh.

[00:09:14] Josh DeVries: Yeah, it’s a great story. I think it’s always interesting to hear the genesis of how these sorts of things begin. And my story is actually quite similar. You know, my family started a company called the Exan Group, which focused in on private practices in Canada.

But as well as practice management software for academic institutions. So about 15 years ago, I joined that family business in working with academic institutions. And it was really great to see how that society formed. Um, AD, the ADA, the American Dental Association and the IDEA have worked quite closely with academic institutions for a long time, but they always had this natural sense of like competitive rivalry between them.

And it really wasn’t until we created the axiUm Summit, where we had all of the academic institutions get together and work on, you know, how do we tackle some of these challenges? You know, every single one of us has a unique perspective on how we can solve these problems. And I really saw the grassroots of that come together.

And I think when I talked to Linden, when I talked to you, Scott, I think the OMS we have here at SOMSA, what formerly was JAWS, Uh, is the exact same ingredients to create an amazing recipe of community. And, you know, the thing I keep on asking Linden is why is there not 2, 500 people part of this group?

[00:10:29] Josh DeVries: Because this is the best group I’ve been a part of. I think the ability for us to work together to feel like we’re helping the common cause, the patient. We’re also not competitors. There’s more than enough oral surgery work to go around. There’s so much impact that we can have to people’s lives that…

Really, us working together is gonna be what’s best for everyone. You know, high tides, rises, all ships. And I think especially so in oral surgery. So that’s a little bit of my genesis, how I came involved here. I’m super passionate about dentistry and oral surgery. Patient advocacy, these are things that keep me up at night because I feel like…

We are all patients and we all have the ability to benefit off of these best practices and you know there is a change happening in our industry due to you know COVID and technological advancements that this is the opportune time for us to work together and create a unified exceptional patient experience that becomes the bedrock of everything we do.

Wendy, how do you, what are some practical ways that you help improve the patient experience? Is there something that you’ve done? Do your practice that you haven’t seen done elsewhere or things that you really feel that have helped put patients at ease? What are some ways that you’ve helped do that at your practice?

[00:11:49] Wendy DeOliveira: Ways that we help the patients at ease and the patients at practice, we kind of try and get like on a personal level with them. They’re just not a number. We don’t fully book our schedule. It’s not bombarded with patients or it’s like a factory in and out. We like the patients to come in. We like them to like talk to the front staff, the treatment coordinators, if they have questions. We also like the assistants to have a little bit of time with them so they get to know them. And then the doctor comes in. You just don’t feel like a number when you walk into our practice. It’s very, you know, like I said before, like a family.

We want them to feel like they’re the only one in here and we’re giving all our attention to them. You know, we have blankets and all kinds of stuff to make them feel comfortable. And we pretty much do whatever they want or need during their procedure. If they need a second consult, cause they’re not understanding what’s going to happen in their treatment plan, they are welcome to come in, the doctor calls them. So it’s much more tailored towards them.

[00:12:59] Josh DeVries: Yeah, I mean, you’re treating patients like they’re people. And that goes such a long way. And it’s funny because it seems so obvious. But in the day-to-day, it becomes difficult when you’re managing, you know, 20, 30, 40 surgeries a day, to give every person that individual care they desire is super helpful, and I think it It goes a long way with easing people’s anxieties around oral surgery. Hey Dawn, do you have any other areas or ways that your office has kind of really put the patient experience the center of what they do?

[00:13:27] Dawn Bryant: Yeah, I mean, along the same lines of like what Wendy was saying, we definitely don’t want to, for our patients just to feel like they’re numeric dollar intake into the practice we want them to know that we’re there actually because we want to get them out of pain and discomfort and to get their smile back. Our doctors say all the time even though we don’t do the denture portion of it or the prosthetic portion of it or anything like that, when patients get to that point where they finally are happy with their appearance again.

If we’re talking about like implants or like hybrid cases, the doctors will say, you know, stop in at any time. I want to see your final product. I want to see how much it’s changed. You want to see you with your smile back. So we put their priorities first and we kind of give them the options.

We don’t try to just push treatment plans on our patients. We want them to be a part of it from start to finish, so we want them to be comfortable and confident in the choices that they’re making when they’re coming into the office as well. You know, we obviously see some patients on an emergent basis, and we have to treat them on an emergent basis, but our doctors, the communications they have with the patients, the doctors really, like, they’ll sit down, they’ll pull a chair up and sit down with the patients and they really want them to know that they’re on the same level as them and they just want to communicate and make sure that they feel comfortable and they feel at ease.

You know, we have an amazing marketing person as well who goes around to all our referral bases, but she also, what she does here in the office is to make sure that the patients understand, like, we put up the doctor’s favorite spooky movies and their favorite foods and like there’s this trivia in the office all the time to make them feel comfortable and not just feel like they’re there you know as a patient in the office they can get more comfortable with the doctors and feel comfortable going in talking to the doctors rather than just I’m here for surgery and have that anxiety about it.

[00:15:08] Josh DeVries: So I think you brought two really good points here, Dawn. I think similar to what Wendy said, it’s like making sure they’re fully taken care of, treating them like a person, giving that personalized care. I think that goes without saying almost. But I think the thing that you touched in on there, which I think is such an opportunity, is you’re actually making your patients partners in their oral health care, not subjects of oral health care.

And there’s a massive distinction there, and I think that goes a long way. Maybe Scott, you’ve seen a lot of this. What are some real practical ways that you’ve seen patient engagement put at the center of offices? Is there anything that hasn’t been talked about here?

[00:15:42] Scott Graham: No, I think what it really separates one practice from the other is just the innovation that you have is doing these, what your product provides is, you know, these appointment reminders and text messages and phone calls, if need be, and also to remind them of, you know, doing the patient registration because as you know, it’s very frustrating to those patients when they come in and they don’t have the information, they don’t have their insurance information, and that kind of holds up their whole experience, when they come in. So, what we’ve discovered is, it’s all about the patients, as you know, it’s the experience from the time they hear you answer the phone, to the time they come in for the registration, to the time they check out. So, all that’s part of that patient experience.

So, what we’re doing now is being more proactive, and that’s what I love about your software that you provide. It’s such a great service, and it helps those basic practices.

[00:16:41] Josh DeVries: Yeah, I think, obviously, you know, I’m biased in my love of Intiveo, but I think, honestly, it’s more about not so much the tool, it’s how you leverage and the commitment your practice has of it.

And I think, you know, Scott’s point, I think there’s a feedback loop that needs to be necessary in every patient engagement. initiative. Whether it be customer surveys or patient surveys following the appointment, whether it be, you know, talking scripts after a procedure on checkout that you ask every single time someone leaves.

Having that feedback loop, understanding at least analytically to some degree, what’s working and what’s not, to me is a real foundational area around patient engagement because you have to be able to measure it. Otherwise, it becomes too anecdotical.

The other thing that I always talk about, and I’m the worst for it, you can ask my family, is really the empathy behind dentistry. You know, we are constantly combating our needs as healthcare professionals. We have a scope of work that needs to be completed today. There’s going to be an X amount of patients showing up, expecting treatment, and I am the facilitator of that going smoothly, and most importantly, I am the one that’s responsible to ensure that these appointments are being treated and completed successfully.

But we also at the same time need to balance the empathy of a patient. You know, what is a patient’s predisposed disposition towards oral surgery? And what I always remind people is the only way someone gets over fear is voluntarily putting themselves in the way of that fear inch by inch, desensitizing themselves. You can’t force it upon them and it’s always about, you know, being intentional with how you’re presenting things. So at the consultation, if you know they do have anxiety, maybe on your side of the table, putting all the dental instruments that are going to be used during the surgery on your side of the table.

And if they have interest and they start asking, allow them to touch and play with it during the consultation. You know, there’s a bunch of ways that we can allow people to just feel more comfortable, to feel more desensitized, and to be more, uh, voluntarily proactive. You know, like, like I think Dawn said, it’s like…

Most people are not coming here because this is the thing they want to do this week. This is something that they have to do, and there’s like serious risk if they don’t do it. So, let’s try to make people feel more comfortable, let’s make them feel more welcomed, and let’s try to remove some of the anxieties voluntarily, intentionally, throughout that consultation and surgery procedures. Um, so that’s just kind of my two cents on it.

I guess leading into the next question is like, how are we or how should we be measuring patient experience? Is it through, you know, top line revenue? Is it through consultations, the treatments being accepted rates? Is it through surveys or social media reviews? How is your practice measuring their ability to provide patient experience and for that to be positive? Maybe start with you, Wendy’s.

[00:19:27] Wendy DeOliveira: So one of our doctors, he calls his own patients the next day. He gets a lot of feedback from them about good experience. We also use the Google review with Intiveo. So they’re sent a text message. If they had a good experience, yes. Then they get the link to the Google review, so then they can leave us a nice review. And since we switched from someone else, we used about a year ago, we’ve gotten our Google reviews have increased. You can really see the positive experiences patients have because it’s easy. They just get a text message, they click it, fill it out, submit, done. So that’s another reason away.

And then also patients come in and they bring our staff gifts. Like today, I had a woman come in who was having her surgery. She brought me a thank you card and a chocolate bar ’cause I actually took the time, brought her in my office and went over her lengthy treatment plan for the third time. But she just needed reassurance and wanted to go over step by step. And I said, yeah, let’s go. I treated her like it was my mother-in-law who didn’t understand it and she needed to sit down because dentistry can get confusing. So if you have all these, you know, reminders and people to help you every step of the way, it kind of, you know, smooths and irons it out for you.

[00:20:54] Josh DeVries: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think, so it is almost two years ago, we did a podcast with SOMSA, or webinar, we went through like the customer journey or the patient journey in oral surgery, and it was quite astounding of how many things need to be collected, completed, communicated, with the patient before that surgery to have some support, some assistance, whether it be extra teammates or technology, it’s pretty critical and making sure everything gets done.

And I think you’re right. It’s when you do it correctly, it’s so unusual, patients will let you know. So it’s great to see that you’re seeing that both in responses online, as well as anecdotical feedback, but also in like this above and beyond things like gifts, like, you know, someone actually just taking the time to give you positive affirmation.

These are things that may not happen regularly, and it’s because we just don’t take enough time to do it. But when it does happen, It really does mean that you’ve not only gone above and beyond, but what you have done has touched that person in a special way. That’s the reason they’re letting you know that. So, I don’t think you always need to have these really statistically relevant feedback loops, but you want to make sure you have something. Something to keep your finger on the pulse and know what you’re doing is working and what possibly needs to be shifted up and changed.

Dawn, do you have any other ways that you’re managing feedback loops or measuring the patient experience you’re delivering to your patients?

[00:22:17] Dawn Bryant: Yeah, I mean, our doctors do the same, like Wendy was stating, but our doctors, they call all their patients every night that they have surgery to check on them, make sure that they didn’t have any questions that they didn’t get a chance to ask, maybe when they were in recovery or they didn’t think about when they were here, to make sure that their medication’s working, that they’re not in any discomfort. We don’t wait for them to call us with a complaint we always call our patients after surgery to check on them.

We also kind of gauge our patients a little bit too. So we do the same thing, we have reviews. I personally, if there’s a patient that for any reason whatsoever puts a message through that they were unhappy or they didn’t leave with a smile from their appointment, I call them personally and speak with them, and I always, like, even if it’s something that’s outside of our control and they were unhappy about financials or whatever the case might be.

You know, we make sure that we offer different things, like they may have not have thought about, or the person that was checking them out may not have thought about, like different options that they could have. Or, you know, everybody’s different, and we obviously have to have an income coming in, in order for us to stay in practice, because we’re a private practice. But there is also scenarios, like where you said, where the empathy needs to come in, too, that You know, we can work with patients and not every case is exactly the same, you know, so protocols are in place for a reason, but we also need to look at the patient and break it down for them and help them.

You know, we really push the paperwork prior to patients coming in so that we can make the process smoother for them when they come into the office, but there are some patients that don’t feel comfortable with doing their paperwork online and and as much as we really want it done, we have, to say, “Is there something that we can help you with that? Are you having a hard time with that in the waiting room? Let’s take you into a room and help you with that now.”

So I think, you know, we also do a lot of stuff with our referral basis too and we actually asked them, because they may not say something to us if they were unhappy or if they didn’t if the experience wasn’t the best for them, they might go back to their general dentist and be like, well, this is what happened when I was at the oral surgery office.

So we are constantly running surveys with our general dentist as well to touch base with them and see if there’s something that we can do to make their patients more happy. And that, and that makes our referrals want to send us more patients.

So I think that we put a huge emphasis on, you know, treating everybody on a personal level and not just treating them all the same. Even if we put them as a top priority, we don’t treat them all the same. We have to look at each individual case as it comes in and each individual person and their anxiety level and their comfort and, you know, and go from there. So we do all the, like you said, the statistical things part of it. But we really do try to touch base with the patients one-on-one and see what, for that individual person, is going to make them more comfortable. Not just statistically what it’s going to make somebody happy, but what that individual is going to be. And I think that’s what’s so important here at Southern Maine, is that we try to make it very individualized.

[00:25:03] Josh DeVries: Yeah, I think that’s great. I think, you know, for all the listeners here, we are so privileged to have Dawn and Wendy beyond this podcast and to share, you know, some of their best practices. To be honest, they’re gonna be in the top 10% of all OMS surgery clinics of what they’re doing, because you could tell there’s personal conviction here. People really do care about the patients they’re seeing. Both Wendy and Dawn, you know, want these appointments to be successful, not only for their employers, but also for the patients’ overall care.

Now maybe Scott can help the rest of the room with people who have not taken it this far. Maybe, you know, we came into this job, it’s a little bit of a mess, we’re still kind of working out the new COVID rules or whatever we need to do here. What would you tackle as your first priority in patient experience? Would it be… like, what would you do first? If none of these things were set up, you didn’t have a solution like Intiveo or anything else, don’t say buy Intiveo. That’s the worst advice for the first step. But what would be your first step, Scott, that you could maybe get some of these listeners here jump started to hopefully one day get to the point where Wendy and Dawn are?

[00:26:05] Scott Graham: Well, that’s a great question, Josh. And as you know, for those listeners, we as oral surgery practices only have one or two times that we encounter with our patients. It’s not like a restaurant or a general dentist where they… continuously see patients and treat patients. We have to have our stuff together for one and maybe two times only for these patients that come in, as you know.

So all those touch points that you just described are so imperative. And that’s really, and I’m coming from a consultant’s eyes, is what those touch points, as I call them, is the time, what you want to do to have that wow experience with your patients, as you know, because you have just one shot at it.

And Wendy brought a great feedback loop as, you know, there’s those reviews, and then there’s also those flowers and candies and cupcakes and cookies that we get, that kind of solidifies what those results of how those, came to fruition, those nice, kind words.

And so, but anyway, going back to your original questions, so from the time from registration, from the time they have their surgeries, to the time they do their follow ups, to the time you send out the bills, to their parking spaces, all those are, you know, part of that experience.

So that’s something that I find is something you can measure. Those are tangible, measurable items for that patient experience. And then what are you doing to improve on that? That’s the feedback loop.

[00:27:37] Josh DeVries: Yeah, no, I definitely agree. I think those are the super important, uh, aspects of patient engagement. I think, you know, for me, when I think of the experience, I think what are the three levers that help contribute to the patient experience?

I think the first lever is how are we treating that patient? That’s the most obvious one.

The second one is how do we treat the referring doctor? Because that’s actually the relationship we’re leveraging. They’re not coming to us because they looked us up in the Yellow Pages. They’re coming to us because a healthcare provider who they trust and know likely referred you. Uh, so that’s another really important relationship that we need to have a feedback loop around.

And then finally, I think the most important one is your staff feedback loop. What of these systems are sustainable? Which of these are causing confusion? Which of these are not manageable?

You need to have all three of those because I’ve seen enough offices, and I’m sure Scott has too, where the worst out of all of those is the revolving office manager front desk. If you can’t keep an office manager for two, three, five, ten years, you have an increasingly challenging, difficult task of delivering a seamless patient experience because that’s not a whole lot of time. You do need to keep your staff, you need to keep them happy, you need to keep them informed, you need to keep them trained, motivated, encouraged.

You need to do the same for your referring doctors because those are the ones that are going to bring in the patients that are going to tell people about your good name, your good service, your good work. And then finally it’s around the patients ensuring that, you know, they actually feel that.

And I think, you know, if I were to… take one stab at it and it’s not purchasing Intiveo because that would be a bad first step. Your first step would be is actually mapping out the patient journey. What are the five top treatments that I do at our clinic? And what are the distinct journey for a patient to have those treatments completed?

Everything from first referral, you know, referring GP, calling in to schedule that appointment, or letting you know you’ve gotten this referral, all the way through you calling that GP and letting them know the appointment’s been successfully completed and they’re ready to go back to the GP. What does that journey look like?

And how are you, you know, embedding some of the things you care about around patient experience inside of that journey in a scalable and ideally trackable manner?

I think… Until you have a full picture of what the experience needs to be across, you know, your most popular treatments, then you can start leveraging technology to make that job easier.

But my first opinion would be to actually start with the ideation side of it. Get your staff together, you know, do some interviews with GPs that refer you. Why do they refer you, not someone else? What do they appreciate about your care?

Do some references with patients, patients who don’t go through with their surgery. Say, “Hey, If I buy you lunch, will you share with me why you didn’t go forward? You know, we’ll give you a gift card.”

Or after a treatment, “Hey, we want to send you a free Starbucks if you give us, you know, a five minute survey on why you chose to go through it. How was the follow up care?” But it’s really about first is the ideation and discovery of that journey. So that’s where I would start.

I do know we’re short on time. This has been such a great format here, having so many really experienced and knowledgeable professionals. Before we wrap up, is there any advice, insights, or things that you would like to share with our listeners? Maybe something you wish you had known earlier in your career, or trends that you’re seeing on the horizon. Maybe some departing words, if you could. Wendy, do you mind starting, kicking us off?

[00:30:55] Wendy DeOliveira: Things that I love in the career of being a practice administrator is having the outlet of SOMSA. That’s really helped me, you know, getting in touch with other office managers. If I don’t know how to approach a situation with a team member, you know, I’ve been able to have that outlet with people across the country, which I think is pretty amazing, which gives me confidence. And it’s a very lonely job sometimes, so it’s It’s good to see the feedback from other peers.

Also, I think working with a great team, a happy team, that’s pretty amazing. You know, everyone has their ups and downs, but if you have a great team and get rid of the negativity and try and make every day happy, and we’re all here to provide the same service, it just makes it a better practice in a workplace.

[00:31:50] Josh DeVries: I couldn’t agree more. I think the first point of joining a community, if you’re not part of SOMSA, sign up right now. Honestly, that is the best thing you can do is surround yourselves around people who care about this because they are going to be your support system and they are going to be the ones that have seen every range of experience at a dental office, from absolute toxic culture to the best culture ever and what they did to change it.

I couldn’t agree more, Wendy. Tapping into that resource is… Such a huge opportunity for every single person. Dawn, how about yourself? What would be some things that you would have learned earlier or things that you wished you’d seen sooner?

[00:32:24] Dawn Bryant: I would say that anybody coming into the field needs to understand they can’t take things personally. Patients coming in, they react different. When you’re in pain, when you’re anxious, they react differently. React different and sometimes their personalities and attitudes towards staff members or towards the doctors, right? It’s never anything personable and they usually always come back and apologize if they are kind of a little over the top, I’ve learned.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to teach my staff is that they can’t take things personally and that they need to see it from the other side of it. You know, you don’t know what’s going on with this person. You don’t know, you know, you just gave them a big amount and they’re in pain and now they’re trying to question how they can pay their other bills and stuff like that. Like you have to really take yourself out of the equation when it comes to speaking with people and not let things happen personally.

And also like staffing wise, when it comes to management, you know, management and. Protocols are not always correct. I always say that you really have to listen to your staff.

If you listen to your staff and see their side of things, you know, sometimes they come up with a better option, a better plan, and a better protocol. They may be the ones that are kind of in the midst all the time, and they’re the ones dealing with certain scenarios, and I think, I have dealt with managers in the past or I’ve gone to different practices where they just kind of, you know, lay down the law and this is how we’re going to do it and we’re not going to make change.

Change is good. So I always say, like, if you want a happy staff and you want a good practice no matter what medical field or any field you’re doing, is you have to listen to your staff, you have to listen to your clientele or your patients, and you have to have kind of that open door and let them come in and express themselves, if they need to, whether it’s a patient or whether it’s a staff member.

So yeah, so communication, I think, is a huge, and you have to listen more than you talk. That’s kind of how, what I’ve learned over my 14 years.

[00:34:06] Josh DeVries: “Two ears one mouth!” As I cut you off, uh, sorry.

[00:34:09] Dawn Bryant: No worries.

[00:34:09] Josh DeVries: I honestly think, Dawn, that’s advice you could take to the bank in any field.

You know, I start off every quarterly planning session with my executive team, our annual planning session around: “Team! I have a plan, and if we all do our jobs, it gets dust on it, and we don’t even open it up.” And that’s the best case solution, because that means that we came up with something infinitely better than that.

Now, if we don’t, we still have it there, we can use it. But the plan, I’m convinced, the plan we create together will be infinitely better than what I could do by myself. And that belief in your teammates and allowing the opportunity for them to be ambassadors of what we’re trying to accomplish is what’s going to get you the best result every single time. That’s been my experience in dentistry, in business, and in life.

Scott, maybe you can take us home. Anything that you wish you knew earlier, or things that you’ve seen on the horizon that are exciting to you, opportunities, or yeah.

[00:35:01] Scott Graham: Well, I would say to those listeners, those other office managers, invest in yourself.

Professional growth and development is, I found, was key. It was really… imperative and helped me in my career because the more time you spend on yourself, either, you know, joining our great organization, going to seminars, reading books, whatever it takes, put the time in yourself, and you’re going to be a better person, a better manager, you’ll be more knowledgeable, and you’ll just be on the cutting edge. And it just shows to your peers, to your doctors, to your employees.

So, that’s my unsolicited advice to those, uh, listeners out there, invest in yourself and you’re gonna see how you’ll become more successful in your career.

[00:35:47] Josh DeVries: Totally agree. I think, you know, the studies range in what they say, but 90 percent of people don’t continue to educate their role. So, if you’re even just reading a book, you’re in the top 10%. And it’s, you know, like Warren Buffett, if you get 1 percent every day better… You’re going to be infinitely better over a course of a year or span of multiple years. Yeah, I completely agree.

Thank you everyone for your time, your listeners, for the guests, Wendy, Dawn, and Scott. Really appreciate your insights, your experience, your feedback. This has been such a tremendous episode and we really do appreciate your perspective on these topics. I’m going to pass over to Donna and she’s going to close.

[00:36:23] Donna Kotsios: Thank you all. Wonderful. Josh, Dawn, Wendy, Scott, thank you so much for your experiences today. It was awesome.

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Thanks so much!