Dr. James Anderson
eAssist Dental Solutions
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Fear of Change Sabotaging Your Future Success?
By James V. Anderson, DMD, Founder and CEO of eAssist Dental Solutions

“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”
Chinese proverb

In a recent Harvard Business Review article entitled, “Stop Using the Excuse Organizational Change is Hard” (by Nick Tasler), the author suggests that “Change is hard in the same way that it’s hard to finish a marathon. Yes, it requires significant effort. But the fact that it requires effort doesn’t negate the fact that most people who commit to a change initiative will eventually succeed.”

I believe that wholeheartedly. Most of us are biased AGAINST being able to succeed at change. The author of the article suggests and then supports this conclusion with University studies. Whenever we say, “change is hard”, we continue to promote the idea that if we succeed at change, it must be a rare exception.

Nick continues, “The good news is that we can address this problem simply by flipping the script.” He cites another University study suggesting that if we prime those who we are expecting change with, most change efforts (like learning how to walk, ride a bike, social skills, etc.) are successful and we can eliminate the negative bias towards change.

Most change efforts are successful! We have all been adapting to new environments and learning new skills since the day we were born. Change is the rule of human existence – not the exception.

Over the last few decades, the definition of a “typical dental practice” has changed. Dentists have found they can think beyond the single-doctor office with three or four operatories and shape their vision to better suit the needs of patients, team and their own ambitions. The basic change in ideas and methods allows for flexible and extended hours and a variety of standard and new services and products. While dentists may develop a new dental practice model, they usually don’t change the practice’s core values. When a practice shares a set of common values, change that is supported by trust in the values of the leaders comes more easily for those who normally fear the new and different.

Leadership must provide a sharp vision of the practice’s core values and promote and support growth, even if it means making a sacrifice of giving up the old way for something better. Stagnation is the killer of growth and innovation.

It’s a big leap from thinking you’re innovative to actually being innovative. Building a culture of innovation means encouraging the free exchange of ideas, which ultimately turns good thoughts into actions and measurable results.

Things that should go now:
Paper charts and paper forms
Antiquated billing systems and backlogged insurance claims
Paper claim submittals by snail mail
Antiquated patient scheduling system
Antiquated recall systems that are not automated or designed for the demographics
Refusal to learn the dental software system and updates
Refusal to use social media to communicate

Integrate newer services into the practice (besides whitening) such as:
Laser technology
Intra oral photography and digital imagery
Interactive Website for patient communication/Live Chat

The Internet has made it possible for dentists to promote their services 24/7. Apart from referral by existing patients and word-of-mouth, a website is the most results-proven marketing tool a practice can develop and rely on. A website is the first impression a patient often has of a dentist; a great-looking website with professional content and features can positively affect a potential patient’s perception of your practice. Designing a website that represents your practice in the most powerful way allows you to be creative and innovative with information and philosophy.

In an article written by Eric S. Solomon, DDS, MA for Dental Economics, Dr. Solomon explains that the demographic profile of dentists has changed dramatically. In 1975, dentists were generally young and male. Fifty-seven percent of all dentists were younger than 45 years old, (98%) were male. The past 40 years the dentist population is now older, and there is a much larger representation of females. Today, 42% of dentists are at least 55 years old, and only 31% are younger than 45 years old. The differences are even greater when gender is considered. More than half of the male dentists (52%) are at least 55 years old. 56.2% of female dentists, on the other hand, are younger than 45 years old. 

Change happens whether you want or expect it to. You must embrace it and find the positive in change that can bring success and happiness to your practice.

James V. Anderson DMD is a practicing dentist in Syracuse, Utah. He has built nine dental practices in the last decade and is the CEO/Founder of eAssist Dental Solutions, the largest national dental insurance billing company (www.dentalbilling.com) in the U.S.

He can be reached at james.anderson@eassist.me

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Sally McKenzie, CEO
McKenzie Management
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Control Staff Conflict Before It Damages Your Practice
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

Unresolved conflict can be pretty damaging to a practice. Not only does it create a negative atmosphere for your team members, patients also feel the tension – which could lead them to make their next appointment at another office.

While it’s unavoidable, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of conflict causing trouble in your practice. Here are my tips:

Don’t ignore it. Many dentists tell themselves whatever the problem is, the team members involved can work it out on their own. The problem is they never do, and it just becomes worse. When you notice conflict between team members, sit down with them right away and work together to find a solution. Remember, you are the practice CEO. Your team members look to you for guidance. If you disregard conflict, it will continue to fester, and the passive aggressive behavior, gossiping and eye rolling will remain a distraction that hurts practice efficiencies and team morale.

Stay positive. Conflict can be pretty draining on the team. The negative vibe brings everyone, including patients, down. Do your best to stay positive and encourage the rest of your staff to do the same.

Don’t react with emotion. As you might imagine, this will only make the situation worse. Be strategic instead. When you meet with the team members involved, calmly talk about the issue and come up with a plan to fix it. Don’t waste time placing blame. It doesn’t matter who’s right or who’s wrong. All that matters is finding a solution so everyone can move on and focus on growing the practice.

Put an end to gossip. Gossip does nothing but fuel the conflict and really has no place in any dental practice. Make it clear that team members should only talk about co-workers when they’re in the same room and should walk away or change the subject if others don’t want to follow this rule.

Bring back the daily huddle. During these meetings, you can discuss the day ahead as well as any issues team members are having. This gives them the opportunity to address small problems before they grow into bigger problems. You’ll find you have much better communication, helping to prevent problems from ever even popping up.

Develop policies. If you don’t already, I suggest you create clear policies that outline standards for professional behavior and how you want your office to be run. For example, make it clear that gossip will not be tolerated and you expect team members to arrive to work on time every day. Include these policies with the employee handbook and make sure every team member reads and signs off on them.

Hold monthly meetings. During these meetings, team members should be prepared to provide an update on their systems. The group can then talk about the systems and how they can be improved. From there, delegate team members to pursue the strategies discussed and set deadlines to meet certain goals. Everyone becomes involved in growing the practice and knows what they can do to help move it forward. These monthly meetings further strengthen communication and ensure everyone is on the same page. 

Look at conflict as an opportunity for growth. While conflict is unavoidable, it isn’t always such a bad thing. I suggest you start seeing conflict as a gift. Working together, you and your team members can make changes that will improve the practice. The conflict might bring issues to your attention that you didn’t even know existed, allowing you to make positive changes that lead to practice growth.

If you ignore conflict in your practice, the results can be pretty damaging. Unhappy team members will start looking for new jobs, and patients who notice the tension will start looking for new dental homes. Employees will focus more on complaining about each other than they do on their jobs, meaning practice efficiencies and productivity will suffer – as will your bottom line.

Even though it might make you uncomfortable, you really must embrace the role as practice CEO. Face conflict head-on and squash it before it gets out of control. You’ll have more effective, happier team members who are focused on what matters most: your patients.

Still not comfortable dealing with staff conflict on your own? Not to worry. That’s what I’m here for. Feel free to contact me for more guidance.

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a nationwide dental management, practice development and educational consulting firm providing knowledge, guidance and personalized solutions that have propelled thousands of general and specialty practices to realize their potential.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com or call 1.877.777.6151.

Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here

Hear Sally’s FREE podcasts at The Dentist’s Network - HERE

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