What? Systems Can Be Fun?

September 15, 2021 Sheri Kay RDH

How about a fun pre-pandemic memory? I was on a vacation cruise and had sought out a lounge to do my yoga privately early in the mornings. One morning, I arrived to find easels displaying paintings along the walls of the lounge and a team of people from the Art Gallery. One woman held up a camera and said, “Okay, go!” Then, four others ran along the sides of the room, picking up the paintings and rushing them up to the front of the room. Then they ran back, folded the easels, and moved them as well. The woman with the camera said, “You did it,” and everyone cheered and clapped.

Later that day, I ran into the woman who had held the camera. I had to ask… you know I did, “What were you doing in the lounge this morning?” She told me that every few months they do a quality control exercise to demonstrate they can breakdown the gallery in less than five minutes, because sometimes they only have five minutes to clear the lounge between events.

I had to ask… You know I did. “So, how well did you do?” She told me they were excited to do it this time in just over a minute. She was beaming from ear to ear.

So, that got me thinking…. You know it did. Turning a task into something fun can be energizing. In dentistry, we have to breakdown operatories and setup operatories all the time. What if, while following infection control guidelines and all things OSHA, there was still an element of fun in periodically demonstrating we can do this task at high speed? What record can we beat?

While I was on this same cruise in the Caribbean, it was flu season. There were bottles of hand sanitizer everywhere, and going into the dining room, there were four stations where you could stick your hand under an automatic dispenser. The cruise line did not want to leave it up to the honor system for passengers to clean their hands, so they had come up with a fun way to make us do it. Two men with Caribbean accents and funny attire greeted everyone coming into the room. They had Bluetooth speakers and danced as they said to everyone, “Washy, washy, yay, thank you.” So, every time I went into the dining room, I had a little dance with these gentlemen and sanitized my hands. For the entire cruise, everyone sanitized their hands upon entering the dining room!

During the final night’s dinner celebration… you know the one, where they bring in the blazing dessert and dance in a Conga line to “Hot, Hot, Hot,” the “Washy, washy” guys got on the microphone and thanked us for sanitizing our hands–and allowing them to help keep us healthy. Of course, we all cheered. We loved these guys!

So, that got me thinking… you know it did! They had found a fun and engaging way to improve our health and make us feel good about following the rules. I hope you noted that in my two cruise ship stories, having fun with systems increased the group’s performance. Research consistently demonstrates that when team members are enjoying themselves, work is performed at a higher caliber and with less stress. When patients are enjoying themselves, their participation in their own health is greatly improved.

I know dental care teams well, and they love a creative challenge. Where do you have systems that are trending boring that your care team might add a little fun and spice to? Have some great examples to share? Add them in the blog comments.

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About Author

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Sheri Kay RDH

Sheri Kay started her career in dentistry as a dental assistant for an “under one roof” practice in 1980. The years quickly flew by as Sheri worked her way from one position to the next learning everything possible about the different opportunities and roles available in an office. As much as she loved dentistry … something was always missing. In 1994, after Sheri graduated from hygiene school, her entire world changed when she was introduced to the Pankey Philosophy of Care. What came next for Sheri was an intense desire to help other dental professionals learn how they could positively influence the health and profitability of their own practices. By 2012, Sheri was working full time as a Dental Practice Coach and has since worked with over 300 practices across the country. Owning SKY Dental Practice Dental Coaching is more of a lifestyle than a job, as Sheri thrives on the strong relationships that she develops with her clients. She enjoys speaking at state meetings, facilitating with Study Clubs and of course, coaching with her practices.




Re-starting Your Practice – How Will You Handle Fees?

April 29, 2020 North Shetter DDS

We are “all in” on getting ready for our office to re-open. We have been in dialogue with our team members, reviewed our cleaning, asepsis, OSHA protocols, and worked out client and staff management protocols that follow the ADA guidelines. We are ready to go! However, our governor may prevent us from starting for another month. If that happens, we will have lost a full three months of production – one quarter of the year. 

We can never regain that lost revenue. Like the car salesman who does not close the sale, the money that was going to pay our fees is now gone forever as it has been spent somewhere else. If you want to understand a bit more about the mathematics of loss, take a moment to read this letter from Steve Blumenthal. The letter is old, but the math still makes sense and it is not pretty.  

“The New Normal” 

Like many of you, we have been “Zooming” into a variety of web-based CE on how to manage the new normal. The new normal to us looks like less productivity and higher overhead. The new normal also looks to us like a time when our clients and staff will feel a sense of increased vulnerability, so it is imperative that everything we do at every touchpoint is focused on active listening, positive messaging, and mutual respect.  

The Question of Fees 

This leads to the question of fees. Some presenters are suggesting adding charges for PPE or raising fees in general. Our opinion is that, as a nation, we are about to enter a period of deflation. If our clients are worried about maintaining their jobs, they are not going to spend discretionary dollars. We are very unlikely to see a V-shaped recovery. Our government has poured a great deal of money into the economic system, but fearful people will not spend if they are not sure of a paycheck.  

Most of us will have to eat the added overhead in our practices. In fact, many practices will look at staff costs and decide to run with less people. You can count on insurance carriers to use the pandemic to push on dentistry to accept lower reimbursement.  

Our Plan 

We know we will lose production until we refine our new systems. We are asking our team members to consider flex time until we can ramp up and have everyone working effectively. We are asking team members to multi-task so we can avoid adding extra people for the increase in sanitation needs. We are revamping scheduling and hours to get maximum productivity with patient flow that will be less than the old normal.  

We have mapped out projected production and can meet reasonable goals under the new model with no fee increase for now. We plan to hold the line for four months and then we will have a fee increase. How much? We do not know yet, but we project at least 3 – 5%. We believe that amount will be accepted by clients and will cover most of the cost of increased overhead. We do not foresee the fee increase dropping the bottom line. If you want to share what you are doing, feel free to do so in the comments section of this blog. 

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About Author

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North Shetter DDS

Dr Shetter attended the University of Detroit Mercy where he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1972. He then entered the U. S. Army and provided dental care at Ft Bragg, NC for the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces. In late 1975 he and his wife Jan moved to Menominee, MI and began private practice. He now is the senior doctor in a three doctor small group practice. Dr. Shetter has studied extensively at the Pankey Institute, been co-director of a Seattle Study Club branch in Green Bay WI where he has been a mentor to several dental offices. He has been a speaker for the Seattle Study Club. He has postgraduate training in orthodontics, implant restorative procedures, sedation and sleep disordered breathing. His practice is focused on fee for service, outcomes based dentistry. Marina Cove Consulting LLC is his effort to help other dentists discover emotional and economic success and deliver the highest standard of care they are capable of.




Back on Track with “The Three Vs”

June 20, 2019 Robert Maguire, DDS, MASCL

Dentists in private practice face a myriad of uncomfortable problems that force us to find solutions or… S L O W L Y burn out. Do any of these resonate with you?

  • Ineffective marketing for attracting the type of new patients you need and want
  • Interpersonal problems among some team members
  • Difficulty budgeting for and incorporating new technology you want to embrace
  • Lack of energy to monitor your practice systems and staff
  • Insufficient time for yourself and your family
  • Overall fatigue

Hark, the Mind!

Often times, the problems we face in our practices are the result of our own “stinking thinking.”

I recently retired at age 60 after practicing for 28 years as a solo practitioner in Wolfeboro, NH. Over the years, I went through my fair share of issues but found a way to thrive with the influence of programs like The Pankey Institute and Dawson Academy. I focused on developing deep relationships with my patients and team. So, when I say your life and your practice will be more productive and fun when you live your life in alignment with your Values, your Vision, and your Voice, I speak from experience.

To makeover your “thinking,” you’ll need to engage you mind and consider these three Vs.

Values – Exercises 1-3

Values are the non-negotiables in our lives. These are the things that are most meaningful to us, things we would “go to the mat for.” They are personal and unique for each of us, for example, honesty, integrity, transparency, spending time with family, etc. Some practice values might include technical excellence, timeliness, cleanliness, appreciation, efficiency, scheduling sufficient time for conversations with patients, and fiscal responsibility.

So why are values so important? When violated, our personal and practice lives will be “out of whack.” Frustration, anger, helplessness, and despair are some emotions we might feel. So, start with Exercise 1.

  • Exercise 1. Take an inventory of your values. Make a list of what’s most important to you, as many as come to mind. Then choose your top ten and prioritize them. Once you know what’s most important to you, figure out the steps you need to take to make them a reality.
  • Exercise 2. Do Exercise 1 with your team. Have them each identify and prioritize their own personal values.
  • Exercise 3. Combine your findings and do the same exercise with your team to identify your shared practice values. This exercise alone will propel you and your team forward towards a more fun and productive workplace.

Vision – Exercise 4

Once you and your team know what you value the most, write out the vision for your dental practice. As you write out your practice vision statement, think about how you want to practice and what the ideal team member looks like. Think about your practice setting and how you want to relate to your patients. Get a clear picture in your mind, write it down, and then communicate it. You should be able to articulate it clearly and succinctly if someone asks you, “What is the vision for your practice?” Stating your practice vision should be as automatic as breathing.

Voice – Exercise 5

When you know who you are (your values) and how you want to live (your vision), your thinking changes­­–and with it your voice. Your words and actions will become authentic, intentional, and magnetic. Patients will be attracted to you and your staff because you are “the real deal.”

A “Magic” Process

The five steps to establishing your three Vs compose a highly effective process that bonds team members and clarifies a common direction for your team, as well as your office systems. Many times, we are tempted to evaluate and make changes in office systems when we are faced with problems. What I learned is that, as you strive for more happiness, more joy, and more financial success, looking at “The Three Vs” first, before looking at the office systems, is optimal. In my practice life, we took a fresh look at our three Vs frequently.

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About Author

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Robert Maguire, DDS, MASCL

Dr. Maguire is a Navy Veteran who got his D.D.S. degree from Georgetown University School of Dentistry in 1984. He completed Bachelor of Arts at the University of New Hampshire in 1980 and Master of Arts Degree in Strategic Communication and Leadership at Seton Hall University in 2009. He was a former president of the New Hampshire Dental Society from 2014 to 2015. Dr. Maguire is a fellow in the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists. He is also a member of the American Dental Association and the New Hampshire Dental Society. Early in his career, Dr. Maguire became an avid student of both the Dawson Center and the Pankey Institute, completing all of their week-long continuums. It was the "Pankey Philosophy" that inspired him to continually develop his technical and communication skills. In addition to these credentials, he is also a certified trainer for the DISC Personality Assessment Tool. Dr. Maguire specializes in teaching others to be effective communicators (www.dynamicdentalcomm.com). Dr. Maguire recently retired at age 60 after practicing for 28 years as a solo practitioner in Wolfeboro, NH. He attributes his success to the deep relationships he made with his patients and team. His practice thrived without the influence of PPOs or Premiere programs with set fees.




Fine-Tuning a New Patient System

February 1, 2018 Devon Conklin DDS

Clarifying and fine-tuning a new patient system can be more challenging than you might think.

Five years ago, my partner Charlie and I bought a ‘Pankey practice.’ Soon after the transition, we started to recognize that our new patient system would need a little adjusting. The prior owners, who happened to also be my parents, had almost every new patient go through the same protocol.

Charlie and I noticed that the young adult patients who were drawn to our practice had two things in common. (1) They wanted cleanings at the first appointment and (2) they often had less dental needs. We concluded they may not need all the diagnostic records that someone with a lot of restorative needs would have to have.

Defining an Efficient Patient System

I am very systems oriented, and having worked with my parents for a few years, it wasn’t easy for me at first to switch up the new patient system. I liked having all patients funnel through the same protocol, but I began to realize that to get the younger generation into our practice we needed to cater to their desires and gain their trust.

When a patient calls our office, we have a great team that asks questions to understand what the patients’ needs are. I would say that because our referral is mostly word of mouth, we still have many new patients looking for comprehensive treatment. This means we have the traditional new patient appointment, which includes the new patient interview comprehensive exam and full diagnostic records.

But if a patient calls and says they want a cleaning and that there are no concerns, we flex and allow them to meet with the doctor first for a new patient interview, then they have their comprehensive exam and we finish with a cleaning with the hygienist.

If I find that diagnostic records are necessary, I will then have them come back for the records. Sometimes if I really think it would be in the patient’s best interest to not have the cleaning the same day, I will try and talk to the patient to help them understand why I think diagnostic records would be a better option that same day. Most times, if the patient understands the benefits, they are comfortable coming back for the cleaning with the hygienist on another day.

No matter whether the patient has the full new patient exam and diagnostic workup or has the exam and cleaning, the most important part to me is the first 30 minutes where I sit down with the patient and get to know them. I love this time because it allows me to learn about my patient. It also allows the patient to learn about me and my practice and ask any questions.

I believe those first minutes with my patients set our practice apart. It is the beginning of building trust so that whether they have a healthy mouth or need extensive treatment, they are confident that my practice will work with them to maintain optimal oral health.

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About Author

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Devon Conklin DDS

Dr. Conklin attended Baylor University, where she earned my Bachelor’s degree in 2005. She received her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 2009. Devon has continued her education through a one-year residency and attended the Pankey Institute where she have broadened her learning in restorative dentistry.