Monday, October 17, 2016

SECRETS TO DENTAL TEAM MOTIVATION (Part2) - Lifting your practice to a world-class level of service

Last month we discussed MOTIVATION and the five most important factors that make team members feel charged, significant, and responsible for lifting your practice to a world-class level of service, astounding TLC that is way above patients’ expectations. Following are specific ideas that I’ve seen work wonders motivating the dental team in many practices.”

Ideas for motivating your staff:

Indoctrinate your staff with the concept, “You work WITH me rather than FOR me.” Only by being convinced this synergistic relationship is real in your office can your team deliver the BEST for your patients.

Even a cheery “Good morning. How’re you doing today?” to each staff member makes a difference. I’ve worked in several offices in which staff members confided to me that their doctor never even said, “Good morning.”, and that set a dark tone for the day.

Have a morning huddle led by a different staff member each day. Include a good thought, a short inspirational message, at the end of each huddle.

End each day with a “Thank you. Good day!” to each team member.

Inspire loyalty within your team---loyalty to you the dentist, to each other, to patients, and to the practice. And remember, team members mirror what is demonstrated to them---loyalty must start with you, Doctor.

Demonstrate that you have their best interest at heart through professional growth and CE opportunities, immediately rewarding, either verbally or tangibly, good behavior and outstanding work, and teaching/coaching team members to feel the significance of improvements in their work skill level.

If possible, consider which roles on the team can be filled by two people job sharing. Many staff members, Millennials particularly, may choose to work reduced hours, even if it means less pay. To a team member who prefers to job share, this shouts, “I value you even if you can work only part-time.”

Write a Mission Statement for the practice together, everyone contributing thoughts. Frame the Statement and hang it in your reception room.

Delegate meaningful responsibilities to well trained staff members. Get frequent feedback and progress reports, but avoid the tendency many dentists have to micro-manage.

Allow and encourage team members to use their initiative.

Properly orient and train new team members. Written checklists help assure consistency in your orientation and training programs.

Schedule regular one-on-one discussions, preferably quarterly, with individuals about job performance, in-office interpersonal relationships, and work skill development.

Conduct annual or semi-annual performance appraisals, held separately from discussions about wages or benefits. (If the two are combined, the team member may be so busy waiting for news of a raise that goals for work improvement are ignored.)

Allow staff members to have “Area Meetings” in which Business staff meets together while Clinical staff meets together. Details, problems, and successes in each Area can be hammered out by those directly involved. Team members can rotate facilitation of Area meetings or the long-term, experienced, natural leader of the Area can facilitate meetings. Reports from each Area can be shared at the monthly General Staff Meeting.

Monthly Staff Meetings organized around a written agenda to which all team members contribute are a must. Take notes and follow-up on suggestions and changes.

An annual day-long, off-site Planning Retreat, ideally in the fall, is a real boost, motivating staff members to survey the past year and help plan new goals for the next year. A written agenda with everyone taking notes keeps the day on track and ├╝ber-productive. 

Keep a roll of “Appreciation” stickers in all areas of the office so that team members can reward one another with a quick, stick-on “Thank you.”

“Appreciation-Grams”, 1/2 page forms on which one team member can compliment another for specific action(s), are invaluable aids to motivation. 

Staff and doctor appreciation days (or hours) can add to the general upbeat, “We appreciate each other.” aura of the office. Let staff plan how appreciation will be expressed within a certain budget supplied by the doctor.

Patient appreciation parties are a novel idea that allows proud-to-show-off-our- office team members to act as hosts.

Staff awards, plaques, diplomas, and certificates should be framed and displayed in the office.

Undertake charity dental projects as a team at least annually, or preferably, more often, perhaps quarterly. Allow staff to choose the recipients of this care.

An office scrapbook is a fun way to preserve good memories and the practice history.

Small gifts, tokens of appreciation from the dentist, go a long way toward building a spirit of “I appreciate your part in caring for our patients.” One client whom I’ve known for years meets payroll twice per month, and every paycheck is accompanied by a small thank-you---a candy bar, a pack of gum, a fresh flower, a gift card for a cup of Starbucks. Once I was there to see the laughs generated by a huge deli dill pickle in a plastic bag accompanying each paycheck.

And don’t forget to celebrate together---family parties, holiday get-togethers, birthday remembrances, etc.

A rotating “We Care Team” made up of two or three team members at a time can plan CE attendance for the team, celebrations and parties, charity dental projects, and other special office times. Give them an annual budget so funds are available and profit from the results.

Try some combination or all of these ideas. Doing so will stimulate your thinking of even more ways to motivate your team. When a motivational aura is alive and well in your office, watch your individual team members, and with them, your practice, accelerate on all burners.

Monday, October 10, 2016


Another section, Section 1557, of the Affordable Care Act (aka: ACA or Obamacare which has been in effect since March 2010) was implemented on July 18, 2016.  Section 1557 prohibits health care entities which accept payment from federal financial assistance programs including Medicaid, CHIP, and, yet to be determined, Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage), from discriminating based on race, color, nationality, age, disability, or sex.  The addition of the gender category makes Section 1557 of the ACA the first federal civil rights law affecting health care facilities to include reference to sex; however, these non-discriminatory specifics are not much of a surprise.

Section 1557 specifically protects people with disabilities by requiring “newly constructed or altered facilities accessible to individuals with disabilities” and requiring provision of “appropriate auxiliary aids and services” for those with disabilities.  The definition of “appropriate aids and services” is not clear.  The requirement for accessible facilities has been in effect since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), so again, not much of a surprise.

Further, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that operates under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has ruled that “covered entities” (in our case, dental offices which accept payment from federal financial assistance programs)  must provide qualified interpreters and translators for patients with “limited English proficiency.”  Translated into practical terms, this would seem to mean that every time you schedule a non-English speaking patient, you must pay a translator to be in your office to serve that patient.

Further, according to the OCR, dental offices must post a notice of non-discrimination, including explanatory tag lines, written in the top 15 non-English languages spoken in that state.  These postings must include notice of the availability of free language assistance services, and they must appear on the practice’s website and other major forms of publications and communications from the office.

Minor office communication tools such as Recare post cards, business cards, the practice brochure, and such can include a shorter non-discrimination statement with explanatory tag lines written ONLY in the top two non-English languages spoken in that state.  Surprise?

Further, according to the OCR, covered dental practices with 15 or more employees (total employees at all locations of a practice) must implement a formal grievance procedure with one staff member responsible for record keeping and processing of grievances concerning any of the aforementioned requirements.  Surprise?

Further, according to the OCR, the deadline for implementation of these requirements is October 16, 2016.  Now that may be a surprise!

For help in implementing these regulations, go to the American Dental Association’s website at to order resources for implementation, including  Frequently Asked Questions and a Checklist of steps to implementation.  Or, if you are very brave and patient, you can do as I did in researching information for this article:  (1) Go to  Click on Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  (2) From there, you may choose to access the full version of this Section 1557 of the ACA in the Federal Register (I don’t recommend trying to read and absorb the full version unless you have unlimited time and a law degree in addition to your dental degree!) or you may choose other portals to read portions of Section 1557.

Monday, October 3, 2016

So, you have a website…

Nowadays, almost all of your new patients will discover your practice via your website. Of course, many will still come as a result of referrals from existing patients, but, in today’s market, you also need to seriously consider the value of online searches. So here are a few points to contemplate:

The Basics

Be certain that your telephone number, physical address and practice hours are posted prominently, and that your hours are accurate and updated for any holidays or vacation closings.

Assign a dedicated staff person to be responsible for your web presence. Even if your website is outsourced to a third party company, have someone in your practice stay on top of things.

Post recent patient before-and-after treatment, photos, introduce new staff members, and provide daily updates via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Remember to make your website fun as well as informative.

On the Technical Side

Be sure the following are taken care of:

MetaTags: these are embedded in the code that make up your web pages and allow search engines to understand what your website is all about. The more complete they are, the better your chance of showing up first in online search results. For example, your page has a MetaTitle, such as “Fred Garris, DDS, Family Dentistry, Greenville, NC 27834.”   You also have a MetaDescription, like “pediatric and orthodontic dental practice serving Greenville 27834, Washington 27889, Ayden 28513 and the greater Pitt County area.” With these tags in place, a search such as “family dental practice 27834” will most likely return the results with your website listed first.

Be sure to include basic content in your website also. A prospective patient might search for “maxillofacial surgery and restorative treatment,” so you need to ensure that your website content addresses the specifics related to your practice.

Create and maintain a Google+ account. This helps Google display not only a picture of your practice, but a map to your location and your office hours as well.

Whenever you include photos of your practice, be sure they show patients and staff interacting. This helps prospective patients relate to you and feel welcome.

If you have a “Contact Us” page, each resulting email message must receive either an email reply or a telephone call within five minutes. This cannot be stressed enough. Any longer period will give that patient time to consider another practice instead of yours.

Invite your patients to post online reviews of their experience with your practice.

Take the time to have a few friends or colleagues examine your website. They can be a great source of information that might otherwise get overlooked.

Remember that most web traffic today comes from smart phones and other mobile devices. For this reason, make sure your website is mobile-friendly. It should automatically adjust for the size of the device that is being used.

All in all, the most important point to understand--- your web presence is no longer an optional part of your overall practice marketing plan, but is, in fact, an integral, essential part of it. Give your website the attention it deserves, and you will reap the rewards.

Monday, September 26, 2016


Now---I can hear you thinking---J  “What?  None of my staff members work overtime.  I’ll just skip this blog post since it doesn’t apply to my practice.”  WAIT!!!!!!!

Two true stories from my experience may convince you otherwise:

Story #1:  A 26 year veteran dentist had employed a business desk staff member for almost his entire career.  She seemed indispensable. Their loyalty went both ways---dentist to staff member and vice versa.  Because she often ran out of office hours before running out of work to be done, she frequently took work home with her.  When I was consulting with the office, she commented to me how many hours weekly she spent doing office work at home; and she was glad to do it.  The dentist decided to leave things as they were, ignoring my advice that he owed her overtime pay. 

Take work home?  Fine with her and fine with the dentist---until a remarriage brought her new husband into the mix.  New husband insisted she must receive overtime pay currently and retroactively for all work done at home if total worktime during a week exceeded 40 hours, and it did most weeks.  The outcome?  The State Department of Labor audited the situation, agreed with new husband, and the dentist lost.  He lost in two ways: an experienced valuable staff member left, and he was out mega-bucks by the time it was sorted out and payment made.

Story #2:  A well-intentioned dentist agreed to let a full-time dental assistant who had recently incorporated a cleaning business clean the office after hours and/or on weekends.  The dentist admired the DA’s ingenuity and industriousness.  All seemed well until the dentist mentioned the arrangement to her attorney who insisted the DA must be compensated with overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 per seven day week.  This seemed unlikely to the dentist because the DA was cleaning the office during non-patient hours as the owner of an incorporated cleaning service.  Sure enough, however, after it was all settled, the dentist had to retroactively compensate her DA with overtime pay.  She retained the DA as a staff member, but had to find a new cleaning service.  Both doctor and staff member learned a hard lesson about overtime.

On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced an updated regulation about overtime pay for employees.  Previously only employees with salaries or equivalent hourly wages of $455 or less per week were entitled to overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 in a seven day week.

Under the new regulation, all employees, salaried or hourly, who make $913 or less per week are entitled to overtime pay.  Any employee earning yearly wages, whether salaried or paid hourly, of less than $47,476 must be paid overtime calculated at 1½ times their hourly pay rate for all hours over 40 worked per week.

Suggestion:  make certain no staff member works in any capacity for your practice more than 40 hours per week.  If you choose to let a team member exceed 40 hours’ work per week, check with an attorney well-versed in labor law about that employee’s overtime compensation.

The new rule becomes effective on December 1,2016.  For more information go to  or

Monday, September 19, 2016


For almost half my adult life I have worked around, with, and for dentists. I have found that the majority of these professionals share one trait---humanitarianism. Most dentists have an unusually deep concern for human welfare, promoted by their give-back philosophy and altruistic activities.

Heartwarming to witness, the variety of charitable care dentists give to individuals and to communities is limitless. Included in give-back activities are efforts like Give Kids a Smile Day, a nationwide program to treat kids who otherwise would not receive dental care; MOM (Missions of Mercy) in NC and similar programs in other states, dental care for the indigent who fall between the cracks of Medicaid or other programs; dental buses or vans equipped to deliver care in underserved areas, staffed by volunteer dentists and team members; organized mission trips to provide care for patients in third world countries; individual practitioners who accept some share of Medicaid patients even though Medicaid reimbursement does not cover office overhead costs in most states; and outright free care to area underprivileged and/or homeless.

Let me describe two specific ways I’ve seen give-back projects carried out.
  • A practice with which I worked had a history of quarterly charity dental projects. Each quarter a different staff member made the choice of a recipient or recipients to receive dental care. Because the dentist had a line item in the practice budget each year for charity entitled the Benevolent Fund, staff members knew a dollar amount of dentistry to be delivered each quarter and suggested recipients accordingly. The entire team participated in these charitable efforts each time dental care was delivered.
  • The second example of a “We Care” project was described in our local Greenville, NC newspaper on June 15, 2016, reprinted from a Charlotte, NC newspaper. A Charlotte oral surgeon has established a program he calls Second Chance, to give away dental implant surgery not typically covered by insurance or Medicaid. The oral surgeon who is also a physician said he created the program which he plans as an annual service to give back to his community. 200 applicants submitted completed entry forms. 50 of these were interviewed personally. Once the pool of applicants was reduced to 10, a second interview determined the winner, a female who had only 17 diseased teeth, so bad that she could not eat properly and refused to smile even though she was by nature a happy, giving person. In a seven hour surgery, the oral surgeon extracted her remaining teeth and implanted eight titanium posts. Then a pair of local prosthodontists who volunteered their services attached temporary dentures to serve until healing was completed. The ever-grateful patient is now living a different life---confident, employed, and smiling on the inside as well as the outside.

I applaud these and the many other examples of dentists “giving back” I have witnessed; too many stories to relate here. It is my honor to have worked alongside you philanthropic professionals for over 35 years. Keep up the good work and know that the care you pour out is returned by the general public as they name dentists among the top five most respected professionals in the country year after year.