The Danger of Choosing Efficiency Over Function

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Technology is a marvellous thing. Clinically it has transformed how dentistry is performed, and provides an amazing range of treatment options for patients. So too there have been great changes in how the tasks of reception are executed. 

The introduction of computers and dental software has meant that practices now have the ability for detailed record keeping and highly efficient processes for areas such as recalls and following up incomplete treatments.

When I had my practice between 2003 and 2013, I was also the receptionist-practice manager. With the amount of work I needed to complete on a daily basis, I was eager to utilise as many time-saving features of my Dental 4 Windows program that I could.

The software certainly saved time and improved efficiency in all areas that I applied it. However, I found that there were some tasks that were still best managed manually in order to achieve the desired goal. These tasks centred on patient communication.

For example, appointment confirmations. Software allowed for confirmation via SMS, and completion of the task takes just seconds. But I always felt that more was achieved when I physically telephoned the confirmations. Often the call would extend to:

  • clarification of time and length of appointment
  • clarification of patient expectations of what was to occur at that days’ visit
  • reminder to patients to take antibiotic cover if needed
  • reminder to patient to bring along OPG/grinding splint/other such items needed for treatment
  • answer any queries that patient has.

Every conversation we have with a patient is another opportunity to strengthen the relationship with them. Stronger relationships mean deeper patient engagement. Engaged patients are more likely to keep appointment times, proceed with advised treatment and recommend family and friends to your practice.

My preference for management of these patient-communications was:

  • Appointment Confirmation – phone call
  • Incomplete Treatment – physical mail including treatment plan, then phone call
  • Recalls – physical mail
  • Outstanding Accounts – physical mail, then phone call
  • Thank You for Referral – physical mail or phone call

As I stated, technology is a marvellous thing. But I do encourage you to remind yourself what the goal for each process is. If the only goal is to get the task completed as quickly as possible, then investigate how your dental software can accomplish this.

Alternatively, if the goal of the process extends beyond just efficiency, and is one of the many ways you extend great customer service, then choose FUNCTION OVER EFFICIENCY!