10 Steps to Better Communication With Your Dental Staff

March 8, 2017 Rieva Lesonsky

How well do the members of your dental office staff communicate? Poor communication among your team—from front desk personnel to hygienists and other dentists—can have far-reaching negative effects.

  • It leads to resentment and hinders teamwork.
  • It can cause treatment errors with serious consequences.
  • When it occurs in front of patients, it creates a negative impression of your dental practice.

With so much at stake, how can you improve internal communication at your dental office? Follow these tips.

  1. Share your goals. Share your mission statement and vision statement for your dental practice with your staff. Communicating your vision and goals is the first step to improving overall communication and getting your team on the same page.
  2. Hold a morning meeting. Dental practices are busy places, but a quick morning meeting each day (10-15 minutes) can get your staff off on the right foot. Go over the day’s schedule, alert the staff to anything unusual happening that day, and confirm everyone knows their responsibilities for the day.
  3. Create task lists. Creating a task list for your front desk staff is easy with Lighthouse 360. Every night, Lighthouse 360 reviews information about each patient on tomorrow’s schedule, checks for issues such as missing contact information, and automatically makes smart recommendations that are emailed to you the next morning as a Front Desk Task List. Select and assign tasks, then easily track when tasks are completed. With a task list, everyone is held accountable and no one needs reminders of their daily duties.
  4. Hold monthly team meetings. Once a month, hold a longer, all-hands meeting to let your team know about policy changes, new goals for the practice and progress towards current goals. This is also a time for team members to share concerns, questions or ideas.
  5. Communicate one-on-one. In addition to team meetings, take some time to build rapport with individual team members. Let everyone know that you are always available to discuss any concerns. More informally, chat with employees and learn about their hobbies, interests and families—it really builds bonds.
  6. Systematize written communications. Use cloud-based practice management tools to take notes on each patient during every visit. This ensures everyone on staff, from the front desk to the dentist, has current information available, and can communicate accurately.
  7. Focus on communications during handoffs. Communication breakdowns often occur during the “handoff”—when a patient is passed from reception to hygienist, from hygienist to dentist and back to reception after treatment.  Consider developing a script for employees to use when communicating with each other during each stage. For example, the receptionist can introduce the patient to the hygienist and say something like,” Mrs. Smith is here for a cleaning and is also due to have x-rays done today.”
  8. Use repetition. If you’re introducing a new procedure or policy, explaining it once isn’t enough. Check in with employees until you’re sure everyone understands the new process. It’s also a good idea to repeat/rephrase what is said to you. In the handoff example above, the hygienist could say to the receptionist, “Thanks, Susan. Mrs. Smith, we’ll start with your x-rays and then we will do your cleaning.” The receptionist can hear and correct any errors at this point.
  9. Resolve conflicts quickly. Be alert to conflicts brewing between members of your staff and address them immediately. If conflicts are allowed to fester, they can really hurt team morale.
  10. Review your progress. Lighthouse 360 helps you do this automatically. Every night, the app looks at yesterday's Front Desk Task List and prepares an Automated Accountability Report for the office manager and/or practice owner. The report recaps the day’s activities and highlights areas where you might need to communicate better or give employees some additional training.



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