Dental Practice Challenges That Make You Want to Tear Your Hair Out – And Possible Solutions
No career is perfect, and no business comes without its challenges. Even though these are not one-size-fits-all challenges, many dentists, hygienists and denturists have come across some very common challenges without a surefire way to address them.
Having said that, dental practice challenges must be addressed with your clinic’s specific needs in mind, so not all the potential solutions I list in this blog post will work for you. When it comes to challenges in your clinic, the first thing to do is research and figure out what the problem really is before settling on a solution.
In this post, I will discuss common practice challenges affecting dentists, hygienists, denturists, and the administrative staff, such as COVID, holes in the schedule, miscommunication in the office, negative reviews, and difficult patients; and I will offer possible solutions to these challenges.
Whether you’re a dentist, a hygienist, a denturist, or part of the administrative staff, you’ve certainly felt the effects of COVID-19 on your practice. These are unprecedented times we live in, and the pressure has certainly been felt on all practices across the country and the globe.
A dentist in the UK proclaimed that yes, COVID-19 is the biggest threat to dentistry ever experienced; however, this is not a time to throw up your hands.
COVID has changed the way all businesses function and even when this virus has come to an end, these changes will become the norm because we’ve all become hyper aware of our surroundings, including where we sit, what we touch, and the air we’re breathing in.
Outfit your office with the tools you’ll need to protect you, your staff, and your patients. Keep PPE on hand, remove as many touchpoints from around the office as possible, and go digital with your medical history forms, patient information forms, and invoices.
The safer your clinic is, the more potential and existing patients will feel a sense of security and comfort when they visit.
Holes in the schedule
One of the biggest challenges I see as the Administrative Officer for the Dental Office Managers Association of Canada is clinics unable to fill their chairs.
There are a couple of reasons this might be the case:
- Recalls are slipping through the cracks
- No marketing strategy
Recalls slipping through the cracks is common and can contribute to holes in the schedule. The reason for this might be that your front staff just don’t have enough time to call all the patients that need to be called for appointments.
As a possible solution to these holes in your schedule, it might be prudent to expand your resources for a much more extensive reach. For example: If you already have an automated system but you feel you aren’t reaching enough patients, consider combining systems. Perhaps combine your automated system with a human-to-human booking system.
Or if you don’t have an automated booking system, look into how such a system can take the pressure off you and your staff, while effectively helping to fill your chairs.
However, the lack of a marketing strategy can also contribute to holes in your schedule. Marketing allows you to reach out to an entirely new group of patients, which will help fill chairs.
When it comes to a marketing strategy, the first thing to do is your research. Ask yourself and your team what kind of marketing strategy would fit your practice best. Would you benefit from something as simple as a stronger social media presence, or perhaps a website update? Or would your practice benefit more from a marketing team dedicated to everything, including brand awareness, social media presence and SEO?
Don’t go with the most expensive option, thinking it’s the right fit just because it’s expensive; you might not need such a comprehensive solution and therefore you’re just wasting money. At the same time, don’t go with something cheap just because it’s cheap as it too might not fit the needs of your practice.
Consider your options carefully and with your entire team to discover what solution is just right for you.
A very common challenge in many dental, hygiene, and denturist clinics is miscommunication, whether it’s between the admin staff and patients, admin staff and the clinical staff, or the dental owner and the dental office manager.
It may seem like something small, but miscommunication can cause real turmoil in the office. If no one is working together, production slows, morale falls, and the practice runs anything but smoothly. Is your office suffering from miscommunication? If this is a challenge you and your team face, you are not alone.
- Don’t let the communication stop at the door between the front and the back. To work as a team, everyone needs to be on the same page.
- If you’re a leader, be consistent with your messaging and communicate with the other leaders in the office so as to avoid crossed wires and mixed messages.
- If communication is lacking between staff and patients, it might be due to a missed opportunity for an educational talk. Communication does not stop at the front desk. Keep the lines open while the patient is in the chair, and continue even after their appointment is over.
Another challenge to address is negative reviews because of patient complaints. How does your clinic handle something like that? Isn’t it true that a negative review can drag down your business?
Negative reviews require one very important thing: a response. As a consumer, I’ve come across many businesses with a review page. When it’s all positive reviews, I’m skeptical. When it’s a mix of positive and negative reviews, I read the negative reviews not for the review itself but the response. If the response indicates a want to improve and an empathetic tone, I can let my guard down.
If you notice negative reviews popping up from not so satisfied patients, provide an empathetic and honest response. Let the reviewer (and anyone else reading) know that you’re willing to make whatever changes are necessary to do better the next time around. Always own your mistakes and offer reasonable solutions to fix them. You might not appeal to that one unsatisfied patient, but you will appeal to a lot of potential patients looking for a clinic that works for them and their family.
Another common challenge that has been brought up is what to do about difficult patients. What do you do with those patients that are rude or frustrating or always have a complaint or don’t want to pay?
I empathize with those working in the service and patient care industry, which is why I am not a difficult patient. But I have learned a few tricks that worked for me to deal with difficult people.
- Stay calm and empathetic toward the patient.
- If they have a complaint, let them talk it out. I’ve learned that letting a difficult person vent can help deflate the anger and frustration.
- Never say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘that’s just the policy’. If you honestly don’t know how you can help the frustrated patient, provide them with the resources of those that can.
Even as I write this, I understand how frustrating and stressful it can be on the administrative side. If the difficult patient is swearing, threatening, or trying to get physical, you do not have to take it. Tell the dental owner and have the difficult patient removed. When people just want to take out their anger and frustration on you and aren’t willing to be reasonable, you and your team should not have to accommodate them.
If you’ve come across a torrential downpour of the ‘top dental practice challenges’ and found that your challenge is not on it, I’m here to tell you that I’m fully aware that one size does not fit all.
Which is why, if your particular challenge isn’t on this list, I encourage you to email me with your current challenges and I will address them all in later blog posts.
Find out how to fill those holes in your schedule and ensure no more patients fall through the cracks by clicking the link below and registering for our webinar: How to Prevent Patients from Being Left Behind: A Webinar About Data, Processes and Patient Care: