The success of a dental practice relies upon its greatest asset, the dentist and his or her staff. Subsequently, there is a direct correlation between the success of the dental practice and the ability of the doctor and the staff to communicate effectively among themselves and with their patients.
Communication is a crucial skill that can be learned and developed over time. The doctor should communicate a vision to his or her staff that provides an overall focus to the team and provides a foundation for future decisions in the dental practice. It is easier for staff members to accept policy changes when they understand the end goal. Consider drafting a mission statement that defines your priorities for the practice and how you plan to achieve them. Make this master plan available to staff and have the staff participate in developing goals that work towards the overall mission of the practice.
Consider the following additional principles to improve office communication in your dental practice:
- Learn to listen. Beyond speaking articulately, effective communication involves much more than hearing the spoken words of another. Try to understand the desires, goals, and concerns of the person speaking. Be patient and train yourself not to form a reply while waiting for the other person to finish their remarks.
- Don’t judge. Counter criticism with positive reinforcement and always implement rules with fairness. Showing preference will destroy office moral and undermine your authority.
- Emphasize the positive. Stress how each staff member supports the mission statement. If you observe a staff member making habitual mistakes, consider reassigning them to responsibilities based on their individual strengths. Having a well-defined mission statement will justify such maneuvers and ease the strain of having to explain your motives.
- Resolve conflict quickly. Unresolved conflict can poison office moral and compromise the quality and efficiency of work. Don’t allow disagreements to feaster, but address them quickly and with fairness.
- Establish communication protocols for patients. Sharpen the communication habits of your entire staff by standardizing the way you address patients. Develop responses for common patient questions or concerns.
- Institute morning huddles. Meet each morning to review short-term goals and delegate any specific responsibilities for the day. This gives you another opportunity to communicate priorities and boost morale.
- Communicate regularly. Set aside opportunities on a regular basis to communicate with each staff, even just a few minutes can build an excellent rapport. Express sentiments of appreciation for their work and empathy for struggles they might be experiencing.
Maintaining communication with your staff should remain a high priority. Practices that stress the importance of communication — both internally and with patients — are typically high producers and report high levels of patient satisfaction.
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Terry D. Watson, DDS, and Frank Brown, JD, LLM, are with ADS Watson, Brown & Associates, a dental practice transition consulting and brokerage firm in Dallas, TX. They are members of American Dental Sales and can be reached on the Contact Page