Podcast: An Effective and Innovative Way to Train Your Dental Staff

This is Ascent Radio. You’re listening to Dr. Kevin Coughlin, owner and producer of Ascent-Dental-Solutions. I welcome you to this evening’s podcast. But before we begin, I want to give special thanks to Mr. Doug Foresta and his company, Stand Out and Be Heard. Without his expertise and knowledge, this podcast would not be possible. So I want to say thank you to Mr. Foresta and his company, Stand Out and Be Heard.

Ascent Dental Solutions, provided by Ascent Radio, is focused on knowledge, development, training and education. Tonight’s topic is how do we make our organization better? All health care provides, and in my opinion, all businesses, have similar issues. How do we provide an outstanding amount of care and service while staying on time, staying under budget and providing the level of professionalism that is necessary in today’s competitive market?

I’d like to share with you something that I’ve implemented in our practices in western Massachusetts. It’s a combination of audio/video. It actually happened like most good ideas as more or less an accident. I was looking for the opportunity to protect our facilities from robbery and theft and break-ins and that morphed into the establishment of audio and video cameras in every one of our operatories, in our reception rooms, in our front desk areas and in our consultation areas. What this turned into is an excellent training facility.

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But before you jump out and buy the latest and best, understand a couple of things. First and foremost, initially, the team members in our association were not comfortable being taped, audio and video. They felt it awkward and uncomfortable. Through training, knowledge, education and information, it became clear that these tools offered in a unique way to evaluate group practices and how we interact, not only amongst ourselves, but with direct patient relationships. I must tell you that the offices have signs that inform every patient that the facility does have audio and video tape running.

It’s also important to understand that these audio and video techniques provided extraordinary information and feedback to me and my partners as we evaluated how we collected money at our front desk. How those front desk individuals interacted with patients. How did they ask for financial arrangements? How did they schedule appointments? How did they create an optimal experience for the patients so that they became what I call raving fans?

We would then be able to clip on our computer system snippets of anywhere from 30 seconds to 46 minutes of various areas of front desk training, hygiene training, interaction among staff members during team meetings and how doctors interacted with patients. And it was quite interesting to see not only the verbal skill and communication and how drastically improvements were necessary, but the body language that occurred between clinical practitioners and the patient base. It was also very interesting to see how patients related to specific providers.

All in all, I would say it has been an extremely positive experience and I would recommend it strongly. I would tell you that it is critical not to force the audio/video situation on your team members. I would suggest you start with a meeting and explain the reasons for implementation. That you assume, and I believe assume correctly, that when people know that they are being video-taped and monitored, they generally tend to be on their best behavior. In my own personal experience with 14 dental offices, I found that less than a couple of weeks, most people completely forgot that they were being audio or video taped.

I could tell you that there are also subliminal advantages, underlying results that were brought to myself and our organization. And that was when patients behaved inappropriately, when patients said things that were inappropriate, it was to our advantage to have this information on audio and video tape. So many times in my 35-year career, I’ve had patients say, “No one ever explained this to me.” “No one ever told me about this.” “The doctor was unprofessional with me.” “The doctor did not explain things in its entirety or correctly.” And a view of the audio/video tapes, in most instances, not only show that the providers did a good job, they did an excellent job. What we found is that there were a variety, various, however that could be improved upon.

I strongly suggest that after reviewing hundreds, if not thousands of hours of audio and video tape, that practitioners made a better impression when they were eye-to-eye with their patients, rather than them standing and the patient sitting. I also found that patients seemed to interact better when there was a distance between the practitioner or team members and the patients. And generally, once you got more than two or three feet close to the patient, there was generally a sense of discomfort and an awkwardness. So I suggested that we maintain a safe zone of between three and six feet during discussions, treatment planning and education and training.

I can also explain to you that during staff meetings, we found that there was an enormous amount of wasted time. We found that certain individuals took up most of the valuable time during a team meeting and evaluations of the team meeting provided documented records of what needed to be addressed in the following team meeting and those areas that weren’t addressed completely in the previous team meetings. There were so many advantages and so few disadvantages.

In actuality, perhaps once every two weeks, a patient would explain that they were uncomfortable being audio/video taped while having procedures done or during communication with team members. In cases like that, we simply shut off the camera in that operatory.

I would also tell those interested in considering these training options to make sure on their medical history form that they place that the organization or office is monitoring audio and video so that all parties are aware and it’s written and signed in the patient chart or electronically signed in the computer.

I would tell you that there were some basic questions that have been asked over the last ten to twelve years of us doing this in our organization. And that is why is it necessary. And I hopefully have made it clear in this podcast that it’s necessary for the protection of your organization and to provide the highest level of care and service.

(2), as an owner, in most cases, you’re busy on a day to day basis. You don’t have the time to oversee all the little nuances that are occurring in your general practice or specialty practice. The ability to sit at the end of the day and review complaints, address complaints and also to provide positive reinforcement on things that you saw that were done in an exemplary manner provide tremendous positive background and tremendous positive feedback to your team members and that, in essence, provides an excellent outcome.

After 35 years of providing all sorts of general dental and specialty care in our 14 locations, I have experimented and implemented a variety of different office policies and procedures. In my opinion, the audio/video has been one of the best and most cost-effective of everything I’ve done.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s podcast. You’ve been listening to Dr. Kevin Coughlin and Ascent Dental Solutions sponsored by Ascent Radio. Special thanks to Mr. Doug Foresta and his podcast company, Stand Out and Be Heard. I hope you’ve enjoyed this evening’s podcast and for additional information, please check out the website www.ascent-dental-solutions.com.

Thanks so much for listening. I look forward to speaking to you in the near future.