Case Study: Stop Patients From Falling Through the Cracks
By identifying where you are and then developing a system or process for accountability and improvement, inevitably there will be a change in your trajectory.
The More You Know, the More You Can Do
Imagine a new patient (let’s call her Susan) comes into your practice for the first time. After she completes your patient intake process, one of your assistants walks Susan back to an operatory to begin her exam.
Once x-rays are completed, you enter the room, prepared and excited to meet your newest patient.
You: “Hello, Susan. I’m Dr. Jones. What brings you in today?”
Susan nods her head but doesn’t speak.
You: “Is there any pain you’re experiencing in any part of your mouth? Anything you think I should know about that would help me to help you today?”
Susan shakes her head.
You: “Susan, in order to provide you with the best care today, I need to know if there are any problems I should be aware of. Can you tell me what’s bothering you?”
Susan shakes her head.
You…shaking your head: “I guess there’s nothing I can do to help you today.”
Susan nods her head, stands, and leaves.
Happily, this likely isn’t something that’s ever happened in your practice, but there is a principle here that you are probably quite familiar with.
The more you know about the condition of a patient, the more likely you'll be able to care for and provide the right treatment to them.
“We Couldn’t See What Was Happening”
Robinson Dental in Wayland, Michigan, is everything you’d want in a dental practice. With three locations and a large, experienced team, Robinson has a proven track record of providing exceptional care for their patients. With over 400 Facebook reviews and an average rating of 4.7 out of 5.0, here are just a few of the many positive comments shared by patients:
- The staff is very friendly. Amazing people doing amazing work.
- The staff was incredibly helpful and went out of their way to make me feel welcome.
- I was very pleased with my experience and I will definitely be back for future appointments!
- I can't say enough positive about Robinson Dental. Same day, even walk-in appointments available! Awesome state of the art facility, super nice staff…even a "welcome to the office" gift bag!
- Robinson was very nice, thorough, and helpful, as well as the whole staff. I will definitely be continuing to come here for all dental work in the future.
- Robinson Dental got me in right away, and planned a procedure within the week, far exceeding my expectations. They were my saving grace for a tooth that was creating extreme agony that couldn't be seen by anyone else for 1-3 months. Earned my trust, respect, and business for life.
Clearly, they are providing some great dentistry at Robinson Dental. This being true, the team at Robinson hasn’t always been satisfied with their performance. In a recent conversation with Michelle Davis, Hygiene Coordinator at Robinson Dental, she shared several challenges the Robinson leadership team spent a lot of time and resources trying to resolve, but with limited success:
- More accountability. Robinson has some fantastic team members who are committed to providing patients with the best experience each time they visit. This being said, it was challenging to know how exactly each clinician and team member was performing relative to their capacity.
- Being better able to track patients – who has been contacted, when, and what happened when they were contacted.
- Reporting – this is one many practices wrestle with. How accurate are our reports? Are they outdated? Are they telling us what we most need to know about what is happening or not happening?
- One of Robinson’s biggest issues was with patients falling through the cracks. Trying to track them manually was basically impossible, with lots of patients being missed. “If we didn’t capture them in the system, we might lose track of them entirely,” Michelle said. “Sometimes this also caused duplication of effort, meaning more than one team member calling a patient about the same thing, which was frustrating for both the provider and the patient.”
- Robinson was spending a lot on marketing but kept losing a large number of those new patients they’d tried so hard to acquire. “Getting 100 new patients but losing 105 was painful,” Michelle added. “Awareness of what was actually happening was also low.” They were doing a pretty good job of rescheduling the new patients, but for those who weren’t reappointed, this is where they saw the loss.
Facts, Meaning, Feelings, Action
After considering a number of possible solutions to these and other issues, Robinson Dental chose to begin working with Dental Intelligence, a cloud-based software company that helps thousands of dental practices to use actionable metrics to grow in ways that are important to them.
According to Michelle, “Dental Intelligence takes all of the hard or impossible-to-find information in our practice management software and condenses it into an easy-to-understand dashboard so we can actually see where we're at. Not only a snapshot of where we are, but where we need to go on things that we need to adjust, to tweak, or to improve on. Most importantly, it helps us to prevent patients from falling through the cracks. This has helped us become much better at taking care of each patient, even if it’s as simple as transitioning from a filling a patient needed to get taken care but that wasn’t scheduled to somebody that needs complete extractions and full dentures or implants or something like that. We can see all of this information easily and quickly – even on our phones – and that enables us to provide more and even better dentistry to our patients.”
Dental Intelligence follows a simple four-step formula to help practices assess current performance in order to determine what needs to be done to improve where needed. Here’s how that looks in the evaluation process:
- Facts: Identifying where the practice was performing well, and where it may be falling short. This provides them with a position on a map – a point of reference so they know where they’re starting from.
- Meaning: You then need to determine what these facts mean in relation to patient health and practice performance. If patients were cancelling scheduled appointments and not rescheduling them, what does that mean for the health of your practice?
- Feelings: Using this data as a starting point, doctors and teams discuss how they feel about where they are. In order for anything to change, teams need to make an emotional connection to what is happening, and then decide what needs to happen.
- Action: Armed with clarity, a practice now has the ability to take action in order to begin moving the needle in the areas that matter to them.
Using Dental Intelligence didn’t magically help Robinson Dental to solve all of their problems overnight. What they did provide which proved to be most important was transparency. For the first time, Michelle and the leadership team at Robinson could see what was actually going on. This was huge. The second half of the equation that proved to be critical was understanding what to do. This came down to the leaders at Robinson choosing to take action on the facts, meaning and feelings they discovered about their practice.
Here’s how Michelle described that experience. “In order to make use of all the new insights Dental Intelligence provided us, we needed team members with the drive and a lot of follow-through that would take charge of their teams and their performance. This meant we all needed to understand the key performance indicators relating to our practice and then follow a system of accountability in improving those KPIs.”
Every practice can experience success similar to what Robinson Dental has seen. Although each practice is unique, most share similar challenges to those Robinson was facing. By identifying where you are and then developing a system or process for accountability and improvement, inevitably there will be a change in your trajectory. A dental practice that is thriving is a dental practice with thousands of healthy, happy patients. And that’s a fact!