Why is McDonald’s So Successful?  Be like McDonald’s.

No, I don’t mean give your patients atherosclerosis.  McDonald’s has been able to grow to over 37,000 locations worldwide because they have easy to follow instructions, which produces a consistent product.  In other words, it is run like a well-oiled machine.

You already have a protocol in your head for your dentistry, and it goes something like:

  1. Isolate
  2. Prep
  3. Etch
  4. Bond
  5. Fill
  6. Adjust occlusion

And if you think about it, each step listed above has more steps.  Like, etch for 15 seconds, rinse, then lightly dry with your high vac suction.  So you don’t need a manual to tell you that, but what about all the other processes that go on in your office?  If your Office Manager left today, would you be able to complete all the tasks that they do daily?  More importantly, do you even know all the tasks that they complete daily?

That is reason #1 you need an office manual.  Anyone should be able to complete the tasks.  You don’t want to be stuck in a situation where your receptionist is out sick and no one can properly process payments; your dental assistant has quit and no one knows how to properly flush the lines; or worse, your staff are demanding pay raises because they know you can’t survive without them*!!

*I am not against pay raises, and by all means they should be given for outstanding job performance, but not because you are being held hostage

Reason #2 is training.  When you’re training a new staff member, whether it be front office or back office, wouldn’t it be helpful to be able to give them a guide?  It doesn’t replace 1-on-1 training, but if everyone else is busy then the new staff can still accomplish some tasks by following the manual.  Or, they can read up on a task beforehand, so that they have a better understanding of the steps when they’re shown.  It would also be helpful for a new DA to know how like your set-ups, so that you don’t have to stop 100 times during your procedure to get the supplies you prefer.  Your staff are not mind-readers and will probably come with habits that they learned at other offices.  Office manuals will get new staff up to speed more quickly.

Reason #3 is consistency.  Printing reports is not like doing a filling, there should be no variation in your day sheet reports, provider reports, aging reports, adjustment reports, etc. from day to day or month to month.  Consistency is what makes the data meaningful and comparable between months.  But, if you never told your staff how you want something done (i.e., written down in an office manual) then they’re just guessing from day to day, or month to month.  

Consistency is also important for the patient experience.  Patients feel more comfortable when they know what to expect at your office.  They even learn to rely on your consistency – how many times did a patient fail to show up to their appointment because they didn’t receive a reminder?  If they consistently receive great service every visit, they will feel comfortable referring their family and friends.

Reason #4 is thoroughness. Part of your office manual should be a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual to-do list for every role in your office.  It might be easy to remember the day to day tasks, but what about the tasks that aren’t completed as often?  How often do the suction traps get replaced?  Part of running a well-oiled machine is making sure that every task gets completed on-time.

Reason #5 is vision.  You probably have a vision of how you want your dental practice to run (mission statement, anyone?).  You may have put personal touches on the decor, but you can also put personal touches on some of the processes that go on in your office.  Have a luxurious office?  Maybe you would like to offer a warm towel to your patient at the end of the appointment.  That is a process.  Do you have a tech-savvy office?  Maybe you would like to set your patients up on an app that allows them to schedule, pay, and ask questions.  The steps to do those things are processes.

Does writing all this stuff down sound tedious to you?  Well, IT IS.  I spent the year before we closed on our practice documenting every step of every process.  I was lucky to be able to because Dustin and I were associates at the office we later bought.  Through the process of creating the office manual, we gained a better understanding of our office and where the inefficiencies and inconsistencies were.  Believe it or not, our staff love the manuals because it takes the mental load off their plates of remembering everything they have to do.  It is written out for them.  Instead, their mental power can be used to solve problems they don’t normally encounter, because after all, you can’t account for every situation.

Join us on the next #TuesdayTips for tips on how to get started on your office manual!