If your office is like ours and most of the orthodontic offices I’ve visited, the doctor is the bottleneck and the limiting factor when it comes to the workflow. The team members usually must wait for the doctor to visit before beginning, before doing doing, before completing the appointment and/or before dismissing the patient in their chair. Though I’m sure you could handle the vast majority of this stuff without our help, the laws in your state, the need for us to supervise treatment and our control issues mean that the doctor being the bottleneck in your office likely won’t change any time soon. However there are things you and your doctor can do to make all your lives easier and, hopefully, help you run on time (because running behind is the most common issue I see when visiting offices). Let’s look at a few options:
1. Have your doctor read this article on visiting the chair once and this one on not going in order.
Always have your station equipped with an air/water syringe, both suction tips and anything else your particular setup requires. You never know when you might need these things. It’s especially important to have this set up if you drop a bracket during a repair and need to retrieve it with suction.
2. Be organized! Check out these drawers but make your setup the best it can be based on how you work in your office and make it consistent for all the chairs.
3. Minimize ups and downs – have everything you need before sitting down. Getting up and down is a time killer and you especially don’t want to do that once the doctor finally hits your chair.
4. Anticipate not only what you know the doctor will need but also what she may need. You’re a smart person, you’ve done this before and you can often guess what may happen. Make a game out of it and see if you can surprise the doctor by expecting the unexpected.
5. Always write down what the doctor says you’ll do next time so you can get started on that while waiting for the doctor at the next appointment.
6. Understand your doctor’s philosophy – wire sequence, elastic wear, etc so that you can anticipate what will happen and be prepared.
7. Remember that we are in the customer service business so when you are waiting on the doctor or working on a patient remember that it’s about them not about us so talk to the patient about what THEY did this week and what their plans are instead of talking to other team members about our plan.
8. Remember that Invisalign is supposed to be patient friendly so make sure it is – the impressions/scan appointment, attachment appointment and IPR appointments are the biggest events so we want to make those as quick and easy as possible. A scanner sure helps though it’s not always possible to have one where you are so be sure your impression technique is excellent. Your Invisalign rep can help you and is happy to visit your office (and make sure you get them to bring lunch for your team!) if you don’t routinely get a good impression on the first try. Learn to pre-load attachment trays and how to handle IPR appointments by watching the educational videos available from Invisalign with your doctor. Align has tons of videos where masters like Dr Jonathan Nicozisis show how best to complete the toughest appointments.
9. Colors are a big deal – have a menu that patients can pursue and be sure it matches what is available because there’s nothing worse than a patient choosing a color that we’re out of.
10. Become a hygiene expert – during down time at the chair you can help your patients do a better job of brushing and flossing. There is no better gift you can give them!
11. Become an expert in psychology because patients don’t care what we want them to do. They only care about things that get them what the want so you must explain why they should wear elastics or brush in a way that they care about.
The chairside clinicians are where the rubber hits the road and the work of an orthodontic office gets done. There is no more important job! Your doctor needs your help to insure the office runs smoothly, your patients have excellent care, that you all run on time and that the business thrives (so everyone, including the doctor, gets a paycheck!). This certainly is not an all inclusive list. Let me know other ways that you and your teammates help your doctor and your practice be more successful so that you can continue to make patients smile.