Category Archives: Team Training

Shelly Is Interviewed By Howard Farran

Our own Shelly Ryan was recently interviewed as a guess speaker on Howard Speaks. They discussed Shelly’s insights on going back to the basics of dental practice management, including how to create and use checklists effectively.


Checklist #1 – Case Presentation

Checklist #2 – Unpaid Claims Tracking Report

Checklist #3 – Unscheduled Treatment

Checklist #4 – Morning Huddle

Checklist #5 – Monthly Collections Tracking

Checklist #6 – New Patients & Marketing

Checklist #7 – Patient Flow & Financials

Checklist #8 – Ten Point Recall System

Checklist #9 – Scheduling & Capacity



Collections Made Comfortable Seminar | Friday, November 6

Everyone On Your Team Has To Deal With Patients, Money & Insurance. Make Sure They Know How!

  • Presented by Shelly Ryan
  • Friday, Nov. 6th
  • 9:00am -1:00
  • Embassy Suites, Bloomington, MN

dental collections seminarThis Is A Must for Your Team! This seminar is almost always a sellout. Clients get first dibs! So CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR SPOTS. $198 first person and $168 each additional. $20 discount per attendee if registered by September 15th .

NEW Special Segment: 2015 & 2016 CDT Codes

Learn which codes get the best reimbursement and when to use them; How to get better reimbursement for ERPT’s; And more!

Any Questions?

Please call APM at (952) 921-3360

click here to register

Dealing With Patient Complaints: An Opportunity In Disguise

(Dentists, Please Share This With Your Teams)

dealing with patient complaints

We’ve written before about how getting positive online reviews can enhance web presence and is a strong “conversion factor” that turns website visitors into patients. With patients being able to complain online as well, we have a double-edged sword. A negative complaint can be seen by who knows how many people! Dealing with negative online reviews is a whole discussion in itself.

This article focuses on dealing with face-to-face patient complaints. However, if you get a negative online review, you can sometimes call that patient and use this same process. We’ve seen situations where the patient has taken the negative review down once their complaint was satisfied.

Naturally, if complaints are handled wrong, you can lose patients. More importantly, patients that complain are also more likely to be loyal patients and refer others if the complaint is handled well. If someone is dissatisfied they will probably tell others. I have heard over the years many different statistics on this, but you can assume for every complaint you hear there are other people who hear or voice the same complaint. Complaints are sort of your “canary in a coal mine” for patient relations.

Our statistics show that the typical dental practice loses about 12% of its patients per year. Probably about half of those lost are due to something the Doctor or staff did. The other half are due to factors beyond the practice’s control, like the patient moving or insurance changes.

Remember this six step process:
1) Prepare
2) Listen
3) Build Rapport
4) Develop A Solution
5) Confirm & Close
6) Follow Through

1) Prepare

Maintain an alert and upright posture. Pen in hand. Be ready to listen with an Adult state of mind.

  • Child (emotional)
  • Parent (judgmental and rigid)
  • Adult (rational and solution-seeking)

When a complainer calls, they are in an emotional (child) state. They may have rehearsed a speech in their mind. They feel abused, cheated, or uncared for. Therefore, the person hearing the “child” may unconsciously start adopting a parent state. That’s when you’ll hear things like “Our policy is…”; “You should have…”; “You don’t know what you’re talking about…”; “It’s your responsibility to know your insurance, etc.” By keeping an adult state of mind, you let the child vent then, eventually, through your own behavior, they will start to come to the adult state.

2) Listen

Take notes. Acknowledge that you are hearing; “Tell me more.”; “Then what happened?”; “I see.”; “I understand that could be very distressing.”

3) Rapport

Use the patient’s name. State your purpose, “I want to find a solution you are happy with.”; or “I’ll help you get to the bottom of this.”; or “We certainly want to do everything we can to make this right for you.” Restate the person’s complaint. “I’ve taken notes and what I heard you tell me was… Do I have that right?”

4) Solution

“Here are a couple of things we may want to consider.”; “Would it help if I found out about _____ for you?” And, of course, “What would you like to have done so we can resolve this?”

5) Confirm & Close

“So here’s what I am going to do.” (find out, fix, or make sure “it doesn’t happen again”). “How does that sound to you?” Make sure that you note any specific actions and timeline and who’s going to do what by when.

6) Follow Through!

Make very sure you follow up on your promises. Example: “Your fees are too high!” A typical response (usually proposed by consultants and dental journal writers) is, “Mrs. Jones, we only use the finest materials and for the quality of care we deliver, blah blah blah.” Or, “Dentistry is inexpensive when you compare it to medical or buying suits or some other things (that are implied to be less important, thus indirectly putting the
patient down.)

Instead: “Gosh, I can tell you are unhappy with this. Can you tell me more?”
“Well, Bill, it’s my job to help ensure that you are happy with our services. You obviously
feel our fees are high and I’d like your suggestions on how we can go about looking at this.”

The patient might feel the fees are high because they can’t afford things in which case, of course, you work with financial arrangements. They might feel they are higher compared to other offices in which case you might say, “Would you like us to check our
fees against other offices or show you what information we have about that?” Or, in many cases, the patient just may want to be acknowledged and they don’t really want you to do anything except understand them. If the fees are indeed high even compared to other offices, then you can explain why. “Our fees are a little higher than average and I wanted to explain to you why they are if that’s what you’d like me to do.” Then (and only then) you could go into things about the quality of the lab, the time the Doctor spends, the Continuing Ed or technology, and so on.

In Conclusion:

No one likes to hear complaints, but dealing with them tactfully is a critical “customer service” skill.

Collections Seminar Back By Popular Demand

Collections Seminar Shelly Ryan



Collections Made Comfortable

You can count on our own Shelly Ryan to offer a straightforward approach to the details of collections that’s:

  • Kind to your patients
  • Easy on you
  • And will help the practice to grow!

We won’t waste your time with a lot of pie-in-the sky, overly complicated and bureaucratic “financial policies.” We are talking about real-life collections techniques that you can use in your office the very next day.

Date: Friday, November 6th
Time: 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM CST
Location: Bloomington Embassy Suites
2800 American Blvd
Bloomington, MN 55431
Cost: $198 first attendee and $168 for each additional. $20 per person Early Bird discount for registrations before September 15th.
Call (952) 921-3360
Or email

Register now

You Will Learn:

  • How the right use of payment options and financing moves patients toward treatment.
  • How the entire team’s involvement brings collections to the next level and keeps patients happy.
  • How to overcome almost any patient objections to finances.
  • Key measurements and tracking systems of your collection effectiveness.
  • How to know when to be aggressive and when finesse will get you further, faster.
  • Reduce insurance related confusion and hassles throughout the office.
  • Reduce chances of patient misunderstandings.
  • How to tactfully collect from emergency patients.
  • Should we charge a fee after missed appointments? Know the benefits and drawbacks.
  • How much downtime is normal? When is “too little” open time actually a problem?
  • How the proper patient information flow can reduce stress, increase efficiency and help you stay on time.
  • How to schedule “out-of-network patients” – and collect!
  • Answers to the most common legal questions regarding collections.
  • Smart successful collection calling techniques that are kind but effective.
  • Turn every patient into an ally – how do patients know you’re really listening to them?
  • Eliminate negative situations – how to handle the most demanding situations, without getting angry or losing your composure.
  • Tips for improving cooperation between administration and clinical staff.
  • How to avoid making a bad telephone impression. You’ll be amazed how often this can happen – even when the best people answer the phone.
  • Dealing with late patients, late cancellations, and even staff conflicts.
  • How to call patients regarding any unscheduled treatment needs and get them scheduled.
  • Contact tactics – Clever ways to get you in touch.
  • Insurance narratives that get you paid.

What People Say:
“It was a great seminar. The speaker was full of energy and great ideas on a hard subject to discuss.” – Kelly, Dental Assistant

“Our team attended your seminar in Nebraska. What a wealth of knowledge you shared!” – Amy, Patient Care Coordinator

“Really, really applies to my everyday work. Definitely recommended to other offices.” – Mary Ann, Administrator

Regular Meetings Are A Part Of A Healthy Team

At APM, we want to make sure we are walking our talk. For the same reasons that we suggest that dental offices need to meet regularly as a team, we do the same.

Especially since we are rarely ever at the same place at one time, each quarter we meet for a morning to review our progress (both as a company as well as individually), update each other on developments in our respective areas, and set goals for the next quarter. At the end of the calendar year, we run the same drill. Then, in the afternoon we go out and do something fun.

Last Friday, we had our quarterly APM team meeting. (Unfortunately, Robyn as not able to join us.) We worked hard in the morning reviewing, sharing, brainstorming and planning. We also had a photographer, come and update our team photos for our website. (Many of our clients know John Magnoski because they have had John come out to take their team photos, too. For more examples of John’s work, click here.) Then, once the work was done, we went out for an afternoon of croquet and a nice lunch (Thank you, Bill and Matt!).

APM Team MeetingAPM Croquet


(To see more fun pictures from our day, visit our Facebook page or our Google+ page.)

Morning Huddles Set Your Team Up For Successful Days

For many dental teams, morning huddles are an important part of the daily routine. We recommend that you consider meeting at the start of each day if possible. Having the chance to look together at your schedule and plan ahead for potential sticky spots, as well as to communicate about individual patients’ needs prepares you for having smoother days and ultimately happier teams.

Each member of the team should come prepared to contribute:

Clinical Assistants

  • Review your patients’ charts for the day. Do they need pre-medication? Any bleeding disorders? Allergies? Is the scheduled time for treatment accurate? Are there future appointments scheduled? Have financial arrangements been made? Is there incomplete treatment?
  • Review the next two days’ schedules and provide recommendations to the Scheduling Coordinator in regard to special trays and study model impressions.
  • Identify potential bottlenecks in the schedule.


  • Review your patients’ charts for the day. Does anyone need pre-medication? Any bleeding disorders? Allergies? Is the scheduled time for treatment accurate? Are there future appointments scheduled? Have financial arrangements been made? Is there incomplete treatment?
  • For each patient, share with the team when their last appointment was. Do they have past due family members? Any incomplete treatment? Are they a good candidates for using the digital camera?
  • Make sure the Doctor knows if they have or have not met the patient before and give them and a piece of personal information to jog their memory or for a conversation-starter.

Financial Coordinator

  • Are there any problem accounts coming in that day?
  • Are there financial conversations that need to occur that day?

Schedule Coordinator

  • Report on the day’s hygiene schedule.
  • Are there new patients coming in? What information can you share about them?
  • Are there M.A. patients coming in that day?
  • Are there any emergency patients that have been put in the schedule?
  • Ask the Doctor(s) where they want emergencies to be scheduled that day?

Would You Like To Learn More?

If you would like more information about making your team meetings more effective or about morning huddles specifically, email us or give us a call at (952) 921-3360. We are here to help you and your team succeed.

MDA Is To Sponsor HIPAA Seminar

HIPAA Seminar for MDA Dentists by Danika Brinda

Speaker: Danika Brinda

With the many recent changes to the HIPAA rules, privacy, security and HITECH, it is essential that the MDA provide educational opportunities to members and their staff surrounding this multi-faceted and, oftentimes, confusing topic.

A HIPAA seminar, specifically tailored to Minnesota dental clinics, will provide members with facts and myths, as well as information on the changes to the rule, and will answer your most challenging HIPAA questions. More details will be provided in the coming months, but mark your calendar for Friday, November 7! If you have questions or suggestions for the seminar content, please email Bridgett Anderson, Regulatory Affairs Manager @

The speaker is Danika Brinda. Here is her bio

APM Appreciation Event For Current Retainer Clients

Your Team Is Invited For A Morning Of Fun & Good Humor

WHAT: Psychologist & Humorist, Dr. Bruce Christopher: “Are We Having Fun Yet?”
WHEN: September 26, 2014, 9AM – 12PM
WHERE: NEW LOCATION – Embassy Suites Bloomington, 2800 American Blvd
COST: $25 per person*

Our Way Of Saying “Thanks!”

Dr. Bruce Christopher

Maybe we don’t say it often enough, but it’s a genuine pleasure and honor to work with you and your team. We feel very fortunate to be associated with so many fine dental offices and have so many long-standing clients. So, we thought it was time to show our appreciation. This will be a fantastic team event. It’s not about our business; it’s about you, your team and having some fun (while learning)!

Plus, my team and I have some fun planned for you too.

I have seen Dr. Bruce Christopher speak several times and he’s always inspiring and entertaining. He was a top speaker at the “TBSE Seminar” in Las Vegas for the past two years. This fast moving presentation is about how attitude is contagious and predicts success. Click here to see a clip of one of his presentations.

Extra Perk: Update Your Team Photo

And, we will have a professional photographer there to take team photos (no charge to you). An easy way to get a group picture for your website, Facebook, etc.

Plan to come a little early. Breakfast will be served at 8:00. You and your team deserve a perk!

Register Your Team Today!

We anticipate having a full house so please register soon. Just call 952-921-3360.

* Actually we would invite you for free but in this way we will be sure of the count for the sake of room planning and catering.

Leadership and Staff Raises

Monday, January 4, 2010

Leadership and Staff Raises

In our recent economic survey we asked area Dentists if they plan to give staff raises in 2009. 41% of Metro Area and 24% of Outstate offices said, “No.” Only 30% of Metro and 54% of Outstate dentists will give raises in 2009.

Staff wages are the major overhead item, so it certainly makes sense to go slow with raises if your practice isn’t growing. I’ve often said that the staff’s compensation should be linked to how the practice does, not just to the economy or the consumer price index (which by the way was up 1.8% in 2009).

Even if you’re not giving raises, you should at least give your staff recognition, direction and hope. That’s leadership.

“Look, we’ve had a flat year but I want to let you know that I do appreciate your efforts (giving specific recognition to each staff person). And, I do need your help in the coming year because despite the economy we intend to press on and make the practice better all the time. Once we’ve gotten a string of 4 to 6 months that shows growth then we’ll revisit the wage situation and consider raises at that time.”

Wage increases should be based on these three major factors:

The market rates for wages. (See the Advanced Practice Management Surveys).

How the practice is doing (practice growth and profitability).

Individual merit.

Smart Wage Decisions:

I believe it’s best to take a look at staff wages as a percentage of collections at least once per year for the sake of determining how much will be available for wages and raises.

If your total gross wages were running at about 25% of collections, for example, last year and they are 23.5% now (because your collections grew) then you are in a position to give raises.

If staff salaries have crept up to 26% or 27%, then it’s time to hold off until your practice revenue catches up.

Using this very simple method, you can keep the biggest chunk of your overhead (staff wages) under control.


About one third of dental practices have team incentives. When they work they can work beautifully. They can really pull a team together and lead to greater production. Some of you have been burned by incentives or are jaded about them. The key thing is that if you have set up an incentive with the staff for practice growth you have to have a plan for growth.

You, as the leader of the practice, have to quarterback that plan. Incentives are not indicated and will fail if the staff is at each other’s throats, there is no realistic plan to grow the practice and the Doctor doesn’t do his/her part to lead by example.

Agree? Disagree? How do you handle leadership and staff raises?

Post your comments!

Then give me a call at 952 921 3360 to discuss these or other issues in your practice. Please call with confidence. I consider this a professional-level discussion.

Check out what your colleagues are saying about us.

’til next time…

Posted by Bill Rossi at 8:29 AM
Labels: Advanced Practice Management, Bill Rossi, Dental Consultant, Staff management

Want More New Patients? Cover the phones! Tips for a healthy hygiene department

Monday, March 19, 2012

Want More New Patients? Make Sure Those Phones Are Answered During Lunch!:

We surveyed about 100 clients in our database asking this simple question, “Do you answer the phone during lunch hours?” About 15% said they didn’t.

We then sorted the data out. Offices that answered the phone during the lunch hour averaged 20 new patients per full-time Dentist per month. Offices that did not answer the phone during lunch hours averaged 14. Enough said?

Is Your Hygiene Department in a Slump?: In my travels over the Upper Midwest over the years, I’ve often compared the Doctor’s procedures vs. the hygiene procedures as the difference between a Main Menu and a “Bar Menu”. The Dentist often has access to a myriad of different procedures which has its advantages in keeping the schedules full and, more importantly, affecting his/her productivity.

If your hygiene department has a more limited menu (i.e., the “bar menu”), it becomes even more critical that your hygienists are delivering these small-scale services consistently. By small-scale services, we’re talking about laser/periodontal procedures, x-ray coverage, in-office fluoride applications, delivery of site specific antibiotics and cosmetic procedures such as whitening. Make no mistake, a gap in delivery of any of these services can make a big difference with patient care as well as hygiene productivity.

All productive up-to-date hygiene departments have one thing in common: they deliver a wide range of services consistently. 2012 might be an ideal time to schedule a Clinical Policy Summit with your staff about practice protocols specifically for hygiene related services.

A crude but simple way to measure the range and depth of Hygiene related services is “Production per Hygiene Visit.”

Metro Area
5%ile AVG 75% 95%ile
Prod/Hygiene Visit $108 $139 $147 $165
Outstate Area
5%ile AVG 75% 95%ile
Prod/Hygiene Visit $93 $123 $136 $160

Check out your Hygiene Production per patient visit (it’s right there on your “Manager Report”)
Posted by Bill Rossi at 2:45 PM
Labels: Advanced Practice Management, Bill Rossi, hygiene, new patients

Cost Control and Result Control Part One

Monday, April 4, 2011
Bringing digital technology to your offices

According to our 2009 survey, as of this year more than 50% of dentists (54%) now have digital x-rays. Bringing computing to the operatories entails considerable expense. Usually as digital x-rays are added, other technologies are added or upgraded too, such as intra-oral cameras, patient education software, and digital record keeping. Financially speaking, this often comes out to over $12,000 per treatment room.

The pace of bringing digital technology to the operatories is increasing. Many of you will be making these investments over the next three to four years.

Since we have and will have many clients who will be investing over $50,000, $100,000 and up in this technology, I have two main suggestions to get more bang for your buck:

1) Get professional help in specs and get bids for the equipment – “cost control”

2) Commit to additional training so you get “result control”

Intra-oral cameras for example

In business, costs are inevitable. A consistent theme of my advice to clients is that you have to have “result control.” That is, if you buy intra-oral cameras, you want to make sure they’re used. Half of intra-oral cameras are used less than five times per week. Almost every office with intra-oral cameras struggles with getting them to be part of the hygienists’ routine (and the hygiene department is where they can have the greatest benefit in helping the patients understand their problems and value your solutions). Lots of offices have the capability to do chartless record keeping but less than 10% are truly chart free. With this technology in the treatment rooms the hygienist (for example) can post charges, set their next appointment, use the intra-oral camera, enter the treatment plan and use the patient education software. However, usually only two or three out of these five things are routinely done.

Professional help because the devil is in the details

Most dentists have neither the inclination or the time to keep up on computer software and hardware. I have seen many installations where there was no competitive bidding whatsoever. Or, once the equipment was installed it was glitchy… the digital x-rays would go down in one room now and then, the intra-oral cameras wouldn’t work well, there would be server problems, wires and cables in the way, poor monitor placement, etc.

With technology the devil is in the details: video cards, cabling, monitors, monitor position, support, warranties, digital x-ray choices, etc.

There are reputable and competent technology installation firms out there, such as Erickson Technologies 651-452- 6758 and Sunset Dental Technologies 612-326-8693. However, many clients have used the local “computer guy” or just bought the hardware from the software vendor or supply company.

I recommend you check out Ted Takahashi with T2 Consulting 952-891- 5177. Ted does not sell anything and makes no commission or “finder fees” on any technology recommendations. What he does is draw up the specs so you can get competitive apple to apple bids. He knows what works and he’ll help you pick the right stuff. And, furthermore, you’ll be assured that the installation will be truly functional from day one.

Don’t let the suppliers take your business for granted!

Whatever route you take, just remember to focus on both cost and result control! Don’t let the suppliers take your business for granted! There almost always is some bargaining room if you go through a bidding process.

Posted by Bill Rossi at 8:00 AM