Doctors: Please get on the same page.

I’ve known for a long time that in a group practice, it’s critical for all the dentists to have generally the same treatment philosophy, and to express this philosophy to the team. Knowing this – and making it a reality are two different things.

I’ve heard story after story from hygienists revealing how they struggle with juggling two (or more) distinctly different treatment philosophies within the same practice and trying to reconcile this when they are preparing their patients for the doctor’s diagnosis. With Dr. “A”, they see a cracked filling and know that the doc will want to watch it. With Dr. “B”, they know she’ll want to restore the tooth and possibly recommend a crown because of how much tooth structure is involved.

In the hygienist’s defense, it’s tough straddling that line.

And then you have the issue of Father-Son, Brother-Sister, Husband-Wife dynamics. One hygienist in my Co-Diagnosis program recently said that she’s in a practice where the son has joined his father. Dr. “Father” watches things and is very conservative. Dr. “Son” is a bit more proactive but is afraid to tell his patients what he really believes because they’ll think he’s trying to sell them something.

I heard about another situation with a Husband-Wife team that was far more complex. I mean, how do you tell one dentist that you feel his/her spouse is doing inferior work? Talk about sitting on a land mine! Whoever has the nerve to bring that up … will either be a hero or hitting the pavement!

Now, I know it’s easier said than done, and MUCH easier for me to write this than to actually have “the talk” – but Docs … I’m speaking to you. Please, please, please do yourselves, your partners and associates, your team, your practice and your patients a favor and have these conversations. I have facilitated these conversations many times and the involved parties are always glad they did it.

In fact, many times the team perceives the doctors to have very different philosophies, when in fact there are only subtle differences that can be easily reconciled.

Here are your action steps:

1) Ask your team. Allow them to be honest and safe. “Do you feel there are differences between the doctors’ treatment philosophy?” and “What do you see as the major difference?”

2) Set aside an hour on your calendar, sit down with all doctors and a few cases and really get down to the nitty gritty. Again, let it be a safe environment for learning. No right or wrong, just come to a consensus on how you diagnose and what treatment you recommend. Be very specific. When do you recommend a crown versus a filling, etc?

3) Once you decide what you believe, bring your team together again and teach them your common treatment philosophy.

4) Live it! Keep each other accountable and allow your team to keep you accountable to your philosophy.

Have fun!

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