Minimize Communication Breakdowns Between the Practice & the Lab

Dentistry is not a perfect science. For this reason, communication is critical especially with complex implant cases. There are so many variables. When challenges arise, what matters is that we pinpoint the problem and quickly find a solution as a team and move forward to completion of the case and a happy patient.

There are several breakdowns in communication at the practice level that we frequently see from the lab perspective. These are good pitfalls to be aware of in your practice. Here are some recommendations to hopefully help you.

1. Invest in education for your staff

We sometimes find that tasks are assigned to key staff members, necessary and a good thing to do for the dentist. However, along with delegation, the staff member should be thoroughly trained. A one and done approach does not suffice. Think about it, it takes all of us repetition to be able to perform new tasks. This is why it is so worth investing in your staff. It pays in spades saving you time. But when you do not properly train your staff, it costs you time, money and aggravation.

What happens when an assistant takes and inadequate impression? Well, that depends on the lab I guess. But when you send it to us at Wiand, this is what happens:

  1. Your office calls for a pick-up
  2. Driver picks up impression
  3. Impression/case is disinfected
  4. Case is entered into production
  5. Manager inspects the impression for accuracy
  6. Our front office calls your front office to notify of discrepancy (our goal is to make sure your case turns out the way you want it)
  7. Your office calls the patient back in to re-impress (patient not happy)
  8. Patient is rescheduled (this could take time)
  9. Re-impression takes place at your office
  10. Your office calls for another pick-up
  11. Driver picks up the impression
  12. Impression/case is disinfected
  13. Case is entered into production
  14. Manager inspects case for accuracy

By not properly training your assistant, everything needs to be done twice on your end, on our end and by the patient. This wastes time, causes unnecessary stress and sets the stage for the case. How does that affect the patient’s perception? There are numerous opportunities/ways to educate your staff. Take advantage of them because it will make difference in your practice. We promise you!

2. Implement accountability measures

Beyond proper training, your staff also needs to be held accountable. Remember that impression we were talking about? Taking the time to properly train your team member and then holding them accountable to provide accurate impressions by checking them before they go out saves everyone in spades in multiple ways. Checking an impression only takes a moment, but think about how much time is spent when you have to bring a patient back in. Hold your staff accountable to master the tasks you have had them trained on.

3. Assure staff members that it’s ok to make mistakes

Staff member s should be reassured by the dentist that it is ok to make mistakes. Sometimes as employers, we don’t even think to do this. While we all want to avoid challenges, ignoring them or hiding them only creates more problems. Sometimes staff members tend to hide problems from the doctor out of fear of losing credibility and/or their job. As a result, the blame many times gets passed to the lab. This can often leads to the loss of client for the lab and requires that you start from scratch with a new lab, taking more time. If the same mistakes are happening with each lab you use, it’s time to reflect and take a deeper look at what is happening. We try to encourage our clients to keep the lines of communication open even more when there are issues. We will bend over backward for anyone who takes ownership of an unintentional mishap. A simple, “I totally screwed up” will do! Or whatever choice word you prefer…

4. Communicate directly with the lab

Another scenario we see a lot is a lack of one on one communication directly with the dentist. We often find that dentists may be strong clinically, but sometimes lack communication skills and confidence in this area. It’s almost a fear to talk to the lab maybe perhaps because they don’t really understand removables or implant supported dentures. But, that is when we need to communicate the most. No one is born knowing everything. It’s OK not know because there is a lot to know. One of our goals here at Wiand is to continue to educate on the subject of removables and implant supported dentures because there is a lack of it. We do this through phone consulting, educational pieces, seminars etc. And if we don’t educate who will? There is a lot of detail work that goes into our cases, more than the dentist may realize. The cases we work on here at Wiand are typically very complex implant cases. Often we cannot proceed with a case until questions are answered directly from the dentist. There are times when we leave several messages with no return phone call until the front office calls looking for the case. Additionally, sometimes the call is returned by an assistant who does not understand what it is we need. In this case, incorrect information can easily be conveyed.

These are the biggies. We hope you will take the time to implement these easy ideas in your practice. The more you do it, the sooner it will become a habit and part of your workflow.

I would love to hear your ideas and perspective so feel free to share!