(An antidote for the “Coat Rack Syndrome”) by Amy Morgan
Whether you are getting ready to introduce Oral Sleep Appliances into your practice, purchasing a cone beam scanner or preparing to go completely paperless, I am sure that you and your team are agitated by mental pictures of practice changes that have failed in the past. At Pride institute, we call this the “Coat Rack Syndrome”. The syndrome occurs when a dentist spends lots of resources to purchase and implement the latest, coolest piece of technology and three months later it is sitting in the corner of an operatory gathering dust and patients’ coats. Very rarely is the new equipment the reason behind the lack of implementation. Most often it is the integration strategy that is at fault!
There is not one office that has not encountered some change resistance and lack of success when it comes to new innovation. So the question is not how do we survive the pain and itch of the syndrome, the question is how to pro-actively avoid the syndrome all together!
Start with a Clear Picture of what has been and what will be!
Before you whip out a credit card or loan application for your next investment in upgraded technology or clinical, management or marketing skills, it is vital to answer the following questions:
Why do we need to innovate?
What specific improvement will meet our needs?
When do we expect to see a return/or ideal outcomes from this improvement?
How will we implement the strategy from introduction to mastery?
Who amongst my team/patients will be impacted during and after the
Once you have a clear answer to these questions, then and only then are you ready to set your five-step strategy for success.
The Five-Step Strategy
- Develop and Communicate Your Vision for the New Innovation
- Define and Plan for a Realistic ROI
- Partner/Train Your Team and Be
- Prepared for Change Resistance
- Talk to Your Patients (market effectively)!
- Anchor the New Culture by Celebrating Success
Let’s apply these five steps to a case study in introducing sleep apnea solutions into a mature, general practice. Meet Dr. Newday! She has a thriving practice in a suburban setting, twenty minutes outside a major city. She has been in practice over 15 years and as of last count has an active patient base count (anyone seen for anything over the last 18 months) of over 1800. She’s running nine hygiene days a week and her patients are interested in all aspects of functional and cosmetic oral health solutions. Part of Dr. Newday’s overall vision is to continuously strive to improve and innovate by offering state-of-the-art, high-tech, high-touch solutions that exceed her patients’ expectations. To support her vision, she has decided to research the possibility of introducing oral sleep appliances as a new service offering for her new and existing patients. She starts her exploration by applying The Five-Step Strategy.
Develop and Communicate Your Vision for the New Innovation
Dr. Newday knows that a majority of her practice falls into the baby boomer demographic. She has been doing her research and is aware of the percentages of that demographic who may be suffering from some form of sleep disorder. Her vision and brand promise is to provide new solutions that support her patients’ desire for ideal oral and overall health. Therefore, implementing oral appliances that support the treatment of sleep apnea is a logical next step. She announces this to her team in her annual strategic planning meeting and brainstorms with them an action plan for implementation.
Define and Plan for a Realistic ROI
In that same meeting the team reviews the “wish list” budget for the year. They explore all the costs involved in training and implementing sleep solutions into the practice and set an appropriate timeline of six months, to be fully “up and running”. Dr. Newday clarifies that the return on investment she is looking for is not just an increase in productivity and profitability to offset the costs of this new offering. She is also very interested in attracting a new target profile patient who will be inspired to come to the practice for both their sleep apnea needs and also become an enthusiastic, general dental patient. The team sets a goal of starting 25 new oral appliance patients, $90,000 in increased productivity, by the end of the year as the statistical interpretation of initial success.
Partner/Train Your Team and Be Prepared for Change Resistance
Dr. Newday knows that leadership is something you do with people, not to people. She began the process of creating what the famous author on change, John Kotter, refers to as a “guiding coalition” the minute she called the initial meeting and invited full team participation. For the training plan, the team starts by looking at which office systems would be impacted by introducing sleep medicine solutions into the practice. The systems impacted include: scheduling, insurance (medical vs. dental), financial arrangements, clinical evaluation, treatment presentation and, of course, the actual delivery of the appliances themselves. Each individual’s job description tasks are updated and prioritized and coaching plans for training, practice and mastery are put in writing, with expected dates of completion.
Talk to Your Patients (market effectively)!
In a separate marketing meeting, the team creates a strategy and calendar to generate awareness, engagement and commitment regarding sleep apnea solutions for new and existing patients. They look at internal marketing strategies including education in the continuing care department, e-newsletter articles, brochures and testimonials in the reception area and postings online. They make plans to upgrade their website to include a sleep solution tab and set up focused Facebook and Twitter posts, as well as creating You Tube educational videos and patient testimonials. They also work with the company that supplies the sleep appliances to create material for an outreach campaign. These are sent to the local medical community who are directly involved in sleep medicine, generating referral sources. The Dr. and team feel the plan will help them achieve their goals for the year.
Anchor the New Culture by Celebrating Success
No matter how excited a Dr. and team may be in implementing new technology or clinical innovations, change resistance is real. People get busy getting busy and unfortunately, it erodes enthusiasm and commitment. The key is to be hyper vigilant in celebrating the incremental efforts large and small. Dr. Newday knows that she has to catch the team doing things right, almost right or not completely wrong because what gets acknowledged gets repeated. As part of their budget, the team knows that there is money allocated for reward and recognition for both individual and group achievements. They have brainstormed the type of rewards that they enjoy and have statistical interpretations of success points to tie the rewards to. As patients begin to achieve results, it is also vital to celebrate their success as part of the on-going awareness campaign. If Dr. waits till the end of the year to say thank you, she will be waiting a very long time….
With careful application of these five steps, Dr. Newday avoids “Coat Rack Syndrome” and more importantly gets to provide patients a solution that truly is a life-changer! The Pride Institute constantly hears messages of frustration and doubt when it comes to implementing new skills and strategies. Our message to you is if you “fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. Plan well and there is every reason to believe you will succeed!