Suki Singh, Regional Support Manager at Practice Plan, speaks to Rachel Dilley, Practice Manager, about how they incorporate the treatment coordinator role into their team…
Treatment coordinators (TCOs) have worked in dentistry since the eighties, and yet for some there is still scepticism around the value they bring to a practice. I caught up with Rachel Dilley, Practice Manager at Town Hall Dental, Winners of the 2017 UK Best Patient Care at the Dentistry Awards. Rachel is a passionate advocate of TCOs and told us more about their approach and the benefits they have brought to both the business and patients.
Suki Singh (SS): Can you tell me what the structure is in your practice in terms of TCOs?
Rachel Dilley (RD): As part of my Practice Manager role I’m also the Head of Patient Experience and we have two TCOs, although we refer to them as Patient Care Coordinators (PCCs), who are full time but they are also qualified nurses, so they can carry out other duties as well. Their job is ultimately to make sure we leave each patient with a positive, memorable experience.
SS: In what ways do you go about creating that ‘memorable experience’?
RD: I think the key is ensuring the patient has someone who is with them at every step of the journey, that they feel able to contact directly whenever they need to, and whose main role is to ensure each patient is happy and understands what’s happening.
A lot of it is relatively simple things, but they make a difference. For example, when we send out welcome packs we use a gold envelope, so patients already start to feel special and that this is something a bit different.
In the initial consultation our PCCs note down five things about each patient, such as if they’ve had a holiday or wedding anniversary recently or how they like to be addressed. That then gets passed through to the dentist via a pop-up note on the computer system so they can begin building rapport and a personal relationship with the patient straight away.
The amount of time that our PCCs can give patients means we can find out more about them and create a truly special relationship. For instance, a patient told her PCC that she’d always wanted a photoshoot so we arranged for her to have one following treatment.
SS: It certainly sounds memorable for the patient. What are the benefits to the practice of having this kind of system?
RD: Having someone on your team who is dedicated to spending this time with patients frees the dentists up to concentrate on delivering quality treatment which, after all, is what they’re trained to do, and what brings in income.
As a big practice offering a range of treatments, such as implants, braces, cosmetic dentistry, etc, patients can be spending a fairly large amount and providing this service is another way of ensuring they feel they are getting value for money. Patients genuinely appreciate it and they tell people about it, which is the best marketing and advertising we can ask for and is a big factor in the number of walk-in referrals we have.
Communication is key to mitigating the chance of any potential complaints or issues, and we’ve found that patients feel much more able to talk frankly with their PCC. I also firmly believe that looking after your patients and business means the financial side of things will look after itself.
SS: Has it had any tangible financial benefit?
RD: Absolutely. Since implementing this system two years ago, we have seen a 350% increase in revenue, and we have a 92% treatment uptake. We have around 50 new patients joining the practice every month, and without having the PCCs in place I don’t think we could manage that number so successfully.