A successful doctor/implant treatment coordinator relationship assumes the doctor is capable of delivering high quality ethical surgical care, and the treatment coordinator is a high ethics person with superior communication skills. This is the foundation for a winning team. The development of trust between the implant treatment coordinator and the surgeon begins with the choice of the right person to be the treatment coordinator and a surgeon who recognizes the value proposition. This position is not necessarily a glorified dental assistant or a practice administrator. It is a professional who will function as an extension of the doctor. Their expertise could be viewed as a person who can close a sale, but as the doctor’s partner, their task is to help the patient perceive the “value” in the treatment offered. The doctor has to have faith initially and then through training that the treatment coordinator will create the value proposition for the patient. The treatment coordinator has to have faith that the doctor will deliver that value with the prescribed treatment plan.
How that co-professional relationship develops begins with the people. Initially, both the doctor and the implant treatment coordinator are in the room, and the doctor does the majority of the communicating with the patient. Also in the beginning, most of the communication with the referring office post consult happens with the surgeon. Over a few weeks, the right person in the implant treatment coordinator position will develop and evolve their communication and take over a majority of both roles. The treatment coordinators do not mimic the doctor’s style but instead develop their own style and words that complement the doctor’s way of communicating with the patients and referrals. Initially the implant coordinator will become more involved in the consult, and then the referral relationship is transferred.
The right implant treatment coordinator is given confidence to go into the referral offices and develop his/her own relationship with the team and referring doctor. The surgeon has to get out of their way, gradually turning over the point of contact role to the treatment coordinator. This also has to be communicated to the other office team members. They have to change their behavior of going to the surgeon with calls about implant patients knowing that the practice point of contact on anything related to an implant begins with the implant treatment coordinator. This reorientation of team takes time and constant reinforcement by the doctor.
In the beginning, after and/or before the consult, the surgeon will call the referral about the patient and their treatment. Commonly, the referral has to call back. The transition begins with the surgeon telling the referral’s team that when they call back, that they do not necessarily have to ask for the surgeon but can get the information needed from the implant treatment coordinator. When the referrals and their teams get spoiled by the availability of the implant treatment coordinator and their level of knowledge, it will become their preferred route of communication. Another effective strategy when possible is for the ITC to listen in on referral phone calls. The surgeon can tell the caller that the ITC is listening and taking notes. This again builds confidence for the referral that the treatment coordinator is a knowledgeable point of contact. Some referrals accept this quickly and some not so quick, but persistence, the surgeon’s confidence in that person, and quality communication wear down any barriers.
It is important to send out a letter introducing the implant treatment coordinator just as you would introduce a new partner. Then the ITC and the surgeon educate their own team on the value of implant treatment and the role of the implant treatment coordinator in providing this valuable care. When the entire team is on the same page, the referral transition and confidence in the treatment coordinator becomes a natural process. As the team reduces their potential points of resistance to accepting implant therapy, the implant treatment coordinator role expands.
-Dr. James A Baker, DDS OKC-OMS