Why Your Administrative Team Needs SOPs

Part 1 of 3

Real World Insights from AADOM Authors - Debbie Jones, FAADOM

Hopefully, your team members love their positions in your dental practice and will never leave you. However, the cold, hard truth is that as much as your team members enjoy their jobs, there may be reasons they might not be able to come to work.

I joined my husband’s dental practice part-time to learn how to pay the bills and submit payroll. However, when one of our beloved and key administrative team members went out on an unexpected medical leave of absence, my status immediately changed to full-time. We soon realized that, as wonderful as this team member was, she had a downfall: all of her working knowledge was in her head. When she was no longer in the office, neither were the procedure notes she carried in her brain. It was imperative to begin the process of creating written Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the administrative team.

What would you do if one of your team members won the lottery today and decided they were not coming back to work?

In 2014 the Harris Poll published some good news. Fifty-one percent of workers polled would continue to work after winning the lottery, even if they didn’t need to financially. I don’t mean to be a Debbie-Downer, but that leaves 49% who would not come back to their positions; that’s almost half of those polled! If that doesn’t shake you up a bit, what about something a little closer to home in these uncertain times? We are in the midst of the Great Resignation of 2022. Are you or other members of your team prepared to take over if one of your administrative team members resigns? What happens if one of your team members becomes ill or has to take care of a family member and is no longer able to come to work? Do you have SOPs in place to train a new employee? Could another team member easily step in to cover until you find a replacement? Although SOPs aren’t a replacement for a lost worker, well-written SOPs will make life a little bit easier in the event you need to replace a team member, either temporarily or permanently.

Well, what are SOPs anyway?

Kate Brush from Tech Target describes Standard Operating Procedures as:

A set of written instructions that describes the step-by-step process that must be taken to properly perform a routine activity.

SOPs should be followed the exact same way every time to guarantee that the organization remains consistent and in compliance with industry regulations and business standards.

Although SOPs have been given a bad rap as boring or a necessary evil, it can actually be kind of fun to put into writing all the many tasks and procedures that your front office team accomplishes on a daily basis to keep the practice running. Once you begin writing down every task that the admin team is responsible for, from big to small, you will be awe inspired. By simply writing down the steps and processes every team member accomplishes during the course of a day, you are setting your practice up to grow and become successful even in the event of an unforeseen staffing change.

Marsha Freeman states, SOPs answer the burning question,

“What are those expectations?
“What is our standard of care, performance, and service for every task we do in our dental office?
“Who does what, when, where, why, and exactly how to meet or, better yet, surpass those expectations?
“…they provide a common unspoken denominator that allows peak efficiency and satisfaction to reign.”

Why You Need Standard Operating Procedures

Here are four reasons why I believe the administrative team needs SOPs.

  1. Parameters – SOPs create parameters that provide structure, guidelines, and definition to the tasks and operations you complete in the dental office. Most often, it is the Administrative Team members who are the first to welcome patients to the practice and the last to say goodbye. As such, your admin team members play a vital role in helping create positive experiences from the start to finish of every single visit to your practice. Did you hear that? The admin team is essential to the success of your practice. They need to be well-trained, competent, and efficient in the tasks and operations required of their role so that they can focus on providing excellent customer service. How do you do that? Create written SOPs as standards for every task and operation in your dental practice.
  2. Productivity – When processes are outlined in a step-by-step manner, team members are able to work more independently and autonomously. Standardized procedures lead to improved efficiency when all team members know where to locate the SOP, whether written or digital, and then follow the instructions in the SOP to complete the operation. The more a procedure can be standardized, the less chance of confusion and the greater likelihood of increased productivity and quality. For example, if my front office team works recall in the same manner from month to month, then most anyone can step in to keep it going. The more routine the process becomes, the greater chance it will be completed and patients will stay on a regular follow-up schedule. This is good for the overall productivity in the practice as well as individual productivity in one’s role.
  3. Performance – Utilizing SOPs provides a guidepost or measuring stick for new and ongoing team members’ training. During your new team member orientation, you can incorporate your SOPs and checklists into your training. Utilizing SOPs assists you in objectively measuring employee performance during reviews and growth conferences. Team members are treated equally when there is a benchmark or standard by which to measure performance.
  4. Protection — Dental healthcare providers are required to comply with local, state, and national regulations such as OSHA, HIPAA, and State Dental Boards. SOPs help to ensure that all team members are held accountable for following compliance regulations as well as performing operations and procedures in the safest manner possible to protect your patients and your fellow team members. From protecting patients’ Protected Health Information (PHI) to operating front office equipment appropriately, patient and team member safety is of utmost importance. Your practice SOPs can be written in simple and easy-to-follow terms to make complying with regulatory bodies a breeze.

In today’s environment, with so many changes in personnel, it is imperative to have Standard Operating Procedures for every procedure or operation in the front office. SOPs provide a standard set of instructions to perform any routine procedure or operation in the dental office in a consistent manner all while protecting patient and team members. Dental administrative teams need their own SOPs to identify parameters, measure performance, increase productivity, and provide protection. Stay tuned for the next article on how to create SOPs for your dental practice.

About the Author

Headshot of Debbie Jones, FAADOM

Debbie Jones, RN MN, FAADOM is the Practice Administrator for her husband Mike Jones’ General Dental Practice in Newport Beach, CA. She joined him because they thought it would be a good idea for her to help cover for the Admin Team. Little did she know that her career would transition to full-time dental administration.

Debbie is a lifetime AADOM member and received her AADOM Fellowship, (FAADOM) in 2021. She loves learning and has attended every conference since 2018 when she joined AADOM. Debbie is on track to receive her AADOM Mastership, MAADOM, in 2022.

Debbie Jones RN MN
Practice Administrator
Michael Jones Dental Corporation
1401 Avocado Avenue Suite 603
Newport Beach, CA 92660

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