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Funneling Through Clinical Decisions



Webster’s dictionary defines a “funnel” as a tube or a pipe that is wide at the top, but narrow at the bottom.  For me, in everyday life as well as clinically, at Chicagoland Smile Group, many decisions and workflows exist in my head as a “funnel.”


Take your daily decision about what to eat for dinner for instance.  At the top of the funnel might have been everything in the ready-made section at your local Whole Foods, but then you looked closer and decided on Italian vs. Japanese or Chinese or the Salad Bar.  Then, you looked within the Italian section and decided on pizza.  A further refinement made it where you decided that today is a vegetarian vs. meat type-of-day, so you ended up with a mushroom and spinach pizza for dinner.  True story of my mind and what happened to me last week.


Now, let’s look at my daily life of evaluating and sifting through clinical data at Chicagoland Smile Group.  I look at partner dentists and their treatment planning/case acceptance data in the context of a funnel.  What they treatment plan for patients goes into the top and then, in the middle, is what the patient’s choice is as to what treatment to proceed with, which leads to total treatment completed for a given time period at the bottom of the funnel as what precipitated out of the funnel.  Sounds simple, right?  At Chicagoland Smile Group, we certainly don’t think so.


This clinical funnel can represent a plethora of opportunities for our partner dentists. For example, how to not only provide their patients with the most comprehensive care and plan for them, but also regarding how they can best convey these options to their patients using soft skills, like case presentation. This is all goes back to the old adage of “it’s not what you say, but rather how you say it.”


The clinical team at Chicagoland Smile Group can use clinical “funnel” data to establish patterns via trends that a partner dentist might not even know he/she is facing.  Everything from not spending enough time during a hygiene exam, providing too many options to their patients, to not conveying a sense of urgency, are all things we can see through our funnel data.  Once the issue(s) are diagnosed, our clinical team can prescribe a solution for that particular partner dentist.  The solution starts and ends with a personal conversation with the “funnels” being our guide to have this conversation.  An overwhelming majority of the time, our partner dentist echoes their challenges and qualitatively, verifies the correctness of the data being presented.  From that point, some tips and training are discussed and implemented, along with some follow-up communication.  In the end, the partner dentist sees the trends of those funnels over time and is better able to take care of his/her patients and is thankful for being able to be presented with the opportunity to get better; a truly symbiotic relationship between our partner dentists and the clinical support team at Chicagoland Smile Group.

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