Empower your team, empower your practice

November 24, 2023

Development coach and hygienist Flora Couper is headlining the clinical team session at Insights 2024. Flora knows the teams’ perspective from the inside. She started as a dental nurse in Dundee, Scotland, with a focus on kids and cavity prevention and then moved over to work as a hygienist at Dr. Elaine Halley’s Cherrybank Dental Spa—a job switch that she says changed her life. Flora says at Cherrybank, she stepped fully into the world of patients. “That helped me truly begin to think about service in a different way. It is the detail within the detail. It’s about paying close attention to what that patient in front of you wants and needs and delivering the care and experience in alignment with the brand identity in the practice.” Flora describes how digital workflows can improve customer service through better clinical results and offers a sneak peek of the big takeaways she’ll share at Insights 2024 in Mallorca. 

Q: What changed for you after transitioning from dental nursing at a hospital to being a hygienist at Cherrybank under Dr. Elaine Halley, another one of our Insights 2024 speakers?

A: When I went in for my interview, I remember saying to Elaine, I really love treating kids and am passionate about caries prevention. She liked that. We put together a caries prevention program. That's probably where my career started. I began to really think: Wow, I love dentistry! Whereas before I liked it but didn't really know where I was going with it. That was over 20 years ago. Starting at Elaine’s practice was the evolution that got me really interested and passionate about patient care. I started to move away from my focus on caries prevention and became much more about customer service because that was one of Elaine's standards. I got really engaged in high-level customer service and cutting-edge dentistry.

Q: You currently consult as a “patient journey designer.” Can you describe what that is?

A: Where the patient journey designer name came from was a program that I did called “service design.” I started a consultancy to help practices and people design their services aligned with their values and principles. I think dental practices need to invest time in thinking about all the touch points that the patient interacts with. Is it aligned with their brand? Is it aligned with how they care for their patients? With the service design principle, I weave it into all my coaching programs and training programs that I deliver.

"From a prevention angle of patient care, the digital piece helps patients to see what is normal and healthy, versus what might not be normal and healthy.”

Q: What impact does digital dentistry have on patient interaction?

A: I think developments in digital impact the clinical area first and foremost. Digital dentistry powers patient communication. I can have 10 patients in one day, and I'll take them all on a different journey because they all have different needs. From a prevention angle of patient care, the digital piece helps patients to see what is normal and healthy, versus what might not be normal and healthy. Detecting the earliest stages of disease and being able to demonstrate that provides us with the greatest impact on the patient. There's a secondary piece that connects with the business team. For example, when the business team is making appointments or handling attempts to cancel appointments, they need to understand the value of the appointment and should use similar language to what the clinical team uses.

Q: How do digital workflows impact the roles within a clinical team?

A: I'm very passionate about clinical teams because where I started at the hospital, we were definitely on the sideline. I love the fact that now we've got nurses scanning. They can do aspects of 3D printing. They’re really involved. In some practices, hygienists are primarily scaling and polishing teeth all day. To bring digital into their world, absolutely opens up the landscape.

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Flora talks about the new “clinical team stream” at exocad Insights 2024

Q: We’re very excited to have you as the keynote speaker for our first half-day program for clinical teams at Insights 2024 in Mallorca! Can you give us a sneak peek?

A: At Insights, I’ll go into the evolution of the dental team: how we started, the speed we’ve increased, our transition to digital, and the steep learning curve we’re facing. I want the teams to be excited about the advancements, not frightened and overwhelmed by them. We are going to be doing some work on scanning. We'll touch on materials.  One of the things that I'm really passionate about is, when we think of materials that we're using, how does the digital diagnosis enhance and encourage the use of some of these preventive treatments? We'll look at things from advanced restoratives to prevention and how digital supports everything in that.

“I want the clinical teams to leave Insights 2024 with an implementation strategy, so they can go back together knowing the most important thing they learned and what they will put into action first.”

Q: What takeaways do you want the participants at the Insights clinical team session to have?

A: One of the most important things is to give teams a simple strategy for implementation. When teams attend the Insights session, they should come back enthused to support the doctors in what they're doing. I also want them to see an impact on their sense of worth and responsibility in their jobs. A lot of dentists are known to have “undiagnosed course-itis.” This is when they attend courses that are motivational and leave enthused to put their new skills to use but then come back and, if the infrastructure's not there, easily just fall back into what they've always done.

The gap from learning to implementation is quite large and potentially complex and involving the team in that makes it a more comfortable journey. I want the clinical teams to leave Insights 2024 with an implementation strategy, so they can go back together knowing the most important thing they learned and what they will put into action first.

Q: Do you have a favorite song?

A: The one that comes into my head is “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus. It's quite upbeat and catchy.

Q: What's your favorite tooth?

A: My favorite tooth is a beautiful tooth.

Q: If you could give advice to your younger self, what would you say?

A: Believe in yourself. I think when you're younger, you don’t know if the passion and interest will ever get you there. But I think when you've got passion and interest, you’ll get there.

Q: One word for exocad?

A: Excellent.

Flora Couper has been part of the dental profession for over 30 years as a dental hygienist and business coach. She is the cofounder of “Love Your Dentistry” an online platform to support dental practices in delivering a higher level of care, developing their people and growing their business. She is passionate about technology in preventive dentistry, how to promote its value and how it fits into a multi-disciplinary approach to care delivered by the whole team. As an NLP coach, she likes to explore the use of language and discover ways to encourage effective communication that benefits the patient, clinician, and business. Follow Flora’s work on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

by Caitlan Reeg
Writer at exocad

Caitlan Reeg spends her days telling the world about the innovations her colleagues create. She’s passionate about healthcare, technology, and the ways the two interact to improve our lives. A former journalist, Caitlan has worked on staff at Dow Jones Newswires in Frankfurt and at the national public radio program Marketplace in Los Angeles.