Efficient Efforts to Improve Your Dental Practice


Practice efficiency increases profitability, but time wasters and operational clumsiness inevitably get in the way.

Days in practice can be busy, filled with must-do activities and responsibilities and tasks dropped by colleagues that must be picked up immediately. On top of that, there are the patients that need to be cared for and some that need more attention that others; payers to pester; sales agents to gate keep; and vendors that must be paid or contacted for service. On top of that, you’re the coffee gopher and the pot is empty and you’re out of beans.

Life in a successful dental practice is a lot to handle. Everyone is constantly trying to find their balance between their daily responsibilities and those that are piled on by requirement. Efficiency, then, is key. It must become a part of the culture you are attempting to create. Efficiency is often a concept easily discussed yet allusive when attempting to put into practice.

Most think “efficiency” is doing something in less time. Efficiency in process may actually mean nothing other than being prepared for any possibility that arises with the ability to respond to it with clarity while also not succumbing to the emergency of the hour. “Efficiency” in this manner means your team can feel confident and relaxed in their ability to carry on without being bogged down.

There’s more. According to dental practice consultants, Christina Blatchford, DMD, and Bill Blatchford, DDS, simple efforts such as “having enough tray setups for any opportunity that presents itself is a good start toward efficiency. Cross-training your team allows them to shine, and being prepared equals efficiency.”

But “efficiency” goes beyond reacting to action or outside pressure.

For example, in the patient and exam room, you might look to combining treatments to eliminate workflow issues. In such a way, if you are not doing so already, combine crown prep and endo or any other treatment. If there are fillings and a crown, do the fillings first and you can still complete the crown prep in the allotted time. For hygiene, collect the fee at time of service. This can eliminate a line at the front desk, and allows the front desk staff more time for phone conversations, the Blatchford’s say. Clinically, encourage hygienists to do full mouth debridement at one appointment.

Another recommendation is to become a completely paperless office. Do away with paper forms, which should be electronic on the website — new patient forms and all patient records should be digital. Administratively, this will save a tremendous amount of time for your staff and will save costs for the business. “To become paperless, start one day at a time, and don’t spend time inputting people into the digital records who have not visited the office yet,” the consultants say.

On the business side, make the same move in regard to your attachments. If payers require attachments to support a submitted claim, respond with electronic documents through a secure exchange solution. Scanning the documents and pressing a button gets them to the payer in minutes without the need to print, post and track them and wait a week or more for a response. Such an approach is the definition of efficiency.

There are other things you can do, like having your team practice phone scripts for different scenarios that occur regularly. Yep, this can save a lot of time for your team. Phone training can make your days more efficient and profitable.

Then there’s always the timing of your procedures. The Blatchford’s call it “Ruth’s Rule” – an homage to one of their assistants. It states, “Use one bur or instrument, do what you need to do, and move on. That bur or that instrument does not get revisited for that patient appointment.” Thus, do something until it is done then move of.

Finally, consider scheduling in blocks if you don’t already. Book similar procedures at the same time to eliminate team shift — mentally and physically. For example, blocks of two hours with a production goal forces the team to focus on better scheduling. This allows you to set goals – even financial ones – and eliminates “look-see” appointments during these times. Meeting your efficiency goals earlier in the day may free the office up for other tasks or some of the last-minute appointments and tasks that come up. But by then you’re not reacting, you’re responding, which is so much more efficient.