07.10.09 Issue #383 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

The Dental Hygienist - a.k.a. VP of Production
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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For the record, let me say that I know most, if not all, hygienists view themselves as clinicians first and foremost. And for that, we patients are sincerely grateful. But here’s the reality: not only do you need to view yourselves as dedicated healthcare providers in your practices, you also need to assume the mentality that you are Vice Presidents of Production.

Recession or no recession, your role in the business of dentistry is critical. And being that this economic downturn is likely to linger into 2010, there is no better time than now to be doing some serious financial analyzing of your own. 

Because they are employees, most hygienists never feel the need to learn business skills. In fact, some resent the fact that they are, at times, expected to look at their department from a business perspective. For many, it is not until their income or job security is affected that they recognize the importance of becoming an active participant in the business side of the practice.

Now, if you’re thinking “I’m just not cut out for that business stuff,” you had better think again. While employees may never be as personally invested in the business as the owner, the thought of taking a cut in benefits, a wage freeze, or a reduction in hours should cause a team player to pay better attention to the business side of the practice and how they can directly make a difference.

Do you know what you produce per day, per week, per month, or per year for your practice? If not, find out. Perhaps you’re thinking “why should I be concerned about what my production is per day? My priority is providing quality care to my patients. I am not here to make the doctor money.” Unfortunately, this is a mindset shared by too many hygienists. Here’s the reality: a dental practice is a business. The dentist is the CEO, but you are the Vice President of Production.

Or perhaps your view is, “I am already busy enough, I don't have time to do this.” Not true. It takes about 30 seconds to make the notations on a sheet. Monitoring your daily production is as easy as downloading the Daily Hygiene Monitor Form from the McKenzie Management website or creating your own daily log with the following information:

  1. The date
  2. The names of the patients scheduled - patients that cancel get a “CA” for cancel or “NS” for no show next to their name
  3. Number of hours you are paid for that day
  4. Open time - time that was never booked by the scheduling coordinator. All time increments should be based on 10-minute units, so a 60-minute appointment accounts
  5. All procedures performed on each patient that day
  6. Procedures charged out of hygiene
  7. The total fee for each patient that day
  8. The amount you produced that day

Once you have created your log, check off what you did on each patient and total it for that day. To determine production per hour, add up your total production for that day and divide it by the hours you were paid, not the hours you saw patients. If you’re paid for an eight hour day but only saw seven patients, you will take the total daily amount, let's say it is $1000, and divide it by eight.

Therefore, your hourly production for that day is $125 an hour. The office lost money in two ways during that open hour. First, it lost money because of open production time. Second, you continued to earn a salary during that hour.

According to the industry standard, the hygienist should produce three times her/his salary to be a full contributor to the financial health of the practice. You may find that your department is falling short, particularly if you make more than $42 an hour and produce less than $125 an hour.

However, it is important to look at the total picture. Another good exercise to do quarterly, or when raises or fees are increased, is a production per hour analysis. If the hygienist is paid $30/hour and the production per hour is $75, then her/his salary to production will not fall in the 33% range. That's okay if the next hour she/he is performing a perio maintenance or a quadrant of root scaling. Which brings us to our next point – perio.

Next week, making the case for perio.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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