11.13.15 Issue #714 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Increasing Efficiency While Reducing Stress
By Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.

It is fairly safe to say, and make sure you are sitting down for this one, your patients would rather not be in your office! Going to the dentist unfortunately falls in the category of a necessary thing to do. Your patients might be pleasant and seem like they’re enjoying themselves, and there is a lot you can do to make their experience a relatively positive one, but sadly, they would likely rather be somewhere else. With this reality in mind, let’s look at some ways you can help lead your practice and your team to maximize efficiency so your patients spend as little time as they need to in your office. This will in fact help ensure they keep coming back, and they may even tell their friends to come as well!

1. Know how long procedures really take. Do you guess about the chair time for procedures? Dentists may underestimate the time needed for a procedure because they only think about the time they spend with the patients, while assistants, on the other hand, may overestimate the time because they factor in the room setup and breakdown, lab work, and sterilization of instruments.

Action Item: Take a two-week time audit to determine your true chair time.

2. Train assistants in all expanded duties. One of the most common ways time is wasted in the dental office is when the dentist performs procedures that, by law, an auxiliary could perform. The best dental assistants are generally happiest when they are allowed to perform all tasks that are allowed. Not solving this one cripples your clinical efficiency.

Action Item: Have a meeting with each dental assistant to create a training plan (within the confines of your state law). You may consider hiring one of the instructors from a local dental assisting school to come in during off hours to train your assistants.

3. Have an assistant for every chair. Many offices become inefficient and create team chaos with the “extra chair” phenomenon. Somehow, a false belief exists that an extra chair magically creates more efficiency. This paradigm brings about time-management stress for practices that follow it. Most dentists (unless you are an orthodontist) are more efficient with two chairs and two assistants dedicated to those chairs - not “rovers.”

The third chair can be efficient if the chair is staffed by a full-time assistant who is highly trained in all expanded duties and can function almost independently. The dentist visits the chair much like he or she does a hygiene chair for exams. The assistant has a schedule for this chair, though not as full as the hygiene chair. The schedule has openings so the assistant can respond to any emergencies (see item #4).

Action Item: Review your current chair and staffing paradigm and discuss the chair utilization in your practice.

4. Make sure your office handles emergencies efficiently. Many practices become totally derailed by emergencies. Each practice must determine its own philosophy about emergency patient care. Does your practice have a community commitment to see all emergency patients? If so, you will need to ensure time is set aside each day for emergency patient care. If your practice does not have such a commitment, you should still discuss a plan for emergencies, which might look like one of the following two models:

Model 1 - Set aside a fixed time each day for emergencies. This time may vary from day to day or be at the same time every day. You wouldn’t want your already-reticent patients to have to wait excessively if they’re experiencing a dental emergency. By having a special time reserved for this purpose, you are taking quality care of your patients.

One option would be to designate a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the afternoon for emergencies. Programming this time before or after lunch gives the doctor a longer lunch break and provides the staff with an opportunity to catch up if no emergencies occur.

Model 2 - Review the schedule every day to determine the best time to schedule emergency patients. Inform staff, so they can communicate these windows of time to any emergency patients they may encounter.

Next, determine who does what for the emergency patient. Often, the dentist becomes involved in a lengthy conversation with the patient. Dentists can train their assistants to provide education about treatment choices. If the patient stays for treatment, it should be worked into an opening in the schedule; not take time away from regularly scheduled patients.

Action Item: Establish your practice emergency patient paradigm and set up a specific procedure to see emergency patients. Be sure all staff members understand the emergency philosophy and the emergency patient procedure.

By focusing on these four aspects of your practice, you and your team can become more efficient, as well as reduce stress. Take one action step per month and you will see a big difference in the clinical efficiency of your practice.

Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at jgalephd@mckenziemgmt.com

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