With summer just around the corner, last winters flu vaccine shortage is barely a vague and distant memory. But you can be sure the companies that produce the vaccine haven't forgotten. Each year they face the challenge of anticipating which strain is likely to hit and then developing an adequate supply of the correct vaccine for distribution. Of course, there are any number of variables that can dramatically impact supply and demand of the flu vaccine, such as a contaminated lot that results in a severe shortage inducing mass hysteria and creating increased demand or a mild flu season that leaves supplies sitting in storage destined for disposal.
Although few practices would characterize it as such, dental offices encounter supply and demand challenges of their own, particularly when it comes to oral hygiene days and given their track record at predicting the number of days necessary, many would acknowledge they might have better luck trying to guess which flu bug we'll be battling next winter.
While you won't prompt mass hysteria if you run short on available hygiene days, you will be encouraging the disgruntled patients who are forced to wait to take their dental needs to the practice down the street. And when the number of hours available outpaces the number of patients booked, you have not only a supply and demand concern you have a dollars and cents issue as well. All of which can have the bottom line looking pretty sickly.
Where most practices get into trouble is in their insistence that they schedule to meet perceived rather than actual patient demand. Many dental teams are convinced that they must schedule hygiene six months in advance. Consequently, the days, weeks, and months to come appear to be booked solid.
So it can become quite puzzling – given this huge demand – why hygiene would not be delivering a larger share of practice production. But while the schedule appears packed, no one is accounting for the multiple cancellations and no shows that are filtering through. Nor is anyone paying attention to the dollars that are slipping away during the 10 minutes here and the 20 minutes there between appointments.
So how do you adjust supply to meet actual demand? Fortunately, you have reliable data and information readily available to make predicting the necessary number of hygiene days much easier than health officials appear to have in anticipating next year's virus.
First look at what your hygiene department is producing. It should account for 33% of your total practice production. If the hygienists receive guaranteed salaries regardless of their production, the expectation must be that they produce three times their salaries. To determine how much the hygienist is producing, divide the hygiene salary for the past year by her/his production. If production is falling short, take a careful look at the schedule. The hygienist must be scheduled to produce at 3x her/his daily wage. Achieving that requires you adjust your supply to meet demand and allot the right number of hygiene days - enough to keep patients happy and not having to wait an inordinate amount of time for an appointment, yet not so many that the schedule is riddled with holes and hygiene salaries tip above 33% benchmark.
While you're figuring the percentage that hygiene contributes to your total production, take a look at fee schedules as well. If the hygienist is paid $35 per hour and the cost for the prophy, not including the dentist's exam, is $70, the hygienist is making 50 cents on the dollar. In addition, one-third of hygiene production should be in interceptive periodontal therapy. Require the hygienist to measure the total number of dollars produced through interceptive perio and divide it by their total production. Review hygiene production each month during the team's monthly meeting.
Next week, the five-step formula for supply and demand hygiene scheduling.
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