Short-Sighted Solutions to Dental Practice Problems
Time and time again, I’ve worked with (and in) dental practices that employ one-day solutions to fix staffing issues. Whether a dental practice is over or under staffed, this is a common problem area dentists like to throw money at and hope a change in staffing will be the catchall solution. Sure, you’ve solved the problem for the day, but too many one day solutions can drastically increase overhead.
I’d like to share some stories of short-sighted solutions I’ve seen in action across dental offices – and shift the focus to finding long-term sustainable resolutions for more efficient dental practices.
When A Practice Changes Ownership
Two dentists purchased an established dental practice from one dentist and the contract outlined a six-month transition period. During this ownership handoff period, the patient load that was seen by one doctor was now three, causing there to be underutilized clinical time. Instead of allowing more time for the transition, a quick (and costly) “band-aid” solution considered was to buy a practice’s charts to increase patient flow. Allow at least six months to fully evaluate the whole picture of a newly purchased dental practice and adjust staffing, patient flow, etc.
Baby Boomer Dental Assistants
I’ve worked with dental practices that have tenured staff members that have worked in the same position for over 20-30 years. Recently, I worked with a dental practice with dental assistants with very outdated skills. They didn’t perform four-handed dentistry, they didn’t take x-rays, and they didn’t know how to use a computer, which we know is an industry standard. This was causing the dentist to not see patients as efficiently. At the same time, the hygiene schedule was so full that the dentist schedule was starting to get clogged with prophy appointments. The dentist’s first solution was to hire another part-time hygienist and expand his hours (increasing operating costs). But instead we looked at the whole picture. We saw that this as an opportunity to update assisting skills for the baby boomers and have them participate in assisted hygiene. Then we could add an assistant to the doctor schedule that kept his time more productive and efficient. So instead of increasing operating costs by adding one more working day and a hygienist, keeping the hours the same and adding an assistant help his cost margins under control.
Too Many Part-Timers
When working in modern dentistry, the environment is much different than 20 years ago. Most patients are insured which changes the “traditional” work load at the front desk. It’s not as simple as it used to be and the actual business is more time consuming due to checking eligibility, etc. Hiring a consistent full time back and front office staff can build a dental office’s continuity and increase operational consistency.
Dental Manager Activity Trap
Have you heard of the “manager’s activity trap”? This happens when dental managers are so busy doing day-to-day activities, they don’t step back and solve larger problems impacting the dental office. The activity trap has larger implications because dental managers just see the symptoms and are unable to fully evaluate the cause of the problem.
Just like dentists aim to treat a patient’s dental problem long-term through thoughtful exam and evaluation, thoughtful solutions should be carefully created when it comes to dental office operations and management. A common trait found in successful dental practices is consistency and having an accountable back and front office team to manage activities efficiently even if the doctor isn’t in the office.