Professional Courtesy: Lean Into 2023 by Dr. Thomas Giacobbi

Professional Courtesy: Lean Into 2023

by Thomas Giacobbi, DDS, FAGD, editorial director

Last month, I provided some concrete suggestions for how to best use your downtime if the coming recession leads to a decrease in practice production. Many offices, meanwhile, have experienced significant growth from pandemic to the present, and that demand for services is likely to continue. So for the practices that remain robust, I want to warn you of the enemy of success: complacency. This is an attitude that can poison a practice if the team becomes so accustomed to success they don’t believe they can fail. If you are concerned that your practice may become a victim of its success, consider this new year an opportunity to find incremental improvements in your operation.

A recent thread on Dentaltown asked if any dentists had read the book 2 Second Lean: How To Grow People and Build a Fun Lean Culture by Paul Akers. In a nutshell, lean principles are all about efficiency and they have origins in the automobile industry. Why? Because the manufacture of automobiles is a complex set of repetitive tasks, and every time you find an element that can be improved, your process gets better. While dentistry is blessed with the endless variety of patient personalities and problems, many core elements in a dental practice are repetitive both inside and outside of your operatories.

A few digital improvements
  • Let’s start in the front office, where every patient experience begins and ends. Do your patients have the ability to communicate with your practice beyond making a phone call? At my practice, they also can text, email or send a message through our practice website.
  • When it comes to collections, the gold standard is to collect fees when the patient is standing there, but we all know there are times when a statement must be sent after insurance has been processed. Can you send statements electronically to the patient’s email or cellphone via text with a link to pay immediately? This isn’t just about saving a stamp; the faster you collect an outstanding balance, the more likely you are to be paid. Sending a statement in the mail means your bill will be buried under a mound of junk mail and likely ignored.
  • Speaking of mail, are you still receiving paper checks? If you haven’t started the process of accepting insurance payments via EFT, now is the time. Once again, you’ll get paid faster—and this system will one day be the standard, so the sooner you get used to navigating the process, the better.
  • How are you handling new-patient intake forms? Are they digital, and can they be filled out at home and in the office on a dedicated tablet or computer? If not, you should start work on this process immediately, because the message you’re sending before the patient gets to the operatory is that your practice is not modern.

Don’t forget the physical realm, too
  • How organized is your back office? When was the last time you cleaned out the drawers and cabinets? Dentists are frequently debating their overhead online, and this is a great exercise to find those lost percentage points of overhead. Once you’ve purged the office of equipment gathering dust and expired dental materials, you can add those dollars to what your income would have been last year if your approach to purchasing had been a bit leaner.
  • Examine your setups and procedures for opportunities to make improvements. I’m not suggesting you run faster down the hall; rather, think about how additional training and efficiency will help you continue to be productive when you may be understaffed.

If you have suggestions to make an office more efficient or need some help, please add a comment under this article below. I also can be reached via email:

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