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    Why instrument processing efficiency is more important than you think

    The design of your instrument processing area can have serious benefits or consequences for your practice.

    Most dentists overlook it. It is usually an afterthought; a side note. But that is a big mistake. The fact is the design of your instrument processing area has serious benefits or consequences for your practice’s efficiency.

    “Dentistry is a small business. There must be a flow so you can see more patients and treat each patient efficiently,” Dr. Erinne Kennedy, DMD, says. “If everyone is falling on top of each other trying to get ready for the next patient, that’s not going to work out well.”  

    Cathy Klein, instrument processing product manager at Midmark, agrees that the design of the instrument processing center is crucial for the overall environment at the practice.

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    “When things are laid out properly, and the team has what they need, and they have the right flow and education, it sets the tone of the office. And likewise, if we see turmoil in that space, it emanates throughout the whole practice,” Klein says.

    We spoke to Dr. Kennedy, Klein, and other experts to uncover the important considerations for improving the efficiency of your instrument processing center and ultimately, the efficiency of your practice.

    Change your thinking about the instrument processing center

    Dr. Kennedy, who is on staff at Boston’s North End Waterfront Health, explains that instrument processing can often be a side note to most dentists. Doctors concentrate on clinical dentistry instead.

    “It can easily be an afterthought,” she says. “If you are renovating an older space, it is easy to focus only on where the operatories need to be placed, and then the instrument processing area ends up in a closet.”

    Chantel Willis, associate director, SBU for instrument management and infection prevention at Hu-Friedy, thinks that doctors should change their thinking about the instrument processing center.

    “The sterilization area is the heart of the practice; everything is coming in and out of that area,” she says.

    Willis shared a colleague’s comparison of the instrument processing area to the kitchen in a restaurant. An adequate kitchen in the right location with the proper flow and appropriate equipment is vital to the restaurant’s success. The busy staff is in and out of there while serving customers, and they need the right dishes at the right time. The restaurant owner wants the team out taking care of their customers, not waiting around in the kitchen.

    It’s the same idea with sterilization area,” Willis says. “That’s your hub. If you are efficient there, it will affect the rest of the practice.”   

    Up next: Involving the entire staff...

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