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Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS, believes dentistry is no longer just about fixing teeth. Dentistry is oral medÂicine. Her work helps dental professionals embrace the opportunities and understand the metrics that accurate insurance coding provides. The ADA recognized her expertise by inviting her to write a chapter in its CDT 2017 Companion book and again for its CDT 2018 Companion. She is the author of the DentalCodeology series of easy-to-read, bite-size books. Her latest book, "Teledentistry: Pathway to Pathology" was co-written with Cindy Purdy, RDH, BS. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most businesses today, including dental practices, are run using a factory assembly line-model.
Active participation makes so much more sense. This means, as a dental hygienist, there at least three (and probably many more) ways to be active, productive and financially well-compensated while making meaningful contributions to patients and, more importantly, your own health.
Why employees are always a bad idea
At a recent meeting of the Speaking Consulting Network, Chuck Blakeman, author of Why Employees are Always a Bad Idea, talked about this idea as he revealed the ways businesses should be run by stakeholders. This is not a simple shift in term but rather a major shift in attitude.
Businesses making this shift have posted gains of 120 percent on the SP 500 over the last decade. The top few, the good-to-great companies, posted gains of about 320 percent. Companies shifting from managers to leaders and employees to stakeholders and posted gains of more than 1000 percent! These are huge numbers in which each person participating gained. Stakeholders actively participate in decision-making and exert pressure on the traditional top-down organizational structures. The audience listening to Chuck’s revelations consisted of dental practice management consultants, which can be good news for dental hygienists.
3 ways to become a stakeholder
Dentists have to work both on their business and at their business. Dental hygienists can be co-captains. Using a body metaphor for the business organization can help visualize this idea-maybe right and left ventricles of the heart, right and left hemispheres of the brain or the skin and the lungs, which cannot function without each other. Each is interdependent on the other.
Here are three ways a dental hygienist can act more like a stakeholder in the practice:
1. Focus on dental hygiene, what you were hired to do. Stakeholders work in small, natural groups where leaders appear and are not appointed. Down time? Focus on building the dental hygiene part of the practice. Is calling patients from the dead file really a good use of time, or is it better to rehab a perio protocol? Is it better to run personal errands or calculate the dollars lost from not offering patients higher options for their oral health?
2. Internalize the practice vision. Whether the vision is for the owner to retire at 57 or stop doing fillings, dental hygienists should strive to be a part of the vision. Having a dental hygiene vision that supports the dental practice vision is also a good way to use some downtime. Are you philosophically aligned with the practice owner? Do you feel the same obligation to avoid dental diseases as the practice owner and/or dentist?
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3. Know your numbers. There’s really only one way to chart progress. Don’t like dollars? Keep track of how many of anything and watch for trends or fluctuations in the numbers. Go dig out info from last year and see if its less now. If you believe dentistry is only necessary when dental hygiene fails, see if you’re failing, measure it and strive to make it better.
Ladders of attainment
Is that all there is? No, it’s a logical easy way to start. Perhaps you are a leader in the practice and others will follow you. In a participatory style business, there is no top down or no bottom up, everyone falls into an alignment. The ladders of attainment can illustrate this for the health care and dental hygienists.
The ladder shows how patients become part of their own solution depending on their education. The bottom rung, manipulation, is best illustrated by a patient being told their teeth are soft and they need to brush more often or floss more diligently. For the dental hygienist in practice, that rung is occupied by dental hygiene students. More autonomy is earned and offered by the dental hygienist and dentist-business owner respectively as appropriate until the dental hygienist has total control over the department.
Can you imagine a dental practice with no office hours, unlimited vacation and profit sharing for everyone? Maybe not at this moment yet re-imagining what can be is part of this thinking. You can be part of the 1000-percent growth for the practice you’re participating in.
Can this model work in traditional dental practices? Let us know what you think by commenting below.
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