How to locate the pain points in your practice

December 7, 2017

Streamlining your practice is all about locating the areas that are holding you back.

As dentists, we are a pretty lucky group. Every day of our professional lives we get to apply our knowledge to help people. Oftentimes, those moments with patients are impactful for them when they come into our offices in pain and leave comfortable. While those moments don’t always make a big impact on us as doctors (after all, that’s what we do), they can make a tremendous impact on the patients we’ve helped. I mean, let’s face it, who really wants to be in pain?

So, for this month, I’d like for you to envision your office as you would a patient. Every office has some areas that need improvement. However, frequently when we are in the thick of our businesses, we don’t notice those things, even though we should.

Think about where your pain points are when it comes to your office and how it runs.

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Business processes

This category is probably the area that, hands down, most practices need help with. We receive incredible training on how to deal with the clinical part of our jobs, but we receive very little training on how to actually run a business. 

The good news with this problem is that many of the software packages running our offices provide solid reports and information. However, in today’s current business environment we are now dealing with things that are outside the realm of standard accounting.

What I’m talking about here is patient engagement, reputation management, search engine optimization, social media, marketing tracking, etc. These are all things that were not a big priority just a few years back but can now have a large impact on the business end of a practice.

The days of designating a staff member to deal with these situations are over. It is simply too complicated and time-consuming in today’s environment. There are many companies out there that can help you with pieces of this, but a great one-stop shop for this type of help is MMG Fusion. The MMG in their name stands for “Manage, Market and Grow” and their software is designed to do just that for your practice. They are a two-time Cellerant Best of Class winner and can help move your practice to the next level in today’s business environment. Check out MMGFusion.com. You’ll sleep better and your practice will benefit from their help.

However, maybe this year is the year you finally begin to offer patient financing or some new type of treatment. Things like Invisalign, endo or implants can increase patient demand while also boosting your profitability. Or how about focusing on something as easy as recommending whitening to more of your patients?

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Non-digital processes

This category can be a pretty broad one, including processes from getting rid of paper and going more digital to a firm commitment to finally having that morning huddle. With those thoughts in mind, how about combining those two?

I highly recommend a daily organizational meeting - but without the paper. In my office, we meet in the conference room where the day’s schedule is projected on the screen and we go over every appointment as a team. This ensures that everything flows smoothly, all cases are on site for delivery, patients are seated promptly and the details are paid attention to. For those of you who don’t have a conference room, you can have this type of meeting anywhere there is a computer monitor. The front desk is often a great place to meet as a group.

For help in locating these types of problem areas, a staff meeting can be a huge help. I have found that asking each department to meet separately and then come to a staff meeting with problems, solutions and recommendations not only empowers the team but also helps the doctor to see things from a perspective he or she frequently does not have. You’d be surprised how badly your team wants to be involved and help in the success of your practice. Problem solving staff meetings where you actually focus on solving problems and not just complaining about them can be a tremendous way to engage your team in your success and bring everyone together to create a common goal. Give it a try!

Often, a very dedicated team will struggle along in some areas because they don’t want to bother anyone with a problem, but in reality it’s those types of things that frequently create bottlenecks or inefficiencies. By giving them the opportunity to bring these problems to the doctor’s attention, everyone benefits.

 

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Tech processes

You just knew I’d get to these, didn’t you? There are just so many ways you can improve your office with technology. Perhaps the easiest thing to do that will certainly gain you efficiency is to upgrade some or all of your office computers. Improving/upgrading the hardware that runs your office is a surefire way to flat out make things happen faster and more efficiently. If it isn’t in the budget for the short term, make sure to start setting aside a monthly amount in a “tech improvement” category in your budget. Being prepared for these situations decreases stress tremendously.

How about improving your diagnostics for the better? There are lots of ways to improve in this category.

For caries detection, take a look at the CamX Triton HD from Air Techniques, the DEXIS CariVu, the ACTEON SOPROLIFE or The Canary System from Quantum Dental Technologies. For perio and caries, look at the SOPROCARE from ACTEON. Utilizing these systems in your hygiene department means that you are diagnosing more accurately. It can also decrease the amount of time you spend “looking” and increase the amount of time you spend “communicating” with your patients. These devices allow you to find things when they are at their smallest and then allow the doctor to make the choice of restoring or attempting remineralization therapy while being able to assess its success or failure.

Then, we have oral cancer screening, which can be performed with the LED Dental VELscope® Vx, the DentLight DOE system or the Bio/Screen® system from AdDent. You are going to be hearing more from me on this subject in the future, but more men are now being diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer than women are with cervical cancer.

Now, if you want to really streamline a part of your practice, make the choice to start using digital impressions. Currently, about 18 percent of offices have gone to digital impressions with many more poised to make the change. In my office we are currently doing about one analog impression per month that is usually for some type of fixed prosthesis under a removable partial denture. Our iTero® Element™ system makes our fixed prosthetic treatment much more accurate and way more time efficient than it has ever been before. Preparation appointments don’t take nearly as long when you are digitally scanning and cementation appointments frequently require zero adjustments. The digital accuracy of these systems still amaze me even after scanning for more than seven years.

More from Dr. Flucke: How EHRs can improve your practice

Wrapping up

I frequently try to stop and look at things in an attempt to break them down to their elemental parts. One of the phrases I hate to hear is when asking someone why they do something a certain way and they reply, “Because we’ve always done it that way.” They might as well have just said, “We have no idea.”  

Looking at your systems, policies and procedures on a regular basis and then asking “why” will frequently lead you to a better place. There’s no time like the present to start