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The 12-Step Plan to Boost Your Dental Practice’s Efficiency

Posted Jan 27 2010 9:00pm

Each day is a fast, frenetic ride on the practice racetrack. As hygienists we say “Treadmill”. Daily stresses morph into emergencies. You and the team dash from one procedure, patient, or task to the next and each are more critical than the last. At the end of the day you promise yourself you’re going to make changes and try to get things under control. But the fact is, it’s a rush. You’re living on chewing gum and caffeine and gulping at the fountain of adrenaline addiction, and with every near crisis averted, a sudden emergency addressed, and an urgent situation managed you do take a moment to give the team a quick high-five and congratulate yourself.

But that momentary thrill is creating long-term problems. Living in a constant state of crisis management typically means there is little happening in the way of real system management. The team is constantly reacting and scurrying in one direction one day and another the next day depending on what seemingly random course your so-called urgent priorities happen to take. Your crisis addiction, urgency addiction, adrenaline addiction – whatever you want to call it – is being satisfied at a price.

The days are long and exhausting. What was once an exciting thrill is starting to feel a lot like burnout. The worst part, for all of your running, panting, and dashing to handle the latest and most urgent issue, practice productivity is teetering precariously between the “sorely lacking” and “barely good enough.” The problem is everyone is working hard but no one’s working smart. The focus is on dealing with whatever problem has to be managed right now and not on addressing what caused that problem and what can be done to prevent it in the future.

Had enough of life and work on the run? A mere 24 hours over the next year could transform a practice locked in a seemingly perpetual state of crisis management or lackluster success into one of superior efficiency and productivity. It also could go along way in weaning both doctor and team from an inefficiency addiction that is costing you thousands in productivity and an untold amount in long-term professional satisfaction.
It begins with a simple two hour meeting each month and a genuine commitment to making a change. This is dedicated, uninterrupted time in which doctor and all team members commit to continuously improve the practice.

Follow this 12-step plan to practice efficiency and increase profitability.

1. Create an agenda with input from the entire team. (Go to: for a copy of agenda to use.)

2. The agenda will be specific for the type of meeting you are holding. In our Tuesday Tooth Pick January 18, 2010, we listed various meetings you need to schedule during each year. For example one meeting you need to report on frequently are all areas of your dental office that impact the profitability and the success of the practice, such as: numbers of new patients, recare patients, non-surgical periodontal procedures, home-care products sold, unscheduled time units for doctor and hygiene, unscheduled patients for treatment and hygiene appointments which are not scheduled, treatment acceptance, collections, production, accounts receivables, uncollected insurance revenues over 60 days, overhead, etc.

3. Post a list of comments in one area of the office (Preferably a room where the team meets each am for the team huddle) for each team member to contribute their important thoughts and ideas on the topic for the monthly meeting.

4. Distribute the agenda at least two days in advance of the meeting.

5. Assign a different ring master (Leader of the meeting) each month who will lead the meeting and keep team members on task.

6. Assign each member of the team to report on the area for which she/he is responsible. For example, the Scheduling Coordinator reports on the monthly production as compared to the goal, the number of unscheduled time units for the Doctor, and the Doctor’s daily average production. . (Go to: for a copy of each person’s role.)

7. Designate the amount of time you will spend discussing each issue and avoid getting bogged down on unrelated topics. Discuss only what’s on the agenda.

8. Eliminate outside interruptions, and when possible hold team meetings off-site in a conference room. Many local libraries, community colleges, hospitals and other public facilities have public meeting rooms available for use. This is especially important when you are holding your annual strategic planning session. It is recommended the strategic planning meeting be held during an 8 hour period of time somewhere relaxing and fun for the team.

9. Encourage team members to come prepared to participate in the discussion. For example, if there are more unscheduled time units than desired the team can discuss strategies for addressing the openings. Seek input from everyone.

10. Delegate responsibilities and establish deadlines for completing tasks identified during the staff meetings. (See the agenda sample at

11. Share ideas during team meetings for improving the work environment, the patient experience, and the efficiency of the practice. Seek consensus from the team as to the best time to hold team meetings; meetings scheduled outside normal work hours should be considered paid time.

12. Hold meetings at least once per month, more frequently if you are implementing several changes. Before long you’ll be amazed at your cravings for stability and predictable outcomes. You’ll also be very likely to find you and your team all but addicted to the very real and measurable strides you are making in practice productivity and efficiency.

Have fun with your new addiction to efficiency! It may just increase your bottom line.

Have you utilized any similar ideas within your practice? What were your results? Do you have additional tips for increasing practice efficiency?

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