Dental Staffing

Dental Practices with Excellent Systems Save Time

I apologize for harping on this subject again, but it’s simply a passion of mine. One of my strongest skills is organization. The antithesis of organization is chaos and I simply don’t function well in chaos. The subject I’m talking about is systems. The first thing I notice in any office is the systems, or the absence of them. Mostly it’s the absence I notice and I want to jump in and take chaos to repeatable, successful systems.

The happiest, most productive dental offices that I have experienced have repeatable, successful systems. They have identified obstacles and procedures that were not working well and they’ve set about to eliminate stress and replaced it with order. Let’s talk about some examples.

In one office a prescription was printed from the operatory computer and printed in the front.  An Administrative Team Member walked into the operatory with pen in hand, reached down to an accessible drawer and pulled out one glove.  The Dentist turned, took off her right glove, signed the script, replaced the glove and turned back to the task at hand.

In another office the Doctor had to remove gloves, gown and mask, walk to their office, unlock a drawer, retrieve a prescription pad and walk back to the operatory to fill out the prescription. Whew! I get exhausted just thinking about it!

I experienced an office that had all of their referrals in each operatory, readily organized and available. They are returned to the front desk and scanned into the computer while the patient checked out.  In another office they have the referrals in one, two and even three areas.  Sometimes they’re missing referrals and Team members would run from place to place searching for the necessary paperwork, get them filled out, copy them and lastly place them in charts. A complete waste of time.

In my private practice I had an alphabetized system of where all inventory was stored. It was easy to invite Dental Assisting Students to do their clinical requirements in our office; they could find anything simply by checking the inventory system in place.  I spent a morning in another office and started to keep track of how many times I observed a Team member looking for something or trying to decide where to put an item “where everyone would know where it was being stored”.

Our ordering consisted of a tag system whereby when the second to the last item was taken from inventory, the tag would simply be place in a basket.  Our rep would go to the basket, write down the necessary order and leave. It required no man hours once the system was established.

I was hired by a Dentist to help in combining his office with an office he had purchased. He didn’t want to take any of his productive time to put the two practices together, requesting my help to make it as painless as possible while he continued to work.

I soon learned of the enormous task of going through this practice, drawer by drawer and finding a new definition for chaos. There was inventory stuffed in the back of drawers and in the back of cabinets; I found paperwork literally stuffed in drawers at the front desk, so much so, that it was difficult to open and close the drawer. There was paperwork and old x-rays (30 years old) stuffed in enormous envelopes they called “charts” that was completely unnecessary. Although this type of disorganization is rare, it was easy to see why this practice had failed and was rescued by my client.

I cannot say enough about the importance of developing sound systems.  Dentistry is stressful enough without adding the problem of disorganization; this, however, is big part of an even bigger picture. Without open, mature communication within the entire Team, systems will fail.  There must be 100% cooperation from the Doctor to the cleaning crew, although I have learned that most Doctors couldn’t tell you where anything has been stored.

Keep in mind, the systems mentioned here aren’t all there is to organization.  There are systems for virtually everything we do in a Dental Office.  There should be systems in place for scheduling, cancellations/failed appointments, accounts payable and receivable, HR policies, and clinical systems such as tray/bur set-ups, turning rooms, sterilization, etc., etc.

But let’s not put the cart before the horse. Without the communication part, problems will arise.  Watch for our blog on communication. It all starts with communication.



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“Remember, time is money”
- Benjamin Franklin