Take the plunge and equip an extra operatory. It costs only a few dollars a day.
Dr. Charles Blair and
Janet E. Blair
Would you like to lower stress, be more productive, and provide an even higher level of customer service? The unbooked, "alternate" operatory, interchangeable for either doctor or hygienist, is the solution. Did you know that the doctor`s time is typically worth $3 to $5 per minute (or $180 - $300 per hour) and the hygienist`s time is worth $1 to $1.25 per minute (or $60 - $70 per hour)? Since provider clinical time is this valuable, optimizing the clinical workflow, while decreasing stress for the team, should be every practice`s number-one goal. The overall goal is to have both high-production dollars per hour and high dollars per visit to achieve maximum productivity with minimum stress.
The unbooked operatory provides a multitude of benefits. First, it allows the practice to work in extra patients for appointments that take just a few minutes - removing sutures, checking sore spots for a partial denture, taking X-rays, etc. Without an extra operatory, these types of appointments absolutely can ruin on-time performance and the scheduled flow for the day. The shuffling of patients puts stress on the entire team. When an unbooked operatory is available, emergencies can be scheduled appropriately by discussing the appropriate time opportunities at the morning huddle.
Secondly, if the doctor or hygienist is running behind schedule, the unbooked operatory may be utilized for the next patient waiting for his/her appointment. This will allow the hygienist to proceed with her next patient, on time. If the doctor is running behind, he/she can take a brief break to give "on-time" anesthesia, while the patient waits no more than 10 minutes in the reception area. The goal is top-notch patient service.
An additional efficiency tactic is to provide simple operative-surgical services on the current hygiene patient if the doctor can squeeze extra time into his or her schedule. Air abrasion, for example, fits the bill in this situation. There is little profit in rebooking the patient, meeting and greeting, filing an insurance form, etc., for a simple, low-level procedure.
If the doctor has only one assistant, the unbooked operatory can be used when the assistant is running behind on set-up and may not have time to clean and turn over the current operatory. This extra operatory also maximizes the efficiency in the practice who uses a "rover" working both front and back. It allows the rover time to set up the next operatory for doctor or hygienist, take a necessary X-ray, etc.
Occasionally the doctor may hire a part-time hygienist to "catch up" the hygiene backlog, or utilize an assistant to help with "accelerated" hygiene. Again, the unbooked operatory is available for this function or even a part-time associate doctor. In some cases, a dental specialist or podiatrist might use this additional operatory part-time. Finally, equipment can malfunction at an inopportune time. The unbooked operatory will save the day.
Many doctors have an extra operatory that is plumbed, but not equipped. What a shame! The extra operatory decreases, not increases, stress as outlined in this article. It is important to realize the cost of equipping this extra room will more than pay for itself in a very short time through the increased opportunity for additional production. Labor expense is very costly, while amortized equipment/high-tech capital expenditures often are much less costly in comparison. Unfortunately most dentists are "cost-oriented" rather than revenue-savvy. They ask what it "costs," rather than how can it lower stress, improve productivity, and increase net.
Labor expense in the dental office comprises 65 percent to 75 percent of the total expenditures of running a practice (including team and doctor compensation). The doctor should focus on improving team labor efficiency through continuing education, proper scheduling, and wise equipment purchases to enhance practice productivity. Appropriate expenditures for equipment in all available operatories, including the unbooked operatory, along with practice-management consulting, will pay high dividends by reducing stress and increasing productivity. Take the plunge and buy the equipment necessary for the extra operatory. As a bonus, Uncle Sam provides some nice tax breaks and incentives. Bottom line, the extra operatory costs only a few dollars a day in terms of after-tax income.