Simplify your work

Sept. 1, 2008
How much thought, time, and training have you invested in making your business department more efficient and effective? We devote most of our attention to efficiency with our technical skills.

by Bill Blatchford, DDS

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: simplify, lower overhead, efficiency, task analysis.

How much thought, time, and training have you invested in making your business department more efficient and effective? We devote most of our attention to efficiency with our technical skills. Yet, what patients notice is your value of their time, especially in the businesss area of your practice. A side benefit is the saving of your time, thus creating a lower overhead and greater net return.

Time or the illusion of it and efficiency are highly prized items. Anything you can do to create more time is highly valued by your team, yourself, and especially your clients. If you could do the same work in less time, wouldn’t that be a good goal? How about working three days instead of four? What kinds of systems would that take?

The business of dentistry can become a big dinosaur for many reasons — a revolving staff, no real direction, numerous tasks, layers of management, not knowing the numbers, and more. One of the methods of becoming more efficient is to do what we call a "task analysis," which is an Excel spreadsheet that everyone on the team completes. This includes the doctor and spouse, if the spouse is at all involved (think of running errands, planning parties, buying gifts). We want to see what everyone considers their tasks to be, how much time they spend doing them, the exact procedures being done, who else could do the tasks, who could be hired to do them, etc.

When everyone has completed his or her list, we come to the analysis part where we discuss each task and defend it with this question: How does it fit our vision of service? Then we ask: What is being omitted? What is being duplicated? Why?

A doctor was spending half a day per week on lab work, pouring models, etc., because he had always done it, felt he should, and kind of liked it. His staff challenged him to send it to the lab. Now he has more time and is not so grumpy.

Having a Web site in 2008 is critical to serving patients well. When there is a question, people now think immediately of the Internet for the answer. Make your Web site very user-friendly with health forms and new guest entry forms that patients can complete on their own time. You and your team need to talk about your Web site often and refer people there for easy directions, contact numbers, and links to your specialists.

Becoming paperless this year is a step toward efficiency. Many dentists are still hanging onto charts and papers while trying to go paperless. Maintaining two systems takes even more time and energy and is inefficient. Being paperless makes each team member accountable for entering his or her own data. With monitors in each area, assistants and hygienists can enter treatment, schedule appointments, create the insurance routing (either electronically/digitally or by handing the papers to the patient), and collect the money.

This system allows the receptionist to become a relationship expert on the phone, answer your Web inquiries ASAP, and encourage new guests as they enter your practice.

Ultimately, the doctor is responsible for treatment entries. With time, training, and encouragement, assistants and hygienists can enter treatment at the time of service and the doctor can review and initial. How about creating an opportunity for assistants and hygienists to write the referral for specialists? Learning to cut and paste can make your system much more efficient.

Eliminating accounts receivable is efficient. Collect a portion or the full amount of payment at the time of service and have insurance companies reimburse patients. Utilize outside funding to the fullest, stop sending statements, and cross-train your team so everyone can collect money at the time of service.

Think of all the areas where you could become more efficient. If the task is worth doing, do it once and complete the work. Cross-training is a must. A great team of three (plus the doctor) can handle a dental practice producing $2 million with a major emphasis on doing the task once, eliminating repeats, cross-training, and going paperless.

With the "task analysis," work can become more streamlined and efficient. A goal is to spend more productive time in the office, and spend less time doing unnecessary tasks that someone else can do more effectively. If you and your team need help working through your tasks, call Bill Blatchford at (888) 977-4600.

Dr. Bill Blatchford is a leading dental business coach who has worked with more than 2,000 offices to help dentists achieve more time off, more net, and more enjoyment. Become a member of Blatchford FILES, Dr. Blatchford’s monthly CD on winning at dental business. The first two months are free. Call (541) 389-9088 or visit for more information.

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