Money down the drain

Dec. 1, 2000
In past columns, I have mainly focused on the transition issues and benefits of providing proper care to patients in the form of diagnosis-driven hygiene services. The three main benefits to this transition include:

Beverly Maguire, RDH

In past columns, I have mainly focused on the transition issues and benefits of providing proper care to patients in the form of diagnosis-driven hygiene services. The three main benefits to this transition include:

- Benefit to patients. They receive excellent and appropriate hygiene services based upon a diagnosis.

- Benefit to practices. A diagnosis-based hygiene de-partment provides revenues appropriate to the services performed. No longer is everyone receiving a "prophy." No longer are all patients receiving free root planing. We charge appropriate fees for our services and become productive in the process. Legal vulnerability for failure to diagnose, inform, and treat periodontal disease is also eliminated.

- Benefit to the professional. It feels great to use the skills we have been trained to deliver in a way that patients accept, appreciate, and for which they will pay. Addressing behavioral changes involved in this transition creates patients who now succeed with home care. It also eliminates the negativity toward the flossing issue and, ultimately, toward us!

Let`s now discuss the benefits of a productive hygiene department for those of you who own and operate your own businesses. Step outside of your clinical focus for a moment and look at the situation as a businessperson. In my work with many dental practices in the United States, I have observed that doing the right thing for hygiene patients shows up as increased dollars in the practice`s bottom line.

On a regular basis, I encounter practices "feeling" that they are providing perio hygiene services to their patients. However, in actuality, they continue to charge out the 1110 prophy code for all perio services. They never inform their patients about their disease or charge appropriate fees. They never bill for the fees that are rightfully deserved.

My clients performing perio hygiene services charge appropriately and, on average, increase hygiene revenues 45 percent or more. Translated into dollars, an average office performing perio hygiene and billing appropriately will improve productivity from $500 to $800 per day and add $60,000 per hygienist each year to the bottom line. In my experience, many offices produce upwards of $1,200 per day, which translates into added revenues of $140,000 per year per full-time hygienist.

Needless to say, if you are not probing and charting, diagnosing perio therapy, informing your patients, and charging appropriate codes and fees, your productivity suffers. The "average" dental practice leaves more than $60,000 on the table every year per hygienist employed. That is money your patients are spending somewhere else - money that is rightfully yours.

As you enrich your work, enriching your bank account will be an added bonus. Offering perio services on a regular basis reduces the number of prophy codes dispensed, improving productivity in the process.

We can no longer afford to run the hygiene department with the same historical "cleaning" approach of years gone by. It is substandard care for patients and unproductive for our practices as well.

If you think you`re providing an appropriate standard of care, your numbers will support you. As the New Year approaches, take some time to assess your hygiene department. Evaluate the total numbers of 1110, 4341, and 4910 codes dispensed. If the number of 1110 codes dispensed is more than 40 percent of the total, please accept, on behalf of the American public, their thanks for free periodontal care! Just be sure to write off the donation on your next tax return!

Beverly Maguire, RDH, is a practicing periodontal therapist. She is president and founder of Perio Advocates, a hygiene consulting company based in Littleton, Colo. She can be reached at (303) 730-8529 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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