Story by Dr. Joe Blaes • Photography by Kurt Freund Images
For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: technology, CEREC, practice philosophy, office flow, digital radiography.
This month we are featuring Dr. Kevin M. Morgester, a 1992 graduate of Southern Illinois University School of Dentistry. His office is representative of the majority of dental offices in this country. Dr. Morgester returned to St. Louis to begin his dental career as an associate. For two and a half years, he worked in a high volume, managed care office and in a solo practitioner's general practice. Neither practice would lead to a partnership but they allowed him to make some money and gain some speed while he looked for a practice to buy. Those practices were a learning experience that helped him decide how he would practice dentistry in the future. He was able to develop his own philosophy and vision based on his experiences and his value system. In January of 1995, he purchased the practice of Dr. Philip Messina, who was to become an associate and phase out of the practice in three years. However, due to Parkinson's disease, Dr. Messina was able to practice for only three months.
What seemed a disaster at first turned into a blessing for both dentists. Dr. Messina was physically able to stay in the practice to introduce Dr. Morgester to his patients. He would talk to everyone, glad hand, kiss babies, and do whatever it took to help Kevin with the transition. Dr. Messina enjoyed hobnobbing with the patients because dentistry no longer got in the way. What started out as a business ended as a friendship. Dr. Messina died in 2004, and his patients still talk about him today.
Dr. Messina was way ahead of his time when he built this 1,700 square foot office. A window wall in the treatment area looks out into a verdant garden alive with birds that are attracted to strategically placed bird feeders. This openness has a very calming effect on the patients.
Dr. Morgester's philosophy is simple but profound: “Do dentistry as best I can, as quickly as I can, with quality and comfort for my patients, staff, and myself, in a pleasant atmosphere that is open and friendly.”
Dr. Morgester felt cramped by the original office design, and with some fairly simple changes and some new equipment, the practice was able to serve everyone better. Dr. Morgester wanted to open up the treatment area to make the most of the view and have the feeling of being outside. His plan was to maximize the small space in the treatment area. When designing the new office space and evaluating technology, Dr. Morgester and the team worked with their local Patterson Dental branch to evaluate which equipment and technology were right for the practice.
Dr. Morgester's philosophy when it comes to technology is that dentists should buy technology based on the ability to increase production and to provide quality care for the patient. He buys technology when it is right for his practice and has found that each time he has not only increased production but also net profit. He still has a wish list that he hopes to fulfill.
The dental team was responsible for the selection of the treatment room cabinets and the rear delivery units. They worked out the details of location of the drawers and doors within the cabinets to maximize movement in and out and through the rooms. The team was responsible for the colors of the walls and cabinets. The result is a fun place to work and a relaxed, comforting atmosphere for the patients.
The unique feel comes from the use of the cabinets to divide yet not to enclose. They were able to cleanly hide the cables and wires for all of the technology. The design makes the staff movement easy and convenient with less wear and tear on people and equipment. Patients love the modern look, the uncluttered, crisp lines, and the open, nonclaustrophobic way the operatories work with the windows and Mother Nature.
The office flow pattern is very simple. The patients' entrance is on the right side of the building. The patients are greeted and escorted to the treatment rooms for their dentistry. When it is time to leave, they are escorted to the other side of the office to check out at another desk and exit the office by another door. The office team has two full-time assistants, one part-time and two full-time hygienists, and two full-time business assistants.
Optimal function of all equipment is achieved when everyone embraces the new technology. The team was hesitant when they changed from a scheduling book to Patterson's EagleSoft computer scheduling. With excellent training and customer support for equipment and software, they were able to quickly integrate the technology into the practice. Everything since has been embraced with open minds; in fact, they are usually very excited when something new is proposed, and they love the thrill of learning new things.
Dr. Morgester also feels that technology is not just bells and whistles; it must produce a return on the investment that was made. Many times that return is a saving of time and money by a more efficient process. Digital radiographs save both time and money by the fast imaging, by the elimination of darkroom square footage, by the elimination of charts full of X-rays, and by the much easier sharing of information when referring to specialists.
The CEREC is another example of a good ROI. This technology produces a product that requires no temporization, no impressions, no second visit for cementation, no rescheduling for remakes, and no dental laboratory fee. But the biggest return has been patients referring new people because the office looks awesome and uses the latest technology. Patients are fascinated with the technology.
New patients sometimes come because they can't get a crown in one day at their current dental office. One day Dr. Morgester had a minor problem with the CEREC monitor that could not be resolved the same day. He had three patients scheduled for crowns and they were given the option of a standard crown prep, temp, and two appointments, or rescheduling for a CEREC crown. They all rescheduled! Kevin calls his CEREC an ATM.
Another example is use of the intraoral camera, which is not billable, but is the most useful tool for case acceptance and insurance payment. Two things always come to mind when discussing this technology: “Seeing is believing” and “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Dr. Morgester loves when his hygienist or assistant has a tooth that needs help on the monitor screen when he comes into the room.
In the words of Dr. Morgester: “Just do it! Renew your passion for dentistry. Technology works because patients are more educated, and I feel that they expect digital, advanced, and modern technology. Some patients demand it, which is why we have so many new patients based on the CEREC. Buy technology as you can, a piece or two at a time. Remodel with an eye toward the future. It is not necessary to start from scratch and spend a lot of money. Make a budget and stick to it. Plug in what you can when you can.
“Keep moving forward. Talk to people like friends; be upfront and honest with everyone. Communicate with the patients, not just dental talk! Talk about their family, kids, travel, cars, fishing trips … anything they are interested in. Listen and remember. Know patients by their first names. We take photos of them for recognition. Fifty percent of our patients call me by my first name.
“I could not do any of this without my talented team. They are hard working, highly skilled, and know what to do without instruction.
“NEVER QUIT LEARNING – there is no better investment than investing in yourself and your office!”
510 Baxter Rd., Suite 1
Chesterfield, MO 63017
Phone: (636) 227-6500