How and why organization and efficiency can make your life easier and more productive

Aug. 12, 2014
Decreasing the distance that you have to reach for supplies will enable you to work more efficiently and help you to increase your productivity without rushing.

By Joe Blaes, DDS

How much is your time worth? What if you could save five minutes per patient by making a few small changes? By labeling and organizing the treatment room for easy setup by your assistant or hygienist, you could save one and a half minutes. By decreasing the distance you have to reach for supplies, you could save two minutes. Finally, these two organizational tactics would also reduce cleanup time to save you an additional one and a half minutes.

By these calculations, you could save approximately five minutes per patient. If you see eight patients per day, you could save a total of 40 minutes, which could be enough time for one more patient. Depending on the types of procedures you perform, one extra patient per day could translate to anywhere from $100 to $1,500 per day of increased profit. During a four-day workweek, that could equate to $400 to $6,000 per week. Monthly, that could easily represent $1,600 to $24,000 in increased productivity. These numbers are both conservative and achievable, and the impact on your bottom-line profits could be massive!

In May, I was invited to speak at the Cleveland Dental Society Spring Meeting. Since I was already scheduled to have a free afternoon the day before the meeting, my friend, Guy Gismondi, an independent dental representative, suggested that I stop by a very special office in Cleveland, Ohio. When I approached the office of Dr. Bradley Hylan, it looked like a normal neighborhood house. When I entered the living room of Hylan Dental Care, however, what appeared to be an ordinary house became an experience of organization, efficiency, office design, and high production and profitability.

Organization and efficiency are concerns of every major corporation in the United States because they affect profitability, which spurs growth and change. Corner drugstores, years ago, were not very organized or efficient, but today, there are large chain pharmacies. Similarly, most physicians were in private practice years ago, while most physicians today are employed by huge corporate hospitals. Many people in corporate America see dental offices as highly disorganized and very inefficient, but they also see huge profit potentials.

"A newly hired employee should be able to come into a dental office and quickly get into the flow and routine of the office," said Dr. Hylan. "An assistant should be able to set up treatment rooms, locate all supplies, and place a supply order [on] the first day they are in [the] office." To make that happen, Dr. Hylan and his staff have developed a highly efficient and highly effective system for setting up rooms for treatment, for organizing supplies, and for controlling inventory. In other words, they have developed an infrastructure that leads to profit. The system they have developed is similar to those used in other industries, but their system is unique to dentistry. Any dental office should be able to implement this system to help maximize organization and efficiency.

Communicate effectively

Dentistry is about effective communication, trust, and relationships. Patients must "buy" you and your staff before they buy your recommended treatment. Do you have total confidence in your staff's ability to communicate? Do you trust your staff to develop relationships with patients?

Trust can be transferred from the dentist to the assistant and from the assistant to the dentist. Sometimes, a trusting relationship can be established within minutes. Other times, developing a relationship can take much longer since relationships develop at different speeds. A highly skilled staff can help you to free up your time by effectively communicating with patients and sharing the responsibility of building relationships. Dr. Hylan and his wife, Susan, both said that the best investment they have made has been in their staff. To improve communication in your office, invest in your staff.

Order supplies efficiently

Organizing your supply order system is another method by which you can improve communication in your office. An effective supply order system provides staff with the necessary information for ordering new supplies. Hylan Dental Care uses an iPad and a program written by Dr. Hylan for placing their supply orders. Ordering supplies involves making two keystrokes and e-mailing the order to the supplier(s). "[The supply order system is] super quick and easy," said Dr. Hylan's assistant, Tiffany. Due to the way things are labeled and organized, any staff member can place a supply order. While using an iPad system like Dr. Hylan's may be easiest, it is not necessary. If you do not use an iPad to place your supply order, Dr. Hylan recommends using preprinted inventory sheets that list all of the supplies used in your office, the quantity of each supply that should be ordered, and the company from which each supply is ordered. Using preprinted inventory sheets or an iPad system like Dr. Hylan's can help your dental office to save money and increase productivity.

Use space effectively

Dr. Hylan gave me a complete tour of his office, which has 10 treatment rooms in 2,400 square feet of space. On average, the treatment rooms at Hylan Dental Care are eight feet wide by 10 and a half feet long – about 25% smaller than the average dental treatment room. Although the rooms are smaller than average, the treatment rooms feel open and uncluttered because of the design concepts, unique equipment, and lighting. To use space most effectively, all treatment rooms have in-wall glove boxes and in-wall trashcans that are located within reach of both the dentist and assistant. The smaller treatment rooms have allowed Hylan Dental Care to put more treatment rooms into their space. With more treatment rooms, more patients can be treated at once, and profitability can be increased.

Use labeling as a mode of communicating

At Hylan Dental Care, labeling is another mode of communication. The system is similar to the Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) system used in retail stores for efficiency, organization, and inventory control. According to Dr. Hylan, dentistry is like any other business in that it requires organization and the control of inventory. Labeling helps to ensure that all assistants stock treatment rooms and set up for procedures the same way. Labeling also prevents assistants from wasting time looking for supplies. While the process of labeling may not be exciting, it is part of the infrastructure for organization, efficiency, and profitability. "Organization is the key to efficiency," said Dr. Hylan's assistant, Ashley.

Think about what it would be like if you were a new assistant or hygienist starting in your office. How would you know where to find the proper supplies to set up for a procedure or treatment? Setting up the treatment room could be overwhelming without an easy-to-understand system. Proper labeling can allow a person without a dental background to be able to set up a room for treatment on their first day in your office.

The key is to label everything. All supplies need locator numbers and item descriptions. When supplies need to be restocked, the labeling of the tubs in the treatment rooms should direct assistants to the proper locations in the lab/resupply area. The labeling of supplies across the different treatment rooms should be uniform, and all supplies should be kept in the exact same location in each treatment room. By improving efficiency, proper labeling translates to bottom-line profits.

Save time with treatment room setup sheets

In addition to labeling all supplies, Hylan Dental Care uses treatment room setup sheets for all procedures. These treatment setup sheets pop up on the computer screen in every treatment room with pictures that show assistants exactly how to set up for specific procedures. Using the picture on the computer screen, assistants can quickly set up instruments and supplies. These setup sheets ensure uniform setups by all assistants and help to make the performance of treatments easier and more efficient.

Make your life easier and less stressful

Dentistry is physically challenging. Think about all of the movements that you, your assistant, and your hygienist have to make day after day and year after year. Think about all of the leaning, twisting, turning, reaching, standing up, and sitting down that you do in one day. Are you beating up your body? When you delegate a procedure, and your assistant or hygienist is working alone, is it hard for your assistant or hygienist to reach supplies?

Try to eliminate excess twisting, turning, and reaching. Locate your treatment room supplies within reach of both you and your assistant. Decreasing the distance that you have to reach for supplies will enable you to work more efficiently and help you to increase your productivity without rushing.

In Dr. Hylan's office, he invented a special treatment delivery system that puts supplies within reach for both the dentist and assistant. Dr. Hylan encourages people to examine every move that they make and to think about how long it takes to perform tasks. Being highly organized and using efficient systems can save tremendous amounts of time and greatly increase your productivity.

In 1979, Bradley Hylan, DMD, started Hylan Dental Care, a Cleveland office with three general dentists and a periodontist. Dr. Hylan is also the owner/inventor of Clevedent Systems. Out of frustration with products on the market and inefficient dentistry, Dr. Hylan created Clevedent Systems, a manufacturer of high-performance treatment delivery systems and developer of high-performance office design. Dr. Hylan's ultimate goal is to help other dentists work comfortably, efficiently, and effectively. Dr. Hylan can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 855-399-4492. To see what Clevedent has to offer, visit www.clevedent.com.
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