Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA
In my seminar, titled "Turning Your Practice Into a Profitable Business," I try very hard to present practical and useful information. Throughout my 11 years of consulting, I learned how to streamline a practice or business for maximum efficiency. One method is to document everything in your office.
The first step is to write down how all procedures in the practice are performed. These procedures may include answering the phone or placing a quadrant of composite restorations. Each activity in the office increases production, decreases overhead and decreases stress. It also reflects an extremely well-run business.
Your management focus should be geared toward helping people understand how to run a business and how to document every activity or system in the practice. For example, even if you are booked six to eight weeks in advance, you still may be at least 20 percent below capacity in scheduling. This may be due to the lack of time management and poor documentation. You probably also are very stressed!
Dentists rarely consider documenting their clinical systems. Dentists have a unique approach to clinical dentistry because they use their own desired supplies and materials. For example, dentists use many different composites. In recent years, there have been many tremendous advancements in the areas of composites and a number of specializations for composite dentistry. Imagine a dental assistant, today, trying to master all varieties of composite bonding, loting, glass iometers, etc. It is almost an impossible task for a dental school, much less for a dental assistant.
To help the dental assistants, you must document every aspect of the practice systems on a step-by-step basis. Documentation will help them turn their expertise into experience. A staff member may take advantage of the opportunity to learn more by reading the documented procedural steps.
Suppose you have a fairly new assistant in the practice. Wouldn`t it be wonderful to sit down and hand her a manual explaining the types of composite materials you use and the step-by-step instructions? The introduction of the manual also should explain the reason for the procedure and why certain materials have been selected.
Total Quality Management
We know from the science of Total Quality Management that it virtually is impossible to change or improve an office until each of your systems are broken down into components. Ask yourself if you have ever tried to organize or change your system, only to find out a month later, everything is back to normal.
Or, have you ever returned from a seminar and informed your staff about the new changes and found resistance and no change at all? You probably blamed your staff for this problem, when, in fact, your method of change caused the obstacle.
Documentation should be used for every management and marketing system in the office as well. Financial options, scheduling and collecting processes should not only be systemized on a step-by-step basis, but a script should be written for your staff to study. These scripts then can be used at staff meetings to promote philosophical discussions about the direction of the practice.
There is no question that team performance is better when the leaders direct where the practice is going. Most people like to be a part of something and have some idea why they are a part of it. Dental practices are no different.
I strongly suggest that you begin to document as soon as possible. Take your systems on one at a time so that this is not an overwhelming process, but set goals for completion. You will quickly find that your office staff will identify proven opportunities and will be more excited about making these improvements.
Dr. Roger Levin is founder and president of The Levin Group, a national, dental-management and marketing-consulting firm. He can be reached at (410) 486-1089.