Clutter Hampers Success

When we think of organization, we think of efficiency, neatness, increased pride and, most of all, improved profits. After consulting with or visiting hundreds of practices, a common element has become increasingly apparent in my observations. Uncluttered practices operate more smoothly, retain staff longer and produce more per hour. Clutter gives patients the wrong impression of a practice`s attention to detail.

Linda L. Miles, CSP, CMC

When we think of organization, we think of efficiency, neatness, increased pride and, most of all, improved profits. After consulting with or visiting hundreds of practices, a common element has become increasingly apparent in my observations. Uncluttered practices operate more smoothly, retain staff longer and produce more per hour. Clutter gives patients the wrong impression of a practice`s attention to detail.

Having concluded that clutter decreases productivity, I am convinced that some people obviously don`t notice the office space and areas around them. Often times, they figure that if they don`t notice clutter, no one else will either. It would be a fair "guess-timate" that half the people in the world are clutter-bugs in some or all parts of their lives.

Neat freaks who are compulsive and who use their strength of neatness to an extreme probably are as inefficient as the persons they don`t want to be like (those who see no clutter).

Reaching a healthy, happy medium is not only more productive in time-management strategies, but again enhances personal and professional relationships.

On a scale of 1 to 10-with 10 being compulsive about neatness, a 7, 8 or 9 a healthy range, and below 5 unacceptable in dentistry-how do you and your office rate in the following areas?

1. Our treatment rooms are clean, efficient and well stocked for all treatments performed daily.

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2. Our reception area is clean and designed for patient comfort. It also is modern and up-to-date (decor, furnishings, accessories and reading materials).

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3. Our business office has patient charts standing straight and orderly on the filing wall. The business staff is efficient in telephone skills and check-in and check-out procedures. The business area is tidy and the floor around the desk area is uncluttered throughout the day.

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4. Our doctor`s private office and restroom are neat and clutter-free. Our doctor(s) attend to messages, charts and return phone requests and memos in a timely manner.

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5. Our lab is organized and clutter-free. Our cases go back and forth without problems and in a timely manner. Our models are organized and easy to find. Spills and other mishaps are cleaned up by the person(s) making them.

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6. Our staff lounge and common staff restroom are left spotless for the next employee. Dishes and glasses are washed daily by the users. The refrigerator for staff lunches is cleaned weekly on a rotating basis. Personal items are stored in private lockers.

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7. Our charts are clutter-free, which means all insurance forms are discarded or stored in business archives. Outdated films are in film envelopes, not in X-ray mounts. Patient records are uniform and clutter-free. Handwriting on charts is neat and legible.

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8. The sterilization area is patient survey-ready throughout the day. All staff members take an interest in sterilization teamwork, rather than leaving it to one or two staff members. We meet or exceed OSHA standards daily. OSHA updates are monitored and shared with all by our infection-control coordinator.

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9. Equipment maintenance is an important part of our weekly/daily duties. Our equipment catalogs, maintenance and operational manuals are catalogued and easy to find. Important data has been highlighted for ease in training.

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10. A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) manual for training new employees is readily available. New employees are selected, in part, because they enjoy a clutter-free, organized work environment. (Note: One question you may wish to incorporate into your employee-interview questionnaire is: What do you feel are the advantages of working in a clutter-free environment?

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Last, but not least, if neatness is as important to you and your practice as it should be, look at each individual on the team and also new applicants. How they take care of themselves (image-wise) is normally the work environment in which they are most comfortable.

The author is an internationally-recognized consultant and speaker on practice and staff development. She is founder and chief executive officer of Miles and Associates in Virginia Beach, VA, and can be reached at 800-922-0866.

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