Systems and delegation

Nov. 1, 2004
True practice success can only be achieved through outstanding documented business systems. A practice can strengthen its marketing efforts and add new patients...

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA

True practice success can only be achieved through outstanding documented business systems. A practice can strengthen its marketing efforts and add new patients, but without data-driven systems in place, it will not reach its performance potential. Without systems, areas such as scheduling, case presentation, number of patients retained in the practice, overall efficiency, and overhead percentages can be neglected and will ultimately weaken the practice. In fact, the average practice operates at approximately 30 percent below its potential. With so many issues to focus on, where do you start? The answer is simple — do not keep trying to do everything yourself!

Delegating: why it is important

Maximizing productivity and profitability is unattainable if you do not know how to delegate responsibilities. Levin Group believes dentists should delegate all tasks that they are not required by law or state board regulations to perform themselves. Although each task in the office has different levels of difficulty and varying deadlines, with proper training, team members can learn to handle these functions. This means that you must train dental team members so they can provide the highest quality of care to your patients. By delegating, you enable yourself to fully concentrate on the major requirements and responsibilities that only you can perform, while the staff executes all other tasks.

In most offices, two inefficient scenarios frequently occur. Doctors perform services that, legally, their assistants or hygienists can perform, or the doctors end up standing around while their assistants or hygienists perform those services. Very few offices schedule doctor time and assistant time separately.

Because no one else in the practice is reimbursed at the same rate, the dentist's time is the most valuable. Therefore, it is essential that this time be used for the most productive procedures and activities. Most scheduling systems are not carefully planned. Many were either inherited or created years ago, then upgraded to accommodate the current level of the business. Most systems do not properly assign the doctor's or assistant's time in the most efficient or effective manner.

In order to keep the dental team motivated and performing at its best, you should begin to delegate. Delegation will not only empower and excite your team, but it can increase your productivity by a minimum of 30 percent. In our 19 years of consulting, I have yet to see a practice that has achieved high levels of productivity without delegating responsibilities.

When you delegate tasks to the staff, you enable yourself to spend more time chairside while allowing team members to coordinate the various staff assignments, propose new ideas, and identify ways to be more productive. Delegating responsibilities in this manner promotes an ongoing, positive rapport between yourself and your team.

As an exercise, make a list of 10 new responsibilities that can be delegated to each team member. Then, hold a staff meeting and ask for opinions and input. Set new guidelines with a goal of moving 10 to 12 percent of the current work activities off the dentist's plate. This gives you the opportunity to use the newly available time to increase practice production.

Establish outstanding, repeatable systems

Becoming a better leader of your practice does not happen instantly. One of the first steps the dentist must take is to delegate appropriate responsibilities to office team members. Next, scheduling must be evaluated to maximize the systems for your practice. Schedule doctor and assistant time separately. The dentist should be scheduled in the proper operatory for the part of the procedure requiring doctor time. At any given moment, another assistant can be with other patients providing services and communicating with patients, thus relieving a tremendous amount of stress for the dentist while increasing productivity and allowing the practice to run far more efficiently.

Levin Group teaches its clients that outstanding, repeatable systems are the key to a successful dental practice. Delegating to your team and entrusting them with certain tasks builds doctor/team rapport and helps the doctor focus on the most productive aspects of dentistry.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, is founder and CEO of Levin Group, Inc., a leading dental-management consulting firm specializing in implementing documented business systems into dental practices. Levin Group is dedicated to improving the lives of dentists through proven dental-practice management and marketing consulting programs success and profitability. Levin Group can be contacted at (888) 973-0000 or at www.levingroup.com.

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