The 80/20 rule in dentistry

Certain rules and principles seem to pop up in many places. One of these is the 80/20 rule. Eighteenth-century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto initiated this principle when he noticed that 80 percent of the wealth in Italy was controlled by 20 percent of the people. The 80/20 rule applies to thousands of relationships in business, industry, and especially general time management.

Roger Levin, DDS, MBA

Certain rules and principles seem to pop up in many places. One of these is the 80/20 rule. Eighteenth-century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto initiated this principle when he noticed that 80 percent of the wealth in Italy was controlled by 20 percent of the people. The 80/20 rule applies to thousands of relationships in business, industry, and especially general time management.

80/20 in dentistry

Think about it for a moment. The 80/20 rule shows up with amazing frequency.

- About 80 percent of the wealth in the United States is controlled by 20 percent of the people.

- About 80 percent of the clothes you wear represent 20 percent of all your clothes.

- About 80 percent of our management headaches come from 20 percent of the people we manage.

- Most practices perform about 80 percent of dentistry one tooth at a time.

- About 80 percent of your referrals come from less than 20 percent of your patients.

Once you become aware of the 80/20 rule, you will find it often applies to dental management and running your dental practice. Most practices are nowhere near their real potential.

Levin Group clients typically increase their practice production and gross revenues by 27-30 percent and their net profit by 22-24 percent. The fact that this could be accomplished in one year indicates that there is tremendous potential in most practices, regardless of how heavily the schedule is filled. The truth is that while it may not exactly fit the 80/20 rule, the bulk of profit should come from a minority of the procedures performed.

Practice smart, not hard

One way to expand your production and profitability is to understand that dentistry is not generally a volume business. The Levin Group is a six-division consulting firm representing general dentistry, orthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, endodontics, periodontics, and prosthodontics. Of all six divisions, only the orthodontic division is based on a volume-to-profit model. So, aside from orthodontists, the rest of us need to recognize that time is incredibly precious, and it is what we do with every hour of the working day that will make the difference in our production.

Succeeding in dentistry is not a matter of working harder, faster, or more intensely - it is using the time we have more wisely. If you think about the 80/20 rule and then look at your schedule, you will realize that, in many cases, the schedule is congested with minor, time-consuming procedures. Whether your patients are undergoing full-mouth reconstruction or suture removal, you still have to go through the same set of steps: checking in the patients, seating them, greeting them, having a tray set up, using sterilization techniques, following OSHA regulations, having an assistant on-site, answering any questions, dismissing them, checking them out, collecting their money, and reappointing them.

Summary

I`m sure I forgot a few steps, but the one that I deliberately left out was the actual treatment of the patient. For a minor procedure, the actual treatment may only take minutes. Yet, all other tasks still have to be performed. As you can imagine, every procedure is time-consuming to the practice in some way.

Start to think about the 80/20 rule. Use it to evaluate your schedule, referrals, and time usage. Answer this question throughout the day, "Is this the most important and productive thing I can be doing at this time?"

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, president and CEO of The Levin Group and the Levin Advanced Learning Institute, provides worldwide leadership in dental management and marketing for general dentists, specialists, and dental-products companies.

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