Dentistry and General Electric

Jan. 1, 2002

by Tom Hedge, DDS

I was reading General Electric's annual report the other day when I realized that there are a number of things that GE is doing that can be applied to our dental practices.

General Electric is one of the largest and most successful companies in the world. It develops and markets products and services worldwide.

In the company's most recent annual report, it reflected on what GE is today, why it works, and the values and beliefs upon which it is built.

The company has had four big company-wide initiatives:

1) globalization
2) services
3) sigma six quality
4) digitization

General Electric wants to "change not only where they work and what they sell, but how they sell and how they work, think, and touch customers."

Beyond these initiatives, GE strives to be a learning company while embracing integrity, the customer, and relishing change. Other key points in the annual report include annihilating bureaucracy and encouraging self-confidence, speed, simplicity, leadership, training, people, and informality.

If we apply some of GE's goals to the practice of dentistry, we can see that both huge corporations and dental practices can and should have similar goals.

Globalization and services have diversified GE. A dental practice should no longer be just a place where teeth are fixed when broken. A practice should explore expanding the scope of the services it offers. Comprehensive dentistry, cosmetics, orthodontics, teeth whitening (BriteSmile™), TMD, fresh-breath therapy, and dental products are but a few of the many ways a dental practice can diversify.

Sigma six quality was GE Chairman Jack Welch's initiative to reduce mistakes and defects. This program has had a huge effect on the bottom line and on customer satisfaction. Shouldn't we develop systems to reduce the same problems, so that we can reap the financial and satisfaction benefits?

Digitization is the future. Digitization will reduce GE's costs, speed fulfillment, and enhance the customer experience. Isn't that what digital photography, radiography, and software applications are doing for dentistry?

GE has "recruited and nurtured the best people and cultivated in them the insatiable desire to learn, to stretch, and to do things better each day. By finding, challenging, and rewarding these people, by freeing them from bureaucracy, by giving them all the resources they need — and by simply getting out of their way — we have seen them make us better and better every year." Wow! Isn't that what we need to do? Doesn't this demonstrate the need for staff continuing education?

Now, let's look at some of the same factors that GE values as they relate to the profession of dentistry:

Integrity: What are we, as doctors, if we don't have impeccable integrity?

The Customer: Our customers are the reason for our existence. Treat them like gold!

Relishing Change: Without change, we are the dentists most people remember from their youth. No one misses those days. Embrace new technology and concepts.

The future of the dental practice can be as great as that of a giant corporation like General Electric. Look close and you will find that there really isn't that much difference in the building blocks for the two business models.

Dr. Tom Hedge founded the Dental Health Center in West Chester, Ohio, a Cincinnati suburb. Since founding the center in 1988, he has established it as a leading practice for restorative dentistry, high technology, and customer service in southern Ohio. Dr. Hedge is nationally recognized for excellence in clinical programs as well as sound business practices that make full use of the newest technologies in dentistry.

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