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Implantology: Managing quality across multiple locations

Dec. 8, 2021
Multilocation practices can struggle to maintain their quality of implant services. Aspen Dental executive Dr. Sundeep Rawal explains how a little strategy and planning can help these organizations offer the best care and build to scale for innovation.

As implants grow in popularity among dentists and patients alike, there is a rising demand for this treatment modality. If your business is in growth mode, you might be considering how an implantology offering would differentiate your organization and make it more competitive. Because implantology is still a relatively new discipline, there’s a lack of trained professionals to conduct the procedure and a gap in infrastructure to facilitate the process. Perhaps you have one doctor at one location who offered implants in the past but you’ve never made it a strategic part of your business model.

Scaling your implantology offering is one endeavor—scaling while maintaining quality and brand consistency is quite another. Here are several key considerations to get started:

Make a business plan

Investing in implantology for a larger network of offices requires a commitment to invest in the necessary infrastructure to start and maintain the service. This includes space, software, hardware, training, and personnel.

In a small office setting, there’s more flexibility. With a network of offices, more significant investment is needed and there’s a greater element of risk. It’s important to do a competitive analysis up front and have a full picture of the market (technology, methods, etc.) to make sure you’re investing in the right places. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) early on and set a timeline for when you need to begin to see a return on your investment. Make sure you analyze KPIs by office and by organization to identify issues and resolve them.

Implement for success

Consider how your current offices are set up to accommodate the equipment and space needed to provide specialized implantology services. Engage the office managers, doctors, and their teams to understand how they currently optimize the office space, how this added service might disrupt that workflow, and what they would need to be successful. Then, develop a plan, timeline, and specific next steps to implement across offices.

While the proposed strategy may vary slightly by office, it’s important to keep it as consistent as possible. This will make it easier to establish processes and update and innovate over time. An environment with the latest technology will also elevate your value proposition as you seek to build your team.

You can have all the right tools and technology in place, but without an effective, innovative team, your implantology service is going to have a difficult time competing with one-off private practices. With more resources at your disposal as a large practice, your value proposition to leading experts in the field has the potential to be that much greater. Leading doctors want to be surrounded by highly competent teams. Invest in assistants, technicians, and operations personnel who are fast learners and problem solvers to complement and support the drive of your doctors.

In a small office, the doctor may be considered the head of implantology, but with a larger operation, it’s also important to invest in a central office team that manages trainings, coordinates between offices, and drives the operations and growth strategy.

Develop a comprehensive training strategy

Unfortunately, across the board, professional development and training often fall down the list of priorities amidst the busyness of day-to-day responsibilities, patient visits, and paperwork. But if the end goal is quality care and patient satisfaction—and it should be—professional development is a business imperative.
Investing in consistent instruction and training for your team is critical to managing quality care, particularly in a larger network. When developing this content, there are several key variables to keep in mind.

Audience: It’s not just about training your doctors. Consider all the variables and team members that work together to bring a successful implant procedure to the finish line: clinicians, IT professionals, and operations and administrative personnel, to name a few. It’s critical to have content that’s relevant to each of these groups so that as your practice innovates and implements new processes and technologies, everyone is fully equipped to execute their role.

It’s also important to develop content that applies to different skill levels. You may have several clinicians who specialize in implants and have been conducting the surgery for decades, others who have had minimal exposure but are well-versed in your organization, and still others who are fresh out of dental school where there was more emphasis on dentures than implants. Determine what skill levels are represented across your organization and curate your instruction accordingly. Another aspect of developing and scaling content for your audience is accounting for access to technology, diversity in language, and learning styles.

Delivery mode: Before the pandemic, the primary mode of dental education was hands-on instruction in a clinical environment. Now, virtual learning options make training more accessible for the busy professional. Virtual learning cannot replace clinical practice in any health-care discipline, but consider how a hybrid model might combine the versatility of on-demand training videos and exercises with the impact of hands-on learning.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Find the most suitable breakdown based on the size and demographics of your organization. Seek feedback from your employees on a regular basis, and continue to adapt your model to cater to their needs. The most efficient option may not be the most effective option. In the case of highly specialized training for a major procedure, effectiveness outweighs efficiency—it’s critical that all members of your team are fully confident in their new skills.

Also read: Is an implant better than a tooth?

Cadence and relevance: Learning is a constant state of being. To that end, make sure there is a consistent drumbeat of relevant content for your team to engage with, and set clear expectations for when they need to complete required trainings. This may mean annual refresher courses, quarterly innovation updates, or a required number of credit hours to be completed within a certain time frame, flexible to the individual’s schedule.

Innovation, both with respect to clinical treatment and technology, continues to define the discipline of implantology. A training module from five years ago may no longer be relevant to your practice. It’s important that you regularly review and update training content to ensure that it is up-to-date.
Stay accountable and adapt to results

In a small office, it’s easy to track results and have a general sense of patient outcomes and predictability. Across multiple locations, there’s too much data at play to go unchecked—you need a system to monitor outcomes against expectations.

First, define what success looks like. Generally, this looks like a positive procedural outcome and memorable patient experience.

Also read: Improved efficiencies in implant dentistry: Use of patient-specific accelerated therapy to drive practice growth

Then, develop your reporting structure, such as standards, cadence, workflow, and ownership, etc. Make sure this reporting process is integrated into your training materials. Consider instituting weekly or monthly reports that highlight how your implant team is tracking to goals. Collective reporting and acknowledgment of success creates greater buy-in to continue adapting, innovating, and delivering the best patient care.

When thinking about your reporting structure, remember it’s a two-way street. In addition to patient outcomes and feedback, you should be weighing user experience—“user” referring to the implant team. Leverage online surveys, hold regular meetings, create opportunities for one-on-one feedback, and facilitate open discussion and collaboration through troubleshooting forums.

Because implantology is a newer discipline, it’s critical to build to scale for innovation. While small practices may have the ability to adapt at a more rapid pace, larger practices with multiple locations have the time and resources to invest in teams, infrastructure, and technology. If you develop a versatile plan, invest in teams and training, stay accountable to goals, and prioritize communication and consistency, then your practice won’t simply be another option among many for patients—it will become an industry standard and destination.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the November 2021 print edition of Dental Economics.

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