Hygiene Department: Beyond the Back Office

What is the hygiene department? Patients getting some kind of cleaning by a hygienist or a dentist? That’s one aspect of it but, to have a successful hygiene department, it will involve more.

Is everyone on your team on the same page? Are there protocols for how to handle situations such as refusal of x-rays? Do appointments run behind and do your patients cancel at the last minute constantly? This is all part of it! If any of these are deficient, you are not only losing production but you are not truly running your practice to it’s highest potential.

We should all know by now that the hygiene department is vital to sustaining the practice. So how do we ensure it’s running properly? Well, evaluate the aspects mentioned above! Fixing these issues is not an easy feat and will not happen overnight! Unfortunately from experience, this may require the help of an outside source. Internally, it becomes almost impossible to fix because it took some time to get to this point in the first place. Everyone is now stuck in the routine of bad habits.

I’m not trying to make this gloomy, there are a few small steps you can take to make improvements. First of all, start setting some goals and get every member of the team on the same page! I was speaking about these issues with one of the best hygienists I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with and her comment was “If the staff is not on the same page with the doctor and the doctor’s goals are not clearly set, it’s just not going to work well and they will not truly be a team.” But I will be realistic, not every member of your team will be a team player. That changes your dynamics but I’ll have to save that topic for another post.

Another small, but extremely significant change you can make is your cancellation policy and enforcing it. If your patients are used to calling the day of , to cancel and your front office let’s them do it every time without enforcing a fee, why would a patient have a reason not to? Not enforcing a fee after 2 or 3 failures or last minute cancellations gives the patient the sense that your time is not valuable. They won’t argue with a hotel for enforcing similar protocols, why should your practice not hold a higher regard?

Additionally, what is your confirmation system? Are you calling 2 days before to remind people, is that the only reminder the patient receives? We are too deep into the 21st century to only utilize this type of system. Might as well use a typewriter to provide treatment estimates… Humans are busier than ever and we need all the help we can get to remember things. Not everyone is good at saving things on their calendar and although it’s a courtesy to remind our patients about their appointments, it ultimately affects the practice’s bottom line. Utilizing a digital reminder system will eliminate the time spent making phone calls but not every system is as efficient as it could be. No matter what software, make sure it allows for at least 3 reminders and that it will be sent by at least 3 methods. If you only use email, not everyone checks their emails daily (my husband has 3k unread emails when I saw his little icon on his phone) or reads all of their texts or checks their voicemails. The extra few hundred dollars that you will spend on an efficient confirmation system, will end up earning you more kept appointments. And, it will save you money by the way of allowing your staff to work on other tasks besides confirmation! The last thing I want to say about confirmation software is that, as a current dental staff member of 15 years and a consultant, I have tried every option out there. They are not all created equal, you get what you pay or don’t pay for!

 

 

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