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Clinical Efficiency Focus

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Linda Drevenstedt's picture
Joined: 27 Sep 2012

Clinical EfficiencyEarly in my career, my boss, a pediatric dentist, taught me a profound truth.  He said, "Linda, every child who comes here has one thought in mind when they sit in our dental chair, 'When can I go home to Mommy?' "   As a dental assistant, a dental hygienist and as a practice consultant, I have learned that this is true of ALL patients no matter their age.  You may have good relations with your patients, however, the bottom line is that they would rather be out of your office as quickly as possible. Improving your clinical efficiency IS good customer service.

Here are four paradigm shifts which will improve your clinical efficiency:

  1. Organize, set up and keep to the plan.  Angela Clayton, EDDA, is our team's clinical efficiency expert. Her recommendation is: "Use preset procedure setups. Use sterilization bags or cassettes to create procedure-specific set ups. Be sure to include bur blocks for each procedure set up with the specific burs or diamonds for the procedure."  Bring in a tub with the items for the procedure such as cement or impression materials. Keep very little of your supplies in the treatment room. Set up the sterilization area with dedicated spaces for hygiene, composites, crown preps, etc. Stick to the plan without breaking into other setups to grab this or that. Be sure the tray setup has what your dentist needs.

Action Step: Take time to clean out drawers in operatories and store items in the sterilization area. Set up tubs with essentials for each procedure. Keep instrument sets complete.

  1. Know how long procedures REALLY take. This is what you need to know for sure: how long is it from when the patient's butt is in the chair until the chair is ready for another patient, including all of the OSHA required steps? At best, most practices guess at this and that is why you have log jams or slack time.

Action Step: Do your research. Take a two-week time audit to determine your true CHAIR time. If you need help with this, check out an my e-book, Scheduling 104:  Scheduling Efficiency With A Time Audit . It will show you how to take it to the next level with Doctor/Assistant time units.

  1. Train all assistants in ALL expanded duties. Time and money go down the drain when the dentist performs procedures that, by law, an auxiliary can perform. Your dental assistants are happiest when they are allowed to perform all tasks that the law allows. Many dentists say that they are poor trainers. Time to get over yourself, as Dr. Phil says, and solve the problem. Not solving this one cripples your clinical efficiency and keeps you from having top notch assisting team members. If you take PPO's, "get this one done!"

Action Step: Get a copy of your state law, or go to www.DANB.org to find your state's options for dental assistants. Have a meeting with each dental assistant to create a training plan. You may hire one of the instructors from the local dental assisting school to come on her off-hours to train your assistant. You could ask your lab tech to teach them how to make temporaries or to pour great models. See if your favorite orthodontist will let your assistant spend time with them to learn how to make good impressions or to pour and to trim models.

  1. Create or edit templates for each procedure in your computer software program to make writing up clinical notes a breeze.  Angela recommends that the dentist and assistants take the time to get the templates edited to fit your procedures. Templates help efficiency and insure consistent documentation. The hygienists should also get their clinical notes into a template. Once the templates are in, it is an easy paradigm shift to have your dental assistant review the template, and note or add in certain items such as the number of anesthesia carpules. If there is an outlier note, then the dentist can dictate this to the assistant or add it. 

Action Step: Make January the month to create or edit all of the clinical notes templates. If this is a new task for you, make it easy by printing out a procedure code frequency list for the past six months. Start editing your clinical notes templates with the procedures you perform most often.

Make January the month to focus on Clinical Efficiency. Get these four steps done and then look for my two upcoming blog posts, "Hygiene Clinical Efficiency" and "Emergency Clinical Efficiency" coming later this month. Do you use a feed reader? Subscribe to my RSS feed and never miss a post.

If you need help, we are adding Clinical Efficiency training to our services this year. Call 805.323.5041 or email me, linda@drevenstedt.com, to discuss bringing Angela into your office. You will be glad you did!

(Download the attached file for the complete version.)

Linda Drevenstedt
Drevenstedt Consulting LLC
Ventura, CA

WORDJanuary2016eSSENTIALs.pdf230.8 KB
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Linda Drevenstedt
Drevenstedt Consulting LLC
Ventura, CA