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How to Make a Dental Office More Efficient

By Planet DDS
October 20, 2021

Receptionist at front desk with iPad for scanning payment and checking in



By Dr. Greg Grillo





Running an effective dental practice requires a complete set of skills, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Dental school prepared us for basic clinical dentistry, but it didn’t equip us for the managerial aspects of running a small business.







As a young practice owner, I quickly learned that every minor adjustment in efficiency meant reduced stress and increased profitability. Sound business principles serve well during the good times, but they’re imperative when facing rough waters. The past couple of years exposed weaknesses in many of our practices and no doubt caused a few sleepless nights. We can’t control all outside forces, but we can identify weaknesses and implement changes that increase productivity for our businesses.







As a profession, we’re facing unprecedented hiring challenges that many of us haven’t seen in our careers. If our team’s intact, we’re thankful. If we’re facing a staffing shortage, many of us are tossing and turning at 2 a.m. In our region, a standing ad for hygienists hasn’t drawn a single inquiry in months.








The best time to sharpen the efficiency of our offices was pre-2020. The next best time is




right now



. A systematic review of each touchpoint in the patient journey may reveal opportunities to help your existing team, compensate for staffing shortages, add profitability, and enhance your brand’s reputation.








Break the patient journey down into three simple phases: pre-appointment, appointment, and post-appointment, then:








  • Analyze each stage and the essential functions that need to take place.



  • Assess existing systems and tools for effectiveness



  • Add additional tools to increase efficiency and lower staff members’ stress







As clinicians, this is an opportunity to evaluate our delivery of care and design processes, new equipment, or workflows that make us more efficient. For example, bringing hygiene patients in a few minutes early for x-rays with an assistant can increase efficiency for an overburdened hygienist.







As managers, it falls on us to help our teams evaluate non-clinical tasks and work through options to soften their impact on the day. Thanks to technological advancements, we can now move many time-consuming tasks from our front desk staff to integrated digital platforms. Software built for patient convenience carries the added benefit of making our team members more cohesive.







Efficient Dental Office Design Starts Online








In a changing world, many of us look at our physical areas and envision changes to make us more efficient. But dental office design starts with digital tools and systems that alter the activity in our space. Some of those modifications make sense, and others demand too much capital. For example, we may think we need a bigger waiting room for people to complete their paperwork. But paperless forms help us move people from their cars to the operatory with less waiting.







Here are five ways to build efficiency that everyone appreciates.








1.Eliminate




10,000 PIECES OF PAPER




And Hours Of Exercise










Getting away from paper takes a paradigm shift. But once you do it, you’ll wonder what took so long. Administrative staff record




61 TRIPS WEEKLY




to the copier, fax machine, or printer in an average office. They also invest four weeks of productivity each year tracking down misplaced paper documents. When we’re looking for ways to improve efficiency, eliminating meandering paper trails streamlines multiple aspects of the patient journey.








LEGWORK PAPERLESS FORMS




provides a customizable, drag-and-drop form builder that frees hours of staff time. Paperless form software allows patients to complete forms via a website or email before appointments. Your staff gathers the data they need into one place, and your patients have one less thing to worry about when they step into the office. Consent forms, HIPAA acknowledgments, intake forms, and other digitized forms reduce numerous tasks and add up to drive efficiency.









2. Offer Scheduling Convenience For Your Share of




$3.2 BILLION








When’s the last time you called a hotel to book a reservation? Managing our bookings, reservations, and appointments have moved online, and healthcare consumers want the same convenience. Scheduling an appointment over the phone can take up to 10 minutes multiple times each day, which adds up. We can’t expect to completely eliminate employees scheduling in-person or over the phone, but we can free up more time with online scheduling. It’s estimated that healthcare organizations can save over $3 billion annually by offering some form of online scheduling.







LEGWORK ONLINE APPOINTMENT BOOKING




provides the convenience of booking appointments through a fully customizable module on your website. Once your team chooses available times, patients can set up visits through their devices. Then enjoy automated




APPOINTMENT REMINDERS




as their visit nears.








3. Exceed Expectations And Put Your Staff At Ease, Too









Over




75% OF PATIENTS REPORT ANXIETY ABOUT DENTISTRY



, and many people entirely avoid care. Contacting patients about their comfort before their visits send impactful messages about the value we place on them. But it also streamlines their entry into care. If your team knows what amenities a patient needs, they can prepare and save time during their visit, while improving patient satisfaction.







LEGWORK COMFORT




combines efficiency and compassion in a single step. A patient receives a simple online survey that asks what amenities they’d like at their appointment and inquires about their anxiety level. After they fill it out, the form is delivered back to your centralized platform for review. The patient walks in feeling pampered, and the entire team has everything ready for the best patient experience in healthcare.









4. Add




8% OR MORE




Efficiency With Virtual Visits









Turning over an operatory requires up to 20 minutes and carries measurable expense. In our practice, we analyzed the cost of supplies, labor, and sterilization to turn an op after a simple procedure. Before COVID, we projected it cost about $40. With increased costs, that expense has escalated. At the same time, the popularity of virtual visits presents an opportunity to significantly impact our productivity and service. The first week we implemented basic teledental service, we saved five hours of chair time.







LEGWORK TELEHEALTH




opens virtual space in our schedule with just a few clicks. We’re not going to complete a smile makeover online, but we can compress the process significantly so that treatment starts sooner. We’ve used our virtual space to consult with patients about implants, Invisalign®, and post-op concerns. A virtual operatory helps us manage broken teeth, infections, and sore jaws for maximum efficiency. Many of these visits traditionally require an operatory and turnover. Teledental opens windows for more efficient practice management, scheduling, and planning.








Dental Office Efficiency And Convenience Go Together







An efficient operation produces direct and indirect benefits that everyone appreciates. As you review the components of the patient journey, look at how these digital tools blend to make everything run smoother. And if you’re remodeling your space, weigh traditional space requirements against the added efficiency of digital systems.






Small, incremental changes drive your bottom line! If you’re questioning whether or not patient engagement software could boost efficiency at your dental practice, download our free eBook,




DOES YOUR PRACTICE NEED PATIENT ENGAGEMENT SOFTWARE?