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DSO Hygiene Excellence Diplomat Program: Clinical and business excellence

July 1, 2021
An objective look at numbers is never punitive. They tell a story about how we are serving patients—and where we need to grow. The last article in our series on the DSO Hygiene Excellence Diplomat program explores this.

DSO Hygiene Excellence is a national organization created to elevate the dental hygiene profession and dental hygienists working in offices owned by dental service organizations (DSOs). We are committed to reimagining the way that DSO offices function in this new and developing environment. The DSO Hygiene Excellence mission is to build leaders who understand dentistry’s business side and improve clinical patient outcomes. Excellence is achieved by building leaders and a supportive teamwork structure to create an environment that functions smoothly and places the focus on patients and improved clinical outcomes.

We created the DSO Hygiene Excellence Diplomat Program to share our vision of a profession where we all practice at the highest level. The program’s five pillars are leadership, diplomacy/teamwork, dental/medical synergy, clinical excellence, and business excellence. These pillars define and promote the future of dental hygiene, for us and our profession.

The five pillars of excellence

Diplomacy and teamwork
Dental/medical synergy
Clinical excellence
Business excellence

Clinical excellence

The role of dental hygienists as diplomatic leaders helps coordinate the efforts of the team and works to improve patient outcomes, which results in overall clinical excellence. Clinical excellence cannot be achieved by one person or one discipline alone. Each team member is needed to play a vital role in delivering quality care. In the clinical excellence pillar, we outlined how to identify risk factors for patients and how to best mitigate these factors with the goal of providing optimal care. As an example, we created an updated Periodontal Guide to Staging/Grading and Treatment (figure 1). If you have not started using these updated criteria, feel free to join our DSO Hygiene Excellence national organization as a free member and print the PDF, which will pop up as a thank-you for joining. You can also scan our QR code for easy access.

We discuss key performance indicators (KPIs) to track in our hygiene departments that reflect how well we are achieving best patient outcomes against national benchmarks. KPIs are metrics, the numbers that many dental practice software programs calculate.

It’s not unusual for dental hygienists to feel uncomfortable with numbers. Still, numbers are never punitive; they tell a story about how well we are serving patients and where we can find growth opportunities. Since we cannot improve what we do not measure, tracking and evaluating hygiene department numbers will ensure that we are continually growing and learning how to best help patients achieve optimal health. If we are providing optimal patient care, the numbers will follow and tell the story. Clinical excellence encompasses everything that happens in our dental hygiene operatories. Excellence is the direct patient care that is delivered every day and recognizing that we can ensure excellence.

Business excellence

The first four pillars laid the foundation for the equally important pillar of business excellence. Business excellence involves the entire team and focuses on providing comprehensive patient care. The philosophies and processes that must be in place to optimize the short- and long-term viability of the office based on business practices are defined as business excellence. The reality is that business and dental care do coexist.

We should share with everyone on the team the expectations from the clinical aspects as well as the business aspects. Business excellence goes deep into the business side of dentistry, and it gives us the tools to understand the business side of hygiene. KPIs in the business excellence pillar encompass broad systems within the dental practice. This information is invaluable to professionals. We’re not clock-in, clock-out employees. We’re collaborating professionals who are coproducers and coleaders.

The DSO Hygiene Excellence national organization has a mission to share the best dental hygiene practices within the DSO space. Join us in this mission to share the best of what dental hygiene can be for patients and the profession. We know we’re better together, and sharing best practices makes us all better. Take this opportunity to sign up for a free membership to the DSO Hygiene Excellence national organization at dsohygieneexcellence.com/membership. As part of that membership, you’ll receive the latest information on clinical practice and the opportunity to participate in the networking and learning opportunities offered by DSO Hygiene Excellence. 

Access the Staging and Grading document

Access the Grading document

Editor's note: This article appeared in the July 2021 print edition of RDH.

CHRISTINE DIEHL, BGS, RDH, has been practicing clinical dental hygiene for 28 years and currently works full-time in a DSO: DecisionOne Dental Partners. She graduated from Parkland College with her AASDH and received a BGS from Northern Illinois University. Over her career, she has attended a multitude of continuing education, including LVI for Advanced Dental Studies, and received an associate fellowship from the World Clinical Laser Institute. Diehl is a cofounder of DSO Hygiene Excellence.

SARAH VARNEY, EMBA, BSDH, RDH, has worked as a hygienist with Kendall Pointe Dental, a DSO office, since 1988. Varney is currently a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame in the EMBA program and received her AASDH from Parkland College and a BSDH honors degree with an Irene Newman Award from Fones School of Dental Hygiene. Certifications include soft tissue laser and advanced periodontal coach. Varney is the founder of CE2 and cofounder and CEO of DSO Hygiene Excellence.