Stop racing the clock

Oct. 1, 2005
Better time management: Overcoming the full-time relay race

Better time management: Overcoming the full-time relay race

Dental team members want to know how they can work smarter versus harder. This is one of the cornerstone strategies our consulting firm has studied for 25 years. Using hands-on coaching in more than 2,000 dental practices in the United States and Canada, our consultants have compiled an outline of some of the best time management strategies.

To do something better, one must assess what is currently being done. If a practice doesn’t have solid goals, the staff can make many frustrating attempts without achieving any changes. To incorporate the refinements a practice needs to ensure there is enough time to review treatment plans, The JP Institute compiled the following assessment:

1) What is your goal? If your practice is focusing on increasing the number of accepted case presentations among patients with incomplete treatment plans, it will be necessary to research each job description in the office to determine any changes.

2) Ask each team member, “During the patient’s appointment, and according to your job description, when is it most appropriate to review incomplete treatment with the patient?” Each team member should write down an answer.

Do not rush through this exercise! The most important objective is to define whether or not you are trying to complete a patient who is not a true preventive appointment, or trying to squeeze in all of your clinical and communication expectations within one appointment. This creates a sense of incompletion. By focusing, teams can usually define when they spend quality time during each appointment reviewing incomplete treatment.

3) It is equally important to assess the visual technology being used to enhance patients’ case acceptance. Remember, a visual is worth a 1,000 words. First, review the patient’s incomplete treatment plan by having the intraoral camera picture(s) up on the monitor when the patient walks in the operatory. If the photos are not stored in your system, capture the picture at the beginning of the appointment.

Then, during one of your natural breaks (an oxymoron in dentistry), use a patient education system like Patterson Dental’s CAESY System to describe the procedure. Review with the patient the incomplete dentistry with the most important objective. Why was the procedure originally diagnosed? Getting the patient’s attention about why the diagnosis was made and what can happen if he or she does not move forward with the treatment is critical to re-engaging the patient in the value of the treatment.

4) “What current changes in my time management need to be made to implement the necessary refinements?” The easiest answer is to schedule more time per appointment. This is where the dentist must really scrutinize his or her time management and be very objective about where changes can occur. Sometimes advanced technology can help patients perceive the value of a procedure as well as save valuable time.

5) During in-office assessments, members of The JP Institute observe that a notorious area in which practices lose time is from appointments with sensitive patients. Dentsply Pharmaceuticals has a product that eliminates sensitivity during dental appointments called Oraqix, which works as a non-injecting anesthetic.

This is groundbreaking news for better time management! In states where hygienists can provide anesthetic, Oraqix is great for mid-line, cervical and palatal areas. In states where hygienists cannot provide anesthetic, the time savings for doctors who no longer must leave the patient is cause for joy! What about the assistant who blows air on a sensitive tooth for patients in pain?

The time saved in all these scenarios opens communication time. Just ask any team member how much more dentistry they can review if they don’t spend so much time getting patients comfortable.

6) The next objective during an assessment is to have each team member ask, “What are the challenges I will need to overcome in order to achieve my goals?”

While someone may have the time to review a patient’s incomplete treatment plans, he or she may not have confidence in presentation skills or technology use. Refining communication skills and becoming proficient in technology will allow practices to achieve tremendous results. Each year leading dental hygiene conferences such as the ADHA annual session and the RDH Under One Roof conference dedicate continuing education speakers to technology and case presentation skills. Becoming proficient in these areas will help practices save time and increase their patient acceptance.

Last but not least, there is a compassionate reason to choose the path of time management. Ask each team member to write down five benefits patients will receive by the office reaching its personal time management goals. This exercise is the catalyst to making a difference in patients’ health, and will give practices a reason to succeed!

Peggy Sprague, RDH, is a co-founder of The JP Institute, which has taught the most advanced clinical protocols, technology, and evidence-based science for the past 25 years. The JP curriculum emphasizes team support for comprehensive dentistry. JP specializes in analyzing and refining practice philosophies, strategies and business systems, hands-on implementation of clinical skills, and technology and product integration. Call The JP Institute at (800) 946-4944 for a complementary Practice or Career Profile to analyze your professional development, clinical protocols, technology and product integration, management systems, and profit potential.