Every practice wishes to improve. Yet when practices want to make improvements, hygiene productivity is often overlooked.
Generating a higher percentage of practice income from hygiene services is only possible by expanding the role of dental hygienists. The hygiene department can become a doorway to other services that have the potential to significantly increase production. How? By implementing documented systems that incorporate the hygienist in offering comprehensive care and cosmetic dentistry.
When practices maximise hygiene performance, it results not only in higher productivity and increased profitability but also in reduced stress and higher job satisfaction for the hygienist, as well as improved patient oral health.
Increasing hygiene productivity is achieved primarily through the following:
1. Enhanced communication skills
2. Comprehensive care
3. Better scheduling.
Enhanced communication skills
A profitable hygiene practice depends on good communication. The hygienist and the dentist must be of the same mindset regarding the goals of the practice and treatment of patients. This teamwork is beneficial not only to the practice but also to the patient.
Hygienists must have a consistent, effective process for collecting and presenting clinical data to the dentist prior to the examination. By doing so, the dentist has the opportunity to support the preliminary observations made by the hygienist and diagnose appropriate treatment.
Higher case acceptance is a direct result of the teamwork of the hygienist and the dentist.
Scripts should be developed and practised at staff meetings. Each script should be focused on patient benefit statements and address common concerns and questions effectively. Scripts allow the entire dental team to provide clear and consistent messages to patients.
Advancements in technology are creating excellent opportunities to build value in patient care through a wide variety of treatment options and services. New services are a critical factor in enhancing patient care and increasing practice productivity through the hygiene department.
New hygiene-related services may include:
• Cosmetic services
Cosmetic dentistry presents many patients with the opportunity to improve their appearance. Aesthetic services are an excellent way to address patient needs while improving overall quality of care and hygiene
• Optimal dental care
Older amalgams, composites and crowns may be in need of repair or may no longer be optimal for patients’ long-term oral health. Rather than immediately addressing these problems, many practices adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach. Once a patient reaches the point where older dentistry needs to be replaced or repaired, present a new treatment plan to the patient.
• Better scheduling
Practices need to:
• Schedule all patients in advance for their next hygiene appointment
• Stress the value of the return hygiene appointment to the patient
• Assign responsibility to an individual to ensure that the practice accomplishes these tasks.
Many practices experience the inconvenience and expense of patients who cancel or fail to show up for hygiene appointments. Based on Levin Group’s experience consulting to thousands of practices, many practices lose at least 20% of their patients each year. Projecting forward, every five years the practice has an entirely new recare patient base. Clearly, maximum production and profitability are severely compromised by such a loss of patients.
Acquiring new dental patients is costly. Consequently, practices should design effective strategies to retain patients. The establishment of an excellent hygiene care system is one of the best methods for doing so. Scheduling all patients for their next care appointment and using appropriate scripts to build value for each appointment are powerful tools to maintain the practice’s current patient base. Stressing additional benefits makes patients aware of the significance of the hygiene appointment. Proper scheduling of all patients in advance means less patient attrition and increased patient retention.
Expanding the role of the dental hygienist and providing patients with exceptional oral healthcare can be done. In fact, it must be done if a practice is intent on growing production.
Remember that the hygiene department can increase production and profits significantly. However, growth depends on proper business systems and scripts that can allow for the training of hygienists to provide new services and comprehensive care to patients.