Systems That Work: How to Create Routines Your Dental Office Staff Will Dependably Follow
Effective systems keep your dental office running smoothly. The better business is, the more efficient your systems need to be. A thriving dental office means a consistently full schedule. Over time, systems may start to break down as steps get skipped and tasks fall to the wayside. Building systems that work for your team means your office can keep running as smoothly as possible so you can focus on giving your patients the best possible care.
Areas of the Office
First, let’s break down the goal of successful systems in each area of a typical dental office.
Your concierge is a patient’s first point of contact when they enter your practice. Disorganization, paper clutter, even dusty computer screens can give your patients the impression that your entire practice is likewise disorganized and even dirty. Regular routines for dusting, sterilizing high-touch areas, and minimizing clutter will keep your front desk looking spotless.
Poor organization in sterilization puts your patients and entire staff in danger. Improperly sterilized instruments can spread serious bloodborne illnesses. Failure to comply with strict regulations also puts your practice in danger of running afoul of regulatory entities like OSHA. Establish effective routines for keeping your sterilization equipment in good working order, handling instruments safely, and staying on top of tasks like changing out the ultrasonic bath.
Regardless of whether you choose to assign specific operatories to each clinician or prefer to have them rotate based on the day’s schedule, effective systems for organization in each operatory allow your team to work together to keep each room properly stocked and sterilized.
A well-organized inventory helps prevent over- or understocking supplies, which can directly impact the profitability of your practice. When carpules of anesthetic get shuffled to the back of a dusty closet and left to expire, it’s money down the drain.
Aside from how you organize your physical supplies, effective systems for ordering likewise keep your practice running smoothly. Ordering for a dental office means coordinating the needs of each department in your practice as well as multiple suppliers and reps. Efficient systems for ordering supplies and instruments will prevent over- and under-stocking, and ensure deliveries arrive when they’re needed.
What Makes a Good System?
Next, let’s look at a few universal concepts that will help you build effective organizational systems for your dental office. These ideas can apply to every area of your office to help them run more smoothly.
Simplicity is the key to systems that work. Every extra step is one more thing that will eventually get skipped and lead the system to break down.
Streamline your systems as much as possible; what is the fewest number of steps that will reliably get this job done, and what is the most direct way to achieve each of these steps?
Simplicity in your systems also means minimizing the mental burden of keeping track of tasks. The more you can automate reminders for things like spore tests, the less likelihood they’ll get forgotten.
Most of us are painfully aware that time is a limited commodity in a thriving dental practice. Your assistants, hygienists, and treatment coordinators need systems that will save them time.
Need labels properly filled out for biohazard bags? Why not print out sheets of stickers in advance so your staff can grab and stick in seconds rather than filling them out by hand?
Simple adjustments to save a few moments on each step in your system add up to an office that runs efficiently and less chance of important tasks falling to the wayside on busy days.
When you combine simplicity and speed, you get convenience.
Convenient systems are more likely to be followed. It seems obvious. But when you look closely at the workflow in your office, look for any areas where the system could be easier to maintain.
For example, cassettes make instruments easier (and safer) to carry. We all have pedometers on our smart watches, but your staff doesn’t have the time or energy to make their 10,000 steps on unnecessary movement between patients!
Once you’ve established systems that are simple, fast, and convenient, make sure the expectations are consistent and predictable.
Any new system may take some trial and error as unforeseen problems come up. But constantly changing your systems in the pursuit of better efficiency can be frustrating and confusing for everyone involved.
Get your staff’s input from the beginning about what works for them and what needs improvement. Then, give new systems some time to become habits and check back with them for feedback about how things can be tweaked or improved.
Maintain Your System for Peak Efficiency
Once you find a rhythm and routine that works for your team, maintain it! Keeping a system in good working order over time takes planning, but you can work it into the system from the beginning.
Make a plan to periodically check in on your system. While constant changes can lead to disorganization, re-evaluating your system regularly (maybe once per quarter for example) needed can allow you to adapt and eliminate roadblocks.
For truly peak efficiency, look for any areas where you can establish systems that maintain themselves.
Automating workflow and organization as much as possible frees your staff to focus on providing the best possible experience for your patients while eliminating human error or forgetfulness.
Automation in your systems can be as simple as setting a cell phone alert for weekly or monthly equipment maintenance.
Specialized software can help you easily track your previous orders, automatically place regular orders, and coordinate lists between multiple suppliers so your staff doesn’t have to waste time do it by hand.
Above all, remember that the goal for systems that work is to help your entire team enjoy better flow in your workdays and allow you to give your patients undivided attention at every visit!