How to Grow Your Hygiene Department

Posted By

Scott Livingston


August 18, 2020

The heart of any dental practice is its hygiene department. Hygiene is where all the opportunities for growth are found. Production starts with hygiene. Restoration as well. And of course, those regular cleanings and perio cases are a significant revenue driver on their own. Any dental practice trying to grow will absolutely want to focus on the health of this important department. When your hygiene team is functioning at or near capacity, the entire practice will benefit and growth will be more likely to occur.

But what if your hygiene department ISN'T working as well as it could? How do you resolve something like that?

Here’s the story of how a private practice in Texas applied some proven systems and processes to transform how their hygiene department was performing. Although their remarkable results are measured in key indicators such as pre-appointment percentage and future scheduled appointments, the numbers that really matter are those that relate to improved patient health. Every patient rescheduled for care and every patient accepting needed treatment is a patient moving closer to optimal care, the ultimate goal of any practice management solution. This practice began using a data-analytics system, sometimes referred to as “practice intelligence,” to track and improve several KPIs throughout their practice, with an initial focus on their hygiene department. Their partner in this effort was Dental Intelligence, the leader in cloud-based practice growth analytics. 

Before this practice began using Dental Intelligence to improve patient care and team performance, sustainable growth was difficult to come by. According to Office Manager, Christina, “I couldn’t understand how we could be scheduling above goal and yet our hygiene production was consistently performing at thousands of dollars below goal.” After several months of frustration and dead-ends, she found a solution that not only revealed the problems, but also offered steps for what to do. “By using the analysis and insights available to me in my practice intelligence software, I discovered the source of the problem,” she said. Empowered with this data, Christina knew what needed to happen.

“We weren’t interested in ‘gotcha,’” she said. “It was about being able to sit down with team members, in this case, our hygiene team, and to look at the data together and the trends and patterns it was revealing.” Christina talked about how scary things like this can be for team members. “We needed to put ourselves on the scale and see what things really looked like. This can be scary, but you have to know where you really are. Only then can you formulate a plan to improve.”

Christina and Dr. K, the practice owner, put together a PowerPoint showing each hygiene provider what their trends were for the current and previous year. “We went code-specific, because in doing so we could see exactly how many adults had prophies, what percentage of them had fluoride treatment, children who got sealants, how many folks got x-rays etc. By looking at each of these services individually, we could see treatment that we did or didn't offer and then discuss why we did or didn’t offer it. Asking the tough questions and having the candid conversation in a safe environment was difficult but essential if we were going to realize the changes we needed to make.”

Before meeting, Christina also shadowed each hygienist for a day and took notes on how they were presenting treatment, interacting with patients, personal time management, etc. She also heard excuses about why the staff wasn’t taking x-rays, offering fluoride, and other services. After doing this, Christina and Dr. K sat down together and formulated an agenda for their staff meeting. The goal was simple: Help their team to improve so they could provide better care to their patients.

As they met together with the hygiene team, Christina and Dr. K discussed their concerns, using their practice intelligence data as evidence of where things needed to improve. Although at first the conversation was difficult, seeing the data in front of them helped the hygiene team to understand what wasn’t working and why they needed to change.

Exciting things then began to happen. When the entire team met in early June 2017 to discuss May’s production, everyone but the hygiene team got a bonus. But the trend was moving in the right direction, and Dr. K told the hygiene team she couldn’t wait to see how they were doing at the end of that month. Thirty days later, the hygiene team had produced above their goal - by $8,000! The excitement and momentum this created for the hygiene team was palpable. To go from never hitting their goals to blowing those goals away in only thirty days was almost miraculous. Team members shared how seeing their numbers helped them come to terms with what they needed to change while helping them also know how to act on those insights.

Christina and Dr. K then instituted weekly meetings with the hygiene team to give them face time with the dentist and to discuss processes and implementation. They used their practice intelligence data to guide their conversations and to assist them in making on-the-spot changes as needed. They also began using Dental Intelligence’s Follow-Up tool as a checklist to focus their daily activities on creating specific action items for team members while ensuring no patients slipped through the cracks. Each Monday morning, team members reviewed their data to find the previous week’s presented treatment that wasn’t scheduled – they would then call those patients to get them back on the schedule.

According to Christina, this process has significantly reduced the number of patients that are falling through the cracks. In her words, “Practice intelligence is a part of our performance evaluations. It helps everyone be more productive and more accountable for their part of the overall direction of the practice. Accessing and acting upon this data is truly essential to our success. It’s that important. PERIOD.”

Now it’s your turn. Think about where your practice is, right now. Do you know? If not, do you have a plan to find out? This practice followed some key principles that anyone can follow, including you. But you have to act. Dentists now have access to insights about their practice that would’ve been impossible even ten years ago. It’s an exciting time to be in dentistry. But having cool new solutions isn’t enough. You also need a plan of action and a commitment to implement those solutions. What will you do?

Here are the 2019 Dental Care Benchmarks from Dental Intelligence, which include six of the most important hygiene-specific metrics that every dental practice should be tracking. As you can see, there is space available for you to fill in your current performance as well as your goals. Not sure how to locate these metrics? We can help. Visit us here to request your free 2019 Year in Review AND 2020 Growth Report. Things are about to get good.

2019 Dental Care Benchmarks





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