In the past two years, the strain of the pandemic has caused dental teams across the country to re-evaluate processes – a challenge at the best of times but essential to providing optimal patient care and maintaining practice production through a crisis. Practices that have succeeded during this challenging time share some key commonalities: clear communication, team engagement, and a thorough understanding of the business side of dentistry. Registered Dental Hygienists (RDH) play a pivotal role in this success.
We often focus on hygiene as an essential contributor to overall production, which is certainly true. However, I would like to point out the importance of the RDH as a catalyst for practice optimization and, ultimately, optimal patient care. In my role with dentalcorp, I’ve been able to apply my experience as an RDH in a non-traditional way to provide business support to practices. That work has primarily focused on the dental hygiene aspect of the business. Registered Dental Hygienists are essential to contributing to overall production, but productivity can be interpreted differently. In my professional opinion, hygiene productivity is about taking accountability.
If we look at the role of the RDH, it has the potential to be much more than upholding regulatory standards of care and maximizing patient flow. In their role, dental hygienists can contribute to the overall success of a practice with their unique and holistic view of its operations. They are able to assess the day as a whole and leverage comprehensive treatment plans, treatment delivery, and patient education for maximum impact. With this broader view of the practice, they are also better equipped to advocate for their patients and have the knowledge and mindset to affect change that can radically improve patient care.
So how is this business-focused mindset achieved?
One important aspect to integrate into your routine is to examine the total billing for the day, the week, or the month. The most recent 2020 CDHO Registrant’s Handbook states that dental hygienists should review billing procedures and perform periodic spot checks to ensure ethical billing processes that directly correspond to their clinical notes. Ethical practice is a professional obligation; however, there is an opportunity to dig deeper and be more analytical with the data. Valuable questions to consider include, does my daily, weekly, or monthly production seem high or low? Why are there noticeable changes in my production? Do I have minimal or excessive no-shows or cancellations? Do I have the appropriate amount of time needed to deliver the patient care required? Taking the time to understand patterns in billing can lead to a greater understanding of day-to-day operations and present opportunities to positively impact practice operations.
Also, a good understanding of dental hygiene metrics can spark meaningful engagement with the entire dental hygiene team. In fact, recognizing individual and team contributions provides an opportunity to implement impactful change and increase overall production. An effective strategy is to hold regular team meetings to encourage an open and honest dialogue about patient care, treatment philosophies, and new adjunctive treatment that might benefit your patients.
When we elevate the role of the dental hygienist to more than a clinician providing effective treatment, the entire team wins. This shift in mindset and practice positively impacts the patient experience, improves practice efficiencies, and influences overall growth. More importantly, it engages and motivates the dental hygiene team and equips each person with the tools needed to deliver exceptional patient care.
About the Author
Lisa Hardill, RDH, BHADM, is a dental hygienist with experience in public health, independent and private practice, education, and sales within the industry. She is currently a Clinical Development Manager with dentalcorp. Over the years, she has been involved in the dental hygiene field in numerous ways, including as a quality assurance peer assessor for the CDHO, as a non-council member of the Registration Committee with the CDHO, Team Lead for Public Health Unit, and on the Board of Directors for Gift from the Heart.
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