When you see an article or a program with a title such as “The Profitable Hygienist,” what comes to mind? For some dental hygienists, a negative image of “high volume and low quality” practices are imagined.
For others, it could make one think that it’s all about the almighty production dollars, and has little or nothing to do with quality patient care. But the fact is, you can not have one without the other.
And of course there are hygienists who understand this. They are thrilled at the opportunity to learn how they can have more control over their work lives, have the help and support they need, have the supplies, material and equipment they want and still improve their compensation packages as well.
The hygiene department is the second largest production center in the dental practice, and it is responsible for generating the revenues for operating and running the department.
The Focus of Hygiene
The focus of dental hygiene has always been about taking care of people. Helping patient’s progress from infection and disease into health and wellness remains the number 1 priority. That element has never changed but the costs connected with conducting hygiene business have changed drastically.
Being both a service provider and profit producer makes the time hygienists spend with their patient most valuable. Not being able to provide and produce to our fullest potential could be extraordinarily expensive to both the hygienist and the business in ways we have not thought of before.
In order for hygienists to provide the excellence to which they are all committed, they need to be fully aware of the costs associated with the daily operations. There are 67 different product categories needed for the hygiene department to function. For hygienist to do their work; from instruments, materials, supplies, technology, labor and other costs, each play a role in a productive and profitable hygiene department.
The Profitable Hygienist – What Actually Works
What does this department need to do in order to accomplish profitability that allows hygienist to have what we need to deliver excellence?
The first thing this department needs is a modus operandi that is realistic. It is not about cramming more work into less time during an appointment just for profitability sake, but getting the best use of the hygienist’s time with the patients. Next would be a sound set of obtainable goals with the necessary help and support to obtain the goals.
A realistic way to evaluate hygiene’s profitability is to look at the blend of procedures along with the associated fees that are offered. Examples would include all the traditional preventive services and appropriate periodontal procedures, radiographs, sealants, and health care products.
Also included in most hygienists days, but rarely shown as actual production, is their preliminary examination with the use of an Intraoral Digital Camera or Dental Photography Systems. Also pre-diagnostic treatment plans are discussed with patients to help them understand the benefits of their needed treatments, and the consequences, of not proceeding forward. Tracking these elusive numbers can be difficult, if not impossible, but I found the best way to do is to make them part of my daily goals and track them as such.
Know the Numbers – Know the Goals.
There are two commonly known goals that hygienists are held accountable for; production and recare. Both the scheduled daily production goal and the next hygiene visit should no longer be the only considerations in a hygiene day. Today’s progressive hygiene departments need to have daily sales presentations and sales acceptance goals too.
For example, a daily hygiene production goal could be $1,500 per day. Sales presentation goal, (aesthetics, implants, quadrant or comprehensive dentistry that is presented from the hygiene chairs) could be $6,500 per day, and the sales acceptance goal (accepted, financials secured and scheduled) $5,000 per day done by the business assistant during check out.
Because there are no definitive ways to account of accuracy of these numbers, I establish this simple system for tracking. For the sales presentation goal simply add the daily hygiene goal to the doctor’s daily goal. ($1,500 + $5,000 = $6,500)
Sales acceptance goals from the hygiene chair are more difficult to track due to the patients need to consider and organize their priorities, which often consists of their financial and time restraints. Sales presentations are not as challenging to monitor if there is a chart audit prior to their appointment, appropriate leading questions asked, and answers received and understood, and documentation of the discussion in the chart for later use.
Of great importance is the daily retention rate for both the doctor and the hygienist. Question yourself regularly to remain focused. Did the patient schedule for their next visits? I consider any patient not scheduled for any appointment inactive, so tracking these numbers is critical to the health of the business. Your goal should be to have all patients walk out with at least 2 appointments, those being either doctor and hygiene or hygiene’s next 2 visits.
The Helpful Hygienist
Another area for profit within the hygiene department should include taking impressions for whitening procedures as well as their associated products, bite-splints, sports-guards, snore appliances and diagnostic study models and diagnostic cosmetic wax-ups. Adding these procedures can increase both hygiene and the overall offices production substantially.
What hygienist has the time, in their schedule, for taking an impression? What if the patient needs multiple impressions for multiple procedures? There are so many variables that can go wrong with taking an alginate impression that many hygienists, like me, simply will not do them.
The answer to time limitations and preventing failures may be in utilizing new products and technologies. Now there is an alginate alternative by DMG StatusBlue® Alginate Substitute Impression Material that can make preliminary impression both simple and convenient. An A-silicone formula captures great impression detail, sets quickly and provides complete dimensional stability.
With StatusBlue you can easily and accurately re-pour from this one impression. The same impression for today’s diagnostic study models is tomorrow’s cosmetic wax-ups, bite splints, orthotics, snore appliances, sports guards, whitening trays and making or remaking provisionals. All you do is load the premixed impression material cartridge into its convenient hand held gun, distribute the material into the tray and take the impression.
Talk about saving expensive hygiene time. Keeping the StatusBlue® cartridges and guns ready in your hygiene rooms can increased your worth and profits which directly affects the bottom line.
Time is Valuable – What else can we do?
Managing hygiene supply costs can significantly decrease this department overhead considerably, and is easier that you think. Ask your dealer rep if there are companies that have ongoing promotions such as ‘buy 1 get 1 free’ and request samples to try. Or call the manufacturer directly and request samples. Because everyone loves a great find or a good deal shopping the convention floors is another ideal way to reduce supply cost. Being open to trying new products that could be of the same quality or better quality could considerably improve your bottom-line.
The Bottom line
One of the main objectives of monitoring and managing hygiene production and re-focusing on the functions of the hygienist is to expand our business's universe and make us more valuable. Remember, when one thing changes, it leads to other changes and few thing will remain the same.