Very often hygiene departments are forgotten in a dental office, the hygienists provide care and if there isn’t a problem with open time most offices feel that their department is performing well. There is a lot more to ensuring that your hygiene department is performing well then just looking at open time.
You will want to look at your metrics throughout the department. Open time is always first and foremost in most people’s minds. The metric for open time is 10%, if your open time is consistently below this number, then you likely need to add more hygiene time to your schedule. If you are above 10% open time then you will want to look at the metrics of patient retention, the number of patients who are in three- and four-month intervals, and the methods that you are using to contact patients
You will want to measure patient retention at 80%. This means that 80% of your patients are participating in your hygiene program in their diagnosed perio intervals. A good way to measure this is if you have 100 patients who were due for hygiene in May then if you look at the list in June there would be only 20 patients left on your May list with unscheduled appointments.
Next I want to address areas where there may need to be some changes in your department in areas that you haven’t thought about. Are all the hygienists in your office practicing the same way and delivering the same level of care? Patients should have the same Standard of Care no matter which hygienist they see in the office. If they are told they should come every three months by one hygienist, the other hygienist shouldn’t be telling them they need to come every six months. A Standard of Care Protocol that is developed in the office will have patients being given the same information no matter which hygienists they see.
We all know that each patient’s hygiene care is developed for their specific oral health level as well as any systemic health and medical conditions they may be experiencing. We also want to make sure that the billing practices in the office are matching to the ODA Treatment Time Billing regulations. It is not uncommon to find that some hygienists tend to follow one billing pattern and others follow another. Patients deserve to be billed in a common manner no matter which hygienist they see.
Another area to look at is updating your technology by investing and training your team how to deliver this care to patients. The advancements may include a soft-tissue diode laser, intra oral cameras, and tools for early detection of oral cancer. Decide what is right for your office, provide the training for your team and then help patients better understand their oral health needs with your new technology.
Ensure that you do regular updates with your team on ways to implement effective patient communication strategies. This may be sharpening up Doctor Prompting skills when the dentist comes in for a recall exam, educating patients about any outstanding treatment they may have not moved forward with or updating patient education tools in your practice. Educating your team just once in these areas isn’t enough, everyone is human, and we can all change habits without even realizing it. At least twice a year review the conversations that you want your team to follow for patient communication. This includes role play, reviewing protocols and perhaps even gentle reminders through the day, if needed.
In conclusion, building a successful hygiene program, starts with having the right team members. Ensure that the hygienists are not only clinically skilled but also have strong communication skills and a patient-centric approach. Provide ongoing training to ensure that your team stays up to date with the latest clinical techniques and technologies will help your office achieve its metrics. As they say, “take care of the patients and the numbers will come.”