Management tools in dental practice

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Carestream Dental’s Nina Cartwright continues to develop her theme regarding integrated communication in the dental practice

Most principal dentists appreciate that to run a successful dental practice the team must at excel at both the clinical and management side of the business. In decades gone by, the predominant focus was given to dental treatments. While this remains the highest priority, a greater appreciation for the commercial aspect has developed in recent years, helping practices to grow and really thrive in what has become a highly competitive industry.

Managing a dental practice is complex; from communication within the team, to interaction with external stakeholders; appointment scheduling and recalls to patient list management; marketing strategy, in both traditional and more modern concepts, there is a lot to think about. A business plan can help the practice to focus on what is important to them and what needs to be achieved during a given time frame – it is a tool used by every business that wishes to succeed. Also, increasingly, there are management tools being developed and refined specifically for the dental practice to help with the various organisational tasks and recording keeping.

Personalisation and individuality

Practice management software has been around for a while now, but it is continually being fine-tuned to allow for greater personalisation for individual practices, taking into account their specific requirements. Historically, these systems were primarily used for storage of patient information, but they have since evolved dramatically and now offer the capabilities to do so much more. When first launched, they were mostly used in isolation from other processes and equipment within the practice. Modern designers have turned this around completely by encompassing a wide variety of procedures, meaning the vast majority of technologies within the dental practice can now be integrated with a single software system. They are even able to communicate with external physical locations, such as dental laboratories and referring practices, improving communication efficiency all the time.

 

Key practice performance indicators

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are defined as ‘a quantifiable measure used to evaluate the success of an organisation, employee etc. in meeting objectives for performance’. It is useful in any business to ensure that the end objective is visualised and defined by the team or individual. Progress towards this goal can then be tracked for a quantifiable way of monitoring success. The marketing strategy, practice protocol and/or patient communication can then be modified accordingly to encourage the very best results. Leading software systems on the market now encompass a number of KPIs that can be selected by the practice if required to help boost performance. 

These will monitor various different areas of the practice, providing a quick overview of how the business is performing. Features of modern management software are able to help a practice maximise its treatment capacity, which is particularly useful as appointment scheduling tends to be an area that practices struggle to optimise. Reception staff work tirelessly to minimise the amount of ‘whitespace’ on the screen, but this is difficult to manage alongside many other daily routines. Also, different treatments require different amounts of appointed time and any automated help with this is appreciated.

This could be further improved by looking at chair occupancy rates and assessing the percentage of down time in each surgery. With a better understanding of how well each chair is utilised, practices will develop a clearer picture of any inefficiencies and be able to address these before they become problems.

Further KPIs could monitor the number of open treatment plans without booked appointments and the potential revenue this could bring into the practice if patients were happy to proceed. Other areas include unconfirmed appointments, patient reminders and recalls, whether patients need a hygiene or dental appointment next time and the most common dental treatments during specified times of the year.

The most useful systems will make this information available in an easy-to-read display that features live data and can be accessed at any time for optimum convenience. This also means that practices remain in complete control and are able to identify any problem areas straightaway, limiting any potential loss of revenue or efficiency as quickly as possible.

Practice management software such as CS R4+ from Carestream Dental offers all these features and more through its innovative Springboard. Simple to use and designed specifically to make your life easier, all KPIs are monitored in real-time for an up-to-the-minute representation of your practice performance.

Principals must seek ways to continually improve the patient care provided in their practice, but it is just as important to consider how they manage the business. By properly optimising workflows for every member of the team through integrated technologies, you will see your business thrive.