Dental Practice Management: Five Keys to Creating Systems That Work

I speak with dentists and practice managers regularly who are stressed out and frustrated with the way their practice functions on a daily basis. One of the most common sentiments is that these dentists and practice managers are aware that their team and their practice is not functioning efficiently, but that they can’t seem to figure out a solution. As you probably can guess by now, my recommendations come down to one word: systems. Effective systems allow dentists to take back control of their day-to-day operation and to achieve efficiency and consistency.

Step one is always getting your staff on board with the reasons why a new system is important.  That can take some doing, but after you strategically “sell” your team on the need for a new way of doing things that will make both your lives better, you need to create a system to accomplish that task.

Today, we’re going to examine five critical elements of developing an effective system. Whether you are just now going through the process of systemizing your practice or you’ve done it a long time ago, this information will ensure that you’re heading in the right direction.

Each system in your practice should have:

1) A defined purpose. Each system should exist for a specific reason—a specific task that must be performed, a specific problem that must be solved. This may sound obvious, but systems begin to lose their efficiency as their purpose becomes muddled.

2) Clear and specific expectations. Each system must have a clearly defined output. For instance, your system for patient scheduling may include the requirement that each patient is followed-up with one week after their visit, and contacted 24 hours before their next appointment to confirm. Defining your specific expectations is key to ensuring that your practice functions the way you want it to.

3) Individual accountability. Of course, detailed expectations don’t matter if there is no accountability. Your team members must be individually responsible for specific systems. That way, nobody feels comfortable just “letting things slide” because they know that there will be consequences. Every single element of each system must have an individual that is specifically responsible to ensure that it continues to function.   Ideally each staff member is attached to at least one statistic.

4) Self sufficiency. The systems you create must not require consistent oversight and participation on your part. The entire point of these systems, after all, is to get time-consuming tasks like billing and scheduling out of your hands and into those of your team. That’s not to say you shouldn’t continue to monitor performance to ensure performance… but don’t create systems that are dependent on you in order to function on a daily basis.

5) Regular opportunities for review. It’s important to acknowledge that very few things in life go according to plan. So create systems with flexibility so that they can respond to real-world circumstances. And regularly schedule time for you to review performance. Sometimes little “tweaks” are all that is necessary to get a system back on track—but if you never review it, you will never know.

Effective systems can be the difference between a practice that is profitable and one that is not. Effective systems provide dentists and practice managers with peace of mind, reduced stress, and even the ability to take a vacation without everything grinding to a halt. Systems are tremendously important to the success of your practice—please contact me today if you’d like to learn more!

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