How should you determine the right staff complement for your office?
When is it time to add a new position instead of making do with what you’ve got?
These are important questions to ask because over-hiring can make your overhead go out of control, but on the flip-side, refusing to hire needed positions as you grow will cap your growth potential and can prevent you from making much more income than you’re saving.
Well, there are actually several important things to look at before you add any staff. First, it will depend on whether you are talking about the front office or the back office.
Hiring in the Back Office
In the back office it’s fairly simple. It’s all determined by your schedule. If you find you are forced to schedule patients out too far (in other words, if you have to schedule patients out farther than a week) then you have a problem. You shouldn’t have to make a patient wait a week to be seen.
Now, this may be solved by scheduling more efficiently. Odds are, you can squeeze more production out of your schedule by simply scheduling more efficiently. To learn how to do this, check out our DVD, The Art of Scheduling Productively. It teaches you an extremely simple method of scheduling that can double your production without increasing your hours or stress level. And keep in mind, you should always have a little extra time in your schedule for case presentations. Often, simply presenting the treatment plan and then turning them over to the front desk for financials isn’t enough.
If you are already producing the maximum that you can produce, then you can look at adding another assistant or hygienist to speed you up. Make sure that your assistants/hygienists are doing all of the procedures they are permitted to in accordance with your state Dental Practice Act or any other applicable laws. If your time is being taken up doing procedures that they could be doing, you are limiting your production. It’s also cheaper to hire another assistant/hygienist than it is to hire an associate.
Regarding hygiene, the majority of your cases should come out of hygiene, so if you’re having trouble getting enough patients in for cleanings, that’s a problem. Typically, it’s easier to get patients who have already completed their treatment in for hygiene because they are the “good patients.” But you also want patients with outstanding treatment coming in for hygiene, because this gives you a chance to diagnose and present treatment to them, and that’s where your production comes from. So if your hygiene department is already completely full of “good patients” and you aren’t able to fit in patients with outstanding treatment, then you may need to expand your hygiene department.
If your assistants and hygienists are doing everything they can do and you are still overbooked on your own production (even though you are scheduling as efficiently as possible) then you can look into adding an associate, possibly starting them out part-time.
Hiring in the Front Office
Regarding the front office, I often see that administrative staff (any of your staff not involved in clinical work – i.e. all staff excluding doctors, hygienists, and assistants) are not given enough importance in a dental office. I see plenty of full back offices and front offices that border on empty. What many doctors don’t realize is that administrative staff are actually the ones who ensure that the back office is productive.
It’s a problem if your front desk staff only have time to take care of incoming traffic (like answering phones, getting patients scheduled, working with insurance, collecting co-pays, getting paperwork signed, etc.) and don’t have time to get on the phone to do reactivation, schedule patients in for hygiene, ensure the doctor’s schedule is full, work on referral programs, and so on. These are the activities that bring patients in for their treatment, in other words, create production for the back office.
So if you find that your front desk only has time to take care of incoming business and not create more business, then it’s time to add another staff member. Keep in mind, though, that you really want to ensure you’re getting the most out of every staff member before you look to add another one. You very well may find that the reason reactivation isn’t getting done is not because you don’t have enough staff, but because there is inefficiency in the office or your staff are spending too much time doing other things that aren’t as critical to the office’s success.
You should avoid hiring a new employee just to “help” another existing staff member. If you already have someone whose job description is to “answer the phone and schedule patients” and then you hire another person to also “answer the phone and schedule patients,” you usually just end up paying two people to do the same thing that one person could do. Typically this doesn’t actually result in increased production – it just results in one of the schedulers twiddling their thumbs a lot.
What you should do is give them individual duties. For instance, you could split it up so that the main scheduler handles the doctor’s personal production while the secondary scheduler answers the phone and does reactivation and hygiene, or something along those lines. Then they can actually take responsibility for their own jobs and stop stepping on each other’s toes. Every staff member should have their own specific duty that is theirs and no one else’s.
In a properly organized office, hiring a new staff member isn’t “expensive” because the new staff member’s contribution will create more income than you pay them in the long run. If your overhead is way out of control, however, then staff pay can become a real burden. The answer is to get organized.
If you organize things correctly, utilize your staff properly, and monitor all the functions of your office, then it will be easy to see which area of the practice isn’t functioning well and is causing your overhead to spin out of control. You may find that you don’t need to add another staff member; you simply need to replace the staff member in charge of that non-productive area.
The point is, you need learn a little more about organization and management. That’s what we are here for. Give us a call to find out how we can help.