Note from the editor: We will be holding several seminars around the country over the next several months giving the full blueprint for maximizing production and profit out of hygiene. Click here for more information and seminar dates, or give us a call at (800) 640-1140 for an individualized practice analysis and free consultation.
What’s the REAL value of a hygiene department?
I think a lot of dentists underestimate the value of hygiene—because they think it’s just the value of what the hygienist produces. $100 for a cleaning, or whatever the rate is, isn’t highly profitable compared to the doctor’s production. This leads some doctors to think it’s not cost effective to build a big hygiene department, and just opt to do the cleanings themselves.
That said, a non-existent or small hygiene department create two problems:
- No scheduler in their right mind is going to try to fill up the doctor’s schedule with hygiene (specifically because of the point I mentioned above—cleanings being low-profit compared to more extensive procedures). This means that the majority of their patient base will be completely ignored, and they won’t be able to routinely maintain the oral health of their patients, spot signs of decay before they become serious issues, or preserve the work they’ve already done.
- When the doctor is doing his/her own hygiene, they often don’t have time to present treatment plans properly. They’re always rushing around “trying to keep up with their appointments,”—most of which are cleanings! So not only are they ignoring much of their patient base and missing out on potential case presentations there, they are also failing to get the cases they are presenting accepted. Freeing up the doctor allows them to take the time to ensure the patients get healthy.
And here’s the most important part:
Let’s say (as a safe average) that 3 out of every 10 patients you see will need some form of major treatment. So, if the office is organized to examine and maintain their existing patients’ health there will be a lot of doctor treatment being generated out of hygiene.
And THAT’S the real value of a hygiene department.
Sure, your office should be organized efficiently so that your hygiene department is profitable (in fact, this should comprise 30% of your total collections). But the biggest value from a productive hygiene department is in unearthing major treatments for the doctor.
Dr. Winteregg wrote a great blog post outlining some of the ins-and-outs of making a hygiene department work, Five Tips for a Profitable Hygiene Dept, and I highly suggest reading it if you want to build a hygiene department or make yours more productive. But now, I want to talk specifically about…
Getting major cases presented and accepted out of hygiene
The first thing to know about this is that patients of record are generally more receptive to and accepting of treatment plans than new patients—which is another reason a productive hygiene department is so valuable. They already know and trust you, and clearly care about their teeth, assuming they keep up with their recall appointments. They’ll be an easier “sell” than new patients. So you shouldn’t have too much of a hard time upping overall office production from hygiene if you put a little focus on.
But there are some additional points to facilitate this:
- The hygienist—and your entire staff, really—has to have the right attitude toward the patient. The entire focus is on making sure every patient gets fully healthy. They can’t be thinking, “Well, next is my 3 o’clock.” They have to be thinking, “Oh, look! Tom is coming back in. We need to make sure he’s taking care of his teeth between appointments and gets any needed work done,” and “Hold on minute, I’d better get the doctor in here to take a look at that tooth. I don’t want to let that slip by!”
When the hygienist (and the entire staff) really takes responsibility for the patient and impresses upon them the importance of accepting their treatment plan and getting good oral health, you’d be amazed at the impact it has on case acceptance.
- The doctor can’t be afraid of presenting treatment or discussing finances with the patient. If patients don’t accept their treatment plans, or only accept a small portion and put the rest on hold, this submarines the whole operation.
And case acceptance, like it or not, comes down to the doctor in the end. It’s tremendously valuable to have the staff on board and contributing to case acceptance, but the doctor is ultimately who the patient trusts and listens to. They need to be able to “close” the patient on the treatment plan and overcome any objections the patient has, financial or otherwise. This is the key to maximizing profitability from hygiene. For help with this, read this blog post from Dr. Winteregg.
The fact is: you’re probably sitting on a gold mine without knowing it
Even if you do have running a consistent hygiene schedule—have you added a full day of hygiene for every year you’ve been in practice? Are you seeing 30% of your collections from hygienists’ production alone? Are you getting the vast majority of the doctor’s production from patients of record? If not, you’re not nearly meeting your office’s potential.
Put a focus on beefing up your hygiene schedule. Make recare a priority and run a reactivation program to get inactive patients back in the chair. And have a little more follow-through on your case presentations, really taking the time to ensure the patient understands their treatment plan and overcomes any objections they might have doing the treatment.
Hygiene CAN be highly profitable (without being a big headache), and we can help you do it! Give us a call for a free practice analysis and consultation at (800) 640-1140.