Last updated on November 4th, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Sabri Blumberg Dental Consultant - Hygiene Profitability: How to Make Your Hygiene Department Profitable - The MGE BlogNormally, I answer multiple questions in my posts, but after looking at a recent question I received regarding hygiene profitability, I realized that it was worthy of an article all to itself. So, here you go!

Q: How can I make my hygiene department more profitable?

Many dentists think that between hygiene fee structures and hygienist salaries, the hygiene department is, at best, a “wash”—i.e. you might break even but don’t really make any money on it. That’s actually NOT the case. In fact, a general dentist should be making at least 30% of their total revenue from the hygiene department, with a good portion of that being profit.

As a side note, we (MGE) deliver a free one-day seminar on this subject, The Profitable Hygiene Seminar, around the country on a regular basis. To see if this seminar or any of our other free CE seminars are coming to a town near you, go to our Free Seminar Schedule Webpage.

When it comes to increasing profitability in your hygiene department, there are a few factors at play:

Hygiene Profitability: How to Make Your Hygiene Department Profitable - The MGE Blog1. Hygiene Compliance

The first thing to do is make sure that all (or at least a high percentage) of patients of record are actually compliant with their hygiene schedule. To find out where you stand, you can do a simple “hygiene formula” calculation.

Using this formula, you can determine your compliance percentage in hygiene – which obviously, we’d want to be in the 75% or higher range.

Here’s how it works:

a. Take your total number of charts.
a. _______________

b. Multiply “a” by 2. This is the number of potential yearly recalls.
b. _______________

(This is based on a patient needing at least two hygiene visits per year – obviously some need more…but we keep it at two to make things simple)

c. Subtract 20% from “b” above. Put “b” minus 20% here.
c. _______________

 (This is to take into account attrition through patients moving, leaving, etc.)

d. Divide “c” by number of weeks worked per year.
d. ______________

(There are 52 weeks in a year. Most doctors work 50 or less. Take a look at how much time off you take and work out how many weeks you work. This is how many recall visits you would expect each week.)

e. Divide number of ACTUAL recalls per week by  “d” for recall compliance percentage.
%______________

Hygiene Profitability: How to Make Your Hygiene Department Profitable - The MGE BlogEXAMPLE:

Dr. Smith has 3000 charts. She has one and half hygienists seeing 40 recalls a week. The rest of the time, they are seeing new patients and doing scaling/root planing.

Here’s how it shakes out for her office:

a. Take your total number of charts.
a. 3,000

b. Multiply “a” by 2. This is the number of potential yearly recalls.
b. 6,000

c. Subtract 20% from “b” above. Put “b” minus 20% here.
c. 4,800

d. Divide “c” by number of weeks worked per year.
d. 48 weeks – or 100 a week.

e. Divide number of ACTUAL recalls per week by “d” for recall compliance percentage.
Office is seeing 40 vists, divided by 100 = 40%
e. 40%

In the example above, Dr. Smith is running at 40% – which is pretty poor. If you find yourself in this boat, you need to do three things:

  • Make hygiene a higher priority with your staff and your patients, and stress the importance of it to them on a regular basis.
  • Put more effort into reaching out to your active patient base (via phone, letter and email) to get them scheduled and confirmed for their recall appointments.
  • Lastly, you’ll most likely need to run a “Reactivation Program” to get all the patients who’ve slipped through the cracks over the years back into the practice. You should be doing this on a continuing basis, week in and week out, to keep your patient base active and compliant with their hygiene schedules. Jeff Blumberg covers this more thoroughly in his article, Reactivating Your Patient Base. At MGE, we have a step-by-step Reactivation Program, which shows you exactly what to do to get your old patients active again. Email me at sabrib@mgeonline.com or call us at (800) 640-1140 and ask for a copy.

2. Utilizing Your Hygienists’ Abilities to the Fullest Extent

Hygiene Profitability: How to Make Your Hygiene Department Profitable - The MGE BlogThe next thing to take a look at is: is your hygienist actually using all of his or her skills?

Take a look at what procedures the hygienist is allowed to do in your state. For example, a hygienist may be allowed to do sealants, scaling and root planing, cleanings, etc. Look at what services they are actually capable of doing, legally allowed to do and whether or not they are actually doing those procedures in your practice.

If they’re not and they are only doing cleanings, they’re taking very limited care of your patients, and that could be holding your production down. If you have reservations about allowing them to do this work on your patients, then get them trained up to the point where you are confident in their skills or hire a hygienist that you can be confident in—and either way, run some quality control initially.

3. Insurance

The third thing that could be suppressing your hygiene production is the type of insurances you take. Certain insurances (HMO’s, for example) normally pay nothing for a hygiene visit. So if you accept HMOs you cannot expect to make any profit out of hygiene. If you want to get out of those insurance make your practice more fee-for-service, give us a call and we can give you advice on how to make that transition smoothly—so you can become more profitable without killing your production when you drop these plans.

Summary

Those are the most common issues that cause profitability issues in hygiene. There are, of course, more issues that can come up, and I can’t tell you exactly what you’re issue is without speaking with you and getting some information about your practice. So if you really want to solve this problem, give us a call here at MGE and ask to speak with a consultant.

I hope this helps!

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