Utilizing Lean Principles in Dentistry – Part 2

Dr Hendrik Lai

Implementing Lean Methodology in Your Dental Practice Ensuring customers receive efficient and quality dental care should be your number one priority and lean can help ensure you're practice stays focused on what's important without wasting too much time, energy, or resources. However, implementing lean will often require some process adjustments, mindset changes, and physical office alterations. To make the transition easier, here are a few tips:

  • Lean is continuous; change won't all happen at once. Your office can start with low- hanging fruit or prioritize areas in which your staff feel the most stress, but once you find a rhythm with improving your operations, it will continue to be refined again and again.
  • Bring your people along on the journey. Involving your staff members is critical because you never want your team to feel as if they don't have a voice in what their work is going to look like. By involving them in the process changes and assessing current state pain points, you're much more likely to have a healthy adoption of these changes from all parties involved.
  • It's a time investment. At first, you may face some resistance internally or feel frustration bubble up as people adapt to the changes but try to give them some time to take effect. Lean will end up saving time in the long run if practiced correctly.
  • Communicate that process optimization does not mean loss of jobs. Employees can often conflate the two, so it's critical that you communicate your intentions with your teams. If they feel safe, secure, and part of the process, lean is more likely to be successful.

Practical Examples of Lean in Dentistry

There are many places lean can take hold in your practice and have an impact, but to help you contextualize how broad the range is, consider these potential lean applications in dentistry.
  • Adjust the organization of your treatment rooms. Perhaps there are some obstacles that get in the way every time your hygienists clean a patient's teeth or equipment that isn't ideal and needs updating.
  • Take a look at your office management and scheduling tool. Equipping your receptionist with the right support to manage appointments and clients efficiently can make a massive difference in how your entire office runs.
  • Comb through your no-show list and assess if there is anything you can do to mitigate those. Are you sending reminder texts? Can you schedule families at the same time so it's easier to get them in at once? Small adjustments like this one can be very powerful.
  • Find out when and why issues with insurance claims are popping up. If there's something being input incorrectly from your side or information that can be automatically taken from your system, claims will be less prone to human errors and, in turn, delays.
It's up to you how to best make lean work for what your office, patients, and employees need. Lean thinking can equip your practice with the right tools and way of solving problems that will reap benefits for years to come. Get started now!

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