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Understanding the Assisted Hygiene Business Model (Part I)

My how times change quickly in dentistry! I believe with technology and new products we have grow 100 years in the past 10.

Years ago the dental hygiene department was thought of as a loss leader. When looking at the business of dentistry in the 21st century we realize there are numerous profit centers inside the dental business. When looking at the dental hygiene department there are numerous areas in this department that bring profits to the dental business.

Four-handed dentistry has been popular for dentists and by utilizing this assisted model it is only one avenue to bring increased productivity and added revenue to the hygiene department as well. This is not to be misunderstood as accelerated hygiene but as a way to provide added value to the dental hygiene department, optimal care to the patients and in addition bring increased revenue to the dental practice.

There are many factors which play a big role in the success of this dental hygiene model for business success. This is part I of 3 articles to discuss what you need to explore to understand if this business model is correct for your dental practice.

Defining these Two Words

What do the two words assist and hygiene mean? Assist means to give support or aid. What does the word hygiene mean? According to Merriam Webster this word means the science or establishment of health.

It is important to look at the meaning of these two words. This is where we begin developing a true foundation for a successful assisted hygiene model. Specifically these two words when put together mean giving support to establish health.

The challenge to a successful assisted hygiene business model is to develop a course of action where the hygiene team can continually strive as a team to provide optimal health and preventive patient-centered care with consistency and effectiveness.

Sharing the Vision

Definition of Vision: “The Fundamental Source of Power.”

As owner of a dental practice you are considered the main leader in the success of the business. Your vision implies an understanding of the past and present. More important, it offers a road map to the future and suggests guidelines to those in a given enterprise— (The business of providing health. The business of dentistry.) how people are to act and interact to attain what they regard as desirable. As a leader your vision may be intuitive or highly structured. It is the bedrock for success in meeting the twin tests of competition and selection of what your business model(s) will look like.

Before deciding to implement an assisted hygiene model in your dental business it is important to ask yourself a few questions “Is this where I want to be?” “Do I want to expand my practice?” “Do I wish to have more employees?” “Are we ready to grow?” “Do we have the correct players on our team to move forward with this business model?”

These are some of the initial questions you need to answer. If you are not set up physically, mentally or financially this may not work. Once the primary leader or business owner feels comfortable with this business model they need to share this with the team and then the patients. If everyone on the team is not on board this new business model will not work. Once the team is on board you can share your new business model for assisted hygiene with the patients and all who enter through the door of your office.

Code of Ethics

These are the driving principles, of your business. An example of this can be seen with the code of ethics the Ritz Carlton shares with all who enter through the doors of a Ritz Carlton Hotel. (Did you know the employees keep a card of these on them at all times while on the job?) The leaders at the Ritz Carlton are responsible for stewarding an icon in the luxury market, through a constant quest for excellence, to continue its success in a changing global economy and with changing customer needs.

You can also think of your code of ethics similar to the Ten Commandments for your dental business. You may ask why have a code of ethics? Below is a list of important reasons why you need to have this, share it with everyone on the team and everyone who walks through the door of your dental office.

Why you need a code of ethics

  • Sets up expected behaviors (for the team and what the patients can expect)
  • Promotes high standards of practice for the dental office
  • Provides a benchmark
  • Establishes a framework for professional behavior and responsibilities
  • Gives a specific Identity to the practice – what they can be known for
  • Shows development of a systematic approach and maturity of the business

When people know why you are in the business of dentistry they are more likely to remain a life-long patient and most likely be a disciple of what you represent referring all their friends and family members.
When changes occur in the practice, for example changing to an assisted hygiene model, patients are more likely to weather the change because these are the people who understand you are all about their best well-being. They know you care by everything you do and say: written and verbal.

Critical Components

A systematic approach is the key to making this and any transition a seamless process.

Define what assessments are to be completed during the hygiene appointment and which auxiliary(ies) can perform these assessments. The hygiene team in particular needs to meet and write down what screenings will be completed and at what intervals. An example may be: “At each preventive appointment patients will receive the medical history review and an oral cancer screening. The patient will also receive a caries risk assessment form and this will be reviewed by an auxiliary. The auxiliary will ask about xerostomia (dry mouth) and give oral hygiene instructions (or a review of) before the patient leaves the operatory.”

“Annually each patient seen for preventive treatments will receive a full mouth periodontal screening exam, a blood pressure screening and smile analysis.” This is just an example so you may want to meet and decide what is in the best interest of the patients and your practice model.

Once you meet with the team and create this model you will nurture and create an atmosphere of optimal preventive patient-centered care.

It is very important that you develop a customized and written protocol so each member of the assisted hygiene team and even future members of the assisted hygiene team can acknowledge, accept their role and responsibility within this new business model. The written protocol will include the daily goal(s) for production and may even include how many referrals you ask for from current patients. The written protocol will include challenges and how they will be handled, when to implement new technologies, budgets for new equipment and treatment adjuncts to continue improving the quality of patient care.

Cross-training the hygiene department and having the operatories set up the same in a systematic manner will promote a system of effectiveness. The hygienist and assistant must acknowledge the benefit of sharing duties which overlap their scopes of practice and contribute to the success of the assisted hygiene program.

Scheduling is very important and the various patient treatments (procedures) need to be categorized into low, medium or high production. Having specific blocks of time pre-scheduled in the appointment book will also help keep the assisted hygiene program on track for not only a preventive patient centered practice of optimal care but will help the team meet production goals.

Determine your expectations and each person’s perceptions. Be open to listening to your patients’ perceptions about this change. This awareness will help you and the team to proceed with clarity for success and to progress towards peak performance with a patient centered preventive program.

Journey through Peaks & Valleys

These are just a few guidelines to begin your journey for patient centered hygiene care. Possibly you already use the assisted hygiene business model. There will always be peaks and valleys in anything we do in life.

Even if you have already implemented this program of assisted hygiene you may consider the expertise of a hygiene coach or consultant as they are the experts who will provide the team with powerful solutions to bring the valleys up to peak performance.
When you become clear about your values and understand everyone’s perception not only will you exceed your expectations but those of your patients.

Happy Patient = Continued Success!

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for part II of Debra Bittke’s series on The Assisted Hygiene Business Model…

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