Who Waits on Whom?

April 1, 2018

What is the optimum way to keep your clinic running efficiently and on time?

Most orthodontists and consultants would answer that the clinic and schedule need to be set up in a way to keep the most important piece of the puzzle, the doctor, productively working at all times. We even have a self-important name for this concept: “Doctor-Time Scheduling.” We set up our systems so that the doctor never has to wait and to a certain extent it makes sense to have everything revolve around the person who has non-delegable skills or knowledge.

My experience has been somewhat different. What I find in practice is that as the doctor, I am more often the problem rather than the solution when it comes to running on time. In other words, while I never have to wait, I am constantly making other people wait. When my team has to wait, my patients have to wait and the whole office starts to run behind. Nothing is worse than having all of the chairs in your clinic full of patients and assistants idling in anticipation of the orthodontist’s arrival.

To combat this problem, I have shifted my focus. I now believe that the optimum way to keep your clinic running efficiently and on time is for the orthodontist to ensure that the TEAM is working productively at all times. This requires me to be more engaged with the flow of the office and look for ways to help keep things moving.

Perhaps I can check a patient before the wires are removed if I know I am about to go into a new patient exam. Maybe I need to do some “non-doctor” jobs like help turn over a chair or set up for a same day start. Instead of retreating to my office to work on paperwork or call a referring dentist, I can stay on the floor to see what needs to be done next and where I can help. I try to view myself in a supporting role, looking for ways to help my team and facilitate the smooth operation of our clinic.

To be sure, patient flow is a complicated issue and there are other factors to consider that can’t be addressed here. You can revisit your procure codes and scheduling grids or hire a clinical coordinator. However, if you want immediate improvement – start with changing your mindset! Infuse a little humility into your attitude and realize that when you focus on keeping your team working productively at all times instead of making them wait for you, your practice will instantaneously start running more smoothly!

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