Posted by: The Probe 4th September 2020
Increasing efficiency is essential to improving practice performance and remaining competitive in the long-term. It’s such a key principle that the term gets thrown around a lot and can end up sounding like a buzzword. The truth is that there is no single silver bullet that will increase efficiency, but it can be improved by just making a few small changes.
The last thing that most marketers would want you to hear, is that sometimes it’s more efficient to stick with what you already have. For example, updating I.T. within a business will often lead to a short-term loss of productivity. It takes time to install new solutions, old software and accessories may be rendered obsolete, aging systems may run slower under the demands of newer software, and it can take time and training for staff to get fully up to speed again. This can lead to institutional inertia and a reluctance to keep up-to-date on a more piecemeal schedule. You therefore have to find a balance.
Technologies and systems that offer genuine improvements in workflow absolutely exist, but it’s important to determine the real net benefit to your practice. Those that seize opportunities with brand new products and technologies – the early adopters – are often praised for driving an industry forward. Especially in dentistry, where new innovations are being introduced at a rapid pace, these individuals and businesses are integral to early testing, research and feedback. When they get it right, this approach can keep these early adopters at the very forefront of the profession. Conversely, where major adjustments are needed in technology of workflows – as already discussed – this can hamper progress.
There is no hard and fast rule to work out what the best move is. Making the right call on when to adopt a new approach or technology is ultimately a matter of judgement and will depend on the individual and their business. However, you can stack the odds a little more in your favour by taking a few simple precautions.
First of all, you need to spend time determining where your practice is at its most and least efficient. Knowing where things are going well is just as important as recognising where there is room for improvement, otherwise you risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater when you implement a change. Generally, you will want to strive towards fixing the biggest time and money-sinks first, but if you see relatively quick and easy fixes along the way, these can be worth patching as you go. It might be something as simple as streamlining the number of composite materials you use across the practice. Every little really does help.
Supply and demand
Many businesses, including dental practices, now rely on just-in-time (JIT) supply chains, which often work brilliantly but are vulnerable to disruptions. The key benefit of JIT is that it minimises the quantity of supplies/goods/materials that are held, which reduces costs from unnecessary purchases, wastage and storage. JIT largely eliminates guesswork from procurement. For example, before JIT principles were widely adopted, practices would have to estimate in advance how much anaesthetic they would require before restocking. If a practice over-estimated their needed supplies, they could end up with a surplus of anaesthetic that reached its expiry before it was ever used, wasting money and storage space. However, if they underestimated, they could run low or even out before the next batch arrived – resulting in delays to patient treatment, rescheduling and a loss of productivity. Faced with this choice, prudent practices often opt for the latter option. When treatment is time-sensitive, it’s better to have something and not need it, than need it and not have it.
JIT is just one piece of the puzzle in improving practice efficiency. Simplifying procurement and inventory management is a great way for practices to make major gains in efficiency. Reducing the number of products you use, without losing effective treatment options can be a challenge. Finding options that are effective across a range of clinic needs is really helpful.
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Efficiency matters, but it’s crucial that it does not compromise quality. By using a trusted product supplier and implementing a few small changes, you can easily enhance the efficiency of your business while continuing to provide the highest standard of patient care.
Author: Steve Brown Director of Sales and Marketing J&S Davis Ltd
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