Improve your practice’s productivity with checklists that will rock your world.
Whether it’s posted on the kitchen fridge at home, on a counter in a surgical room, or on a workstation as part of an aeronautical preparation for takeoff, a checklist is one of the most essential tools that you can use to ensure everything runs smoothly. After all, you’re only human and there’s only so much information you can keep in your brain.
Sometimes, other factors in your day (like the amount of sleep you get or your own personal life events) can be distracting, causing you to miss important steps in routine procedures. This is especially the case when it's about dental practice management.
Checklists are a great way to take the pressure off and help you remember everything you need without putting additional stress on yourself. All sorts of businesses can benefit from checklists and dental offices are no exception.
Dentists, office managers, hygienists, assistants and even dental management consultants can all follow procedures in a specific order to ensure their practices operate in tip-top shape. When everyone is following the same checklist, you can be sure all tasks are done consistently, regardless of who is carrying them out. Consistency translates into a reliable level of service your patients will appreciate and increase productivity for your practice.
What are checklists all about?
If you know about the importance of checklists already, the name Dr. Atul Gawande might ring a bell. As a surgeon and Harvard professor, Dr. Gawande revolutionized the healthcare workplace 10 years ago when he wrote The Checklist Manifesto. Through his research, he noticed that surgeons were accidentally skipping important steps that resulted in patient infections and sometimes even death.
Gawande illustrated how the extensive checklist procedures that pilots and flight crews use could be directly applied to healthcare as prevention against contagion. As a result, post-surgery infection levels and deaths decreased dramatically.
How dental offices use a checklist.
A checklist provides a concise step-by-step framework or script each team member follows to increase efficiency and organization. It also reduces errors and stress, creating a more productive, profitable, and overall successful practice.
A concise checklist allows each team member to successfully complete all tasks without having to rely on their memories alone. Providing a reliable list for each role or procedure performed in a dental office can almost guarantee every step gets completed.
Create your own
Customizing each checklist to suit your practice is essential. You can create a checklist for any procedure in your practice that could be refined for greater productivity, including:
- Scheduling: You can use the data you collect to analyze patient attendance (i.e. late arrivals and no-shows), create a list of patients whose bills are overdue, and to monitor each work station’s productivity against the output goal.
- Infection control: Routine hand-washing, personal protective equipment, tool sterilization, sharps processing, or disposal and disinfecting surfaces are among the important processes to complete in order to prevent patient and employee infection.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, dental practice owners are more aware than ever of the importance of maintaining a spotlessly clean and disinfected dental office. But even the most scrupulous of us can sometimes forget things if we’re preoccupied. Having a checklist of everything that needs to be cleaned and sterilized after use or at the end of the work day could literally save the lives of your patients and staff.
- End-of-day: Includes tasks like cleaning, garbage disposal, and powering off all electronics. Employees initial each task upon completion and submit the completed checklist before leaving the office so you know who is responsible.
What a dental office checklist could look like.
Checklists can apply to all departments and divisions in a dental practice such as front office, accounting, lab, and treatment areas. They can even apply to different time frames (i.e. mornings, afternoons, evenings) and span different periods of time (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly, annually, etc).
The following is an example of a checklist for a new patient which begins as soon as they enter the practice and could potentially be ongoing for years.
- Registering the patient.
- Collecting the patient's medical history.
- Creating the first appointment.
- Reminding the patient of outstanding payments.
- Scheduling follow-up appointments.
- Checking up on the patient after treatment.
- Notifying the patient of any current offers.
- Requesting feedback or a review from the patient.
Checklists are just one example of the many responsibilities of a dental practice owner. Finding qualified, experienced, and reliable dental staff for a reasonable rate is another major concern for most owners.
Just as checklists provide owners with a means of maintaining a consistent dental practice, Cloud Dentistry gives owners a reliable way to hire excellent dental staff on-demand. Sign up today for free and start browsing thousands of profiles created by dental professionals looking for work. With modern cloud-based technology, it’s easier than ever to hire the dental hygienist, dental assistant, or front office staff member you need at a moment’s notice.
Some tips and suggestions
The idea of having multiple checklists can be overwhelming. To help the worthwhile task less daunting, we recommend doing the following:
- Keep it short and sweet: Too many details can lead to confusion. As long as your employees are properly trained in each procedure, you should be able to list each task using 2-5 words, such as “Administering anaesthesia” or “Check stock and inventory supplies.”
- Make it a team effort: Round up your staff and make the checklists together. Your staff will likely understand how to make their roles and environment more effective than you do. Review completed lists with them so they know expectations ahead of time.
- Go automated: You can find checklist templates online or you can create and manage your own manually. If either of these ideas aren’t a good fit for you, there’s software to help you out. For example, programs can be set up to automatically send out text or email reminders to patients to ease the workload of your front office staff.
Checklists are only effective if you use them. Create a sign-off procedure that everyone (including you) in your practice must follow. Using a checklist helps people slow down and be more mindful in their actions, helping prevent mistakes.
Submitting, gathering, and monitoring checklist data will help you analyze your practice’s efficiency and secure accountability in the off chance that a patient experiences infection.
While this may sound like a daunting responsibility, there are software options that can do the work for you, making you available to focus on your practice.