Why the Most Profitable DSO's Have Stellar Hygiene Programs
While there are many factors that contribute to profitability, having a stellar hygiene program is one of the most significant. The most profitable DSOs recognize the value of a robust hygiene program and invest heavily in it. These DSOs utilize a mix of strategy and technology to get patients in for their cleanings, identify and treat patients with periodontal disease, and offer options for better preventative care.
Understanding how you can get the most out of your hygiene department can mean a big difference for your bottom line. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Understand the significance of hygiene production
After the dentist, the hygiene department is the second-largest profit center in the dental practice. On average, daily hygiene production should be about 30% of overall office production.
Successful hygiene programs recognize the need to provide more comprehensive preventative care than just the standard prophy or bite-wings. Hygienists that see eight to 10 patients per day and only provide these services generally have average production of $85-95 per hour. When hygiene programs add in comprehensive services (such as panoramic x-rays, fluoride, oral cancer screenings and adjunctive therapies), production can rise to $180-200 per hour.
These benefits will also go beyond the hourly hygiene rates. Hygienists spend much more time with patients than the dentist does, and generally see their patients multiple times a year (often more times than patients see their primary care physicians). This gives hygienists a unique opportunity to develop relationships with patients and build trust.
Patients that trust their dental professional are more likely to remain loyal to the practice—plus, happy patients are often great sources for referrals. Additionally, trust in the hygienist’s recommendations will lead to higher treatment acceptance for recommended protocols and higher return rates to the dental chair.
Preventative care reduces out-of-pocket costs
Getting patients back into the chair regularly is critical to good preventative care. Dental hygiene is one of the last preventative health options in healthcare, as most doctors only see patients once they are already sick. In contrast, preventative care can help prevent disease, reducing the risk of severe periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an issue that is obviously negative to a patient’s oral health, but it also can incur major out-of-pocket costs—costs that could be deterring patients from coming to the dentist in the first place. In fact, nearly 50 percent of patients who don’t visit the dentist on an annual basis have cited cost, fear of cost or not having dental coverage as their reason for not going. And patients do have a reason to balk at costs: While rates vary by procedure, on average periodontal treatment will cost a patient $1,700 to $1,800. In comparison, the average cost of a cleaning is around $125.
Making hygiene appointments (and preventative care options) more accessible to patients can help prevent many of the expensive procedures that poor oral hygiene can cause. Dental membership plans are a great way to offset the cost of hygiene care (thus helping patients avoid problems and the associated bills down the road). For example, with Kleer, patients have the option to elect their own plan, which typically includes cleanings, exams, oral screenings, X-rays and emergency exams. Fluoride treatments can also be included for children. The accessibility makes patients more comfortable in seeking care, so when problems do arise, they have a trusted professional they can turn to.
Leverage technology to improve Hygiene reappointments and improve case acceptance
When your patients trust your hygienist, they will want to pursue preventative care and the hygienist’s treatment recommendations, and remain committed to coming back to do so… unless they forget. Handing out appointment cards or asking patients to stop at the front desk to schedule another appointment often results in the patient not following through, despite their best intentions.
Instead of putting the responsibility on the patient, practices can utilize technology to simplify appointment scheduling. Chairside scheduling programs allow the hygienist to schedule the follow-up appointment right from the chair.
Additionally, many practices are using software that sends automated reminder texts or emails to refresh patients’ memories about appointments. This had the added bonus of freeing up staff to focus on patient care instead of spending time manually issuing appointment reminders. This automated technology is simple for the practice, while also demonstrating to the patient that the practice is modern and up-to-date on technology.
Perfect treatment presentations
Successful hygiene departments have a unified front. These departments have a shared vision of what the ideal hygiene care should look like. This includes a clear understanding of the purpose and role of the department (and the team member’s specific role), what they hope to accomplish for the patients, and the department’s protocols. Everyone should be on the same page about what treatments are available, and what payment options can help make costs affordable.
Consistent messaging is particularly important if patients are visiting larger practices where they may see different hygienists. The entire team should be able to deliver the same education and recommendations, and work under the same preventative philosophy. Teams that work in concert like this are able to give treatment presentations that reinforce the importance of the treatment and educate the patient consistently. As mentioned before, this requires all of the staff to be up to date on protocols and disease management, and stay abreast of any changes in treatment options in the practice.
Improve practice profitability and results
A stellar hygiene program benefits not only the patient, but also the practice. Developing a strong hygiene program (and even stronger patient relationships) can make dental care more accessible—and accepted—by patients.
To learn more about how Kleer's membership platform can support the advancement of your hygiene program and provide an improved patient experience, request a consultation today.
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