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The Hygiene Revenue Toolkit
Change your philosophy about the role of the hygienist
Dental hygiene plays a critical role in the dental practice, from both a clinical and business standpoint. The hygiene department has tremendous potential to increase practice production and revenue in a number of ways. Many practices are limited by an old-school attitude, thinking that hygienists simply see one patient an hour for basic hygiene services. For the hygiene department to reach its full potential, innovative thinking—designed to increase production for both hygienists and the practice, retain patients, and attract more new patients—needs to be part of the dental hygiene mentality.
An enormous opportunity to increase dental hygiene revenue exists by re-imagining the role of the hygienist. Methodologies can be put in place that maximize both hygiene department production and doctor production. New hygiene approaches that make this possible can serve to increase practice revenue almost immediately. Implementation of the following tools in the hygiene toolkit will maximize practice production potential.
1. The Hygiene Revenue Model
Begin by calculating the percentage of revenue contributed by the hygiene department. Ideally, 25% of revenue should be coming from hygiene and 75% from doctor production. If your practice isn’t maintaining this 25:75 ratio, find out why. In most cases, it’s due to not implementing systems that spur growth of hygiene revenue.
2. Keeping Patients Scheduled for Hygiene
The recall target for dental hygiene should be 98%. Very few practices achieve this number because of an ineffectual patient recall appointment system. The demand for dental services and the number of new patients entering dental practices is lower than in the past. When a practice lacks a strong flow of new patients to compensate for lost patients, the hygiene program and revenue usually suffer. Having a hygiene no-show and last-minute cancellation rate of less than 2% requires a team effort. The front desk and scheduling staff need to:
• pre-schedule every patient for his or her next hygiene appointment
• use an effective confirmation process that involves contacting patients via email and text messaging
• using positive customer-service techniques, “train” patients that missing appointments is not acceptable
• follow-up immediately with any patients who are overdue for visits, using a multiweek process
To reduce hygiene no-show rates, a practice must promote the true value of dental hygiene visits. Hygienists must continually remind patients about the importance of hygiene, emphasizing that regular appointments help them keep their teeth for a lifetime and maintain optimal oral health. Additionally, hygienists should educate patients about the link between oral health and systemic health and its effect on quality of life. With regular preventive care, they can avoid any issues.
3. Name Changes
The nomenclature used for dental hygiene appointments, and what goes on during these visits, does not connote value. Common terms are “cleaning,” “recall,” “recare,” and “prophylaxis” or “prophy.” An old advertising adage says: if you want something to be taken seriously, name it properly. The names typically used in dental hygiene fail to create sufficient value for the services provided. Cleaning has very little value in the mind of the patient, and recall seems to refer more to malfunctioning automobiles than a step toward excellent oral health.
The point is to utilize names that present value and educate patients. For example, “hygiene maintenance” and “oral cancer exam” offer a realistic and quite serious tone. Hygienists should also teach patients about the threat posed by oral cancer and that regular screening saves lives.
4. Education and Motivation
Dental hygienists usually have pleasant personalities and positive relationships with patients, which potentially make them excellent educators—not only about proper home care and the value of hygiene services but also about dental treatment options that may benefit patients, now or at a future date. Transitioning from educating to motivating patients, the hygienist, though not legally allowed to diagnose or prescribe treatment, can begin making a case that the dentist can then close.
Certainly, there are other ways to increase hygiene revenue—such as offering oral healthcare products—but the above tools represent an excellent starter kit for generating more hygiene revenue. Because hygiene revenue is the only other major income source besides doctor production for most dental practices at this time, finding ways to increase it should be thoroughly considered. Properly implemented and then monitored regularly, the components of the toolkit discussed above will have a positive impact on practice success.
About the Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Levin Group, Inc. with expertise in practice management and marketing