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A System is only worth the Paper it’s written on…

Posted On: Tuesday, November 27th 2012 by

(Matthew Krieger, DMD, is our guest blogger today at Sidekick Magazine)

Perspectives from a Dental Practice Management Coach

As the CEO of Million Dollar PPO Coaching, and an expert on practice management, systems are something that I am very familiar with. When we are retained to analyze a practice we evaluate several different factors that affect its efficiency. One of them is the quality, and efficacy of the systems that are in place.

Systems are critical in maximizing the operational efficiency of a dental practice. They allow for optimal flow, and increased profitability. A well designed set of systems create an efficient practice, both from a clinical and management standpoint.

Often times when we ask dentists and their staff if they have systems in place, they will answer in the affirmative. “Of course we do,” they declare, but after a bit of probing, we realize that what they really have are a loose set of understood guidelines that the practice uses often, but not always. In order to best be able to evaluate an office’s systems, one must first know how a system is defined, what its purpose is, and how it is created. A system can be defined as a group or combination of parts that together from a more complex whole. For the purpose of this discussion regarding practice management, a system is defined as a set of steps that together allow for the completion of a pre-defined task or outcome.

The following must be true for a system in order for it to be effective:

  • It must be well designed and clearly defined with a specific outcome in mind.
  • It must be easy to use, and easy to teach.
  • It must be adaptable. Systems need to change with changing times.
  • It must be supported by office policies that best support the vision and values of a practice.
  • It must be adopted unanimously, and used regularly, without exception!

It is the last factor that is most often missing when we review the existing systems in the dental practices that we work with, and often times the most important. You have to write down the steps that you use for every system in your practice in order for the system to be effective. How can it be assessed, evaluated, monitored and changed if the original system was never put to writing. Systems are often created out of necessity, by our team members who most often use them, and are tested and implemented on the go. They are rarely preconceived, and almost never maintained in their original form. They exist in the minds of our staff, hygienist or doctor, and rarely fall on paper. Imagine, if you will the men who invented baseball. I’m sure that the game was created in some form without any written rules. Each time that they got together to play, the game changed and evolved until it become the baseball that we know today. While most of us still learn the game on the playground without ever seeing a rule in writing, there are very clear, well defined rules to the game that we refer to when we play the game. Your systems manual is the rules to your game, and in order to be a winning team, you have to have a well written rule book.

Elect one of your team members to be in charge of your new systems manual. Have a team meeting, and list, as a group all of the systems that you have, or should have. Assign each of those systems to the team member who is most experienced with the system. For example, your hygienist may be put in charge of defining your recare system. Set a date for each of the systems to be completed by. Have a follow up meeting at that time to review and discuss each of them. Use the following criteria to evaluate, and as a group, revise each of them.

Is it effective? Is it clear, and easy to use?
Has everyone adopted it? Is it being used?
Do we have policies in place to support this system?
Is all of our team aware of the system, and have they been trained how to use it?
Does the system help us to achieve our goals, and ultimately our vision?

Once you and your team are comfortable with each of the systems, create a binder to house them. Provide each of your team of copy of the written set of systems. Refer to them often in team meetings, and regularly review and adjust these systems as your office changes.

After all, your systems are only as good as the paper that they were written on!

Dr. Krieger is the founder and CEO of Million Dollar PPO Coaching and Consulting, a dental practice management company. He lectures nationally on practice management, systems integration and practice efficiency. He is a full-time practicing dentist in Franklin Lakes, NJ, as well as a dental practice coach. Follow his blog on, or at

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