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Five Great Ideas to Increase Production and Decrease Expenses In Sterilization

Posted On: Tuesday, December 4th 2012 by

(Mark Tholen, DDS, MBA is our guest blogger today at Sidekick Magazine)

Our thoughts do not naturally turn to the sterilization area when we consider methods of increasing production in the office. But production many times is a euphemism for profitability, and there many opportunities to improve practice profits in the average sterilization area…five, to be exact, in this article.

But let’s start with the big picture.

Labor is the largest single expense in the practice’s annual operating budget; usually, it consumes approximately 25% of the practice’s annual budget. And the sterilization area is the most labor intensive area of the office as the average dental assistant enters this area over 80 times each day! Many (total) dental assistant hours are spent each day processing instrumentation in sterilization and this represents significant expense.

If you want to save money and increase profitability, focus on decreasing labor costs.

Labor is decreased when low or high technology is used to save labor. The average practice’s capital equipment depreciation expense represents approximately 5% of the practice’s annual budget, so it makes sense to use technology to decrease the much larger labor expense representing 25% of the annual budget. In other words, if I am attempting to contain costs, does it make sense to focus on decreasing the expense consuming 5% of the budget or the expense consuming 25% of the budget?

Unfortunately, many practices focus on reducing the 5% number.

Attempting to save money, many practices avoid sterilization equipment purchases, which will pay for themselves within a year in labor savings, with the mistaken idea that funds are being saved. The money is spent on labor instead of equipment, month after month, year after year.


IDEA #1: Stop handling individual instruments

From the moment the procedure ends in the operatory, significant labor savings can be achieved by minimizing the repetitive handling of instruments as they are processed through sterilization. So how is this done?



IDEA #2: Stop hand washing and drying instruments

How do you combine all of these tasks to reduce labor cost?

An instrument washer.

A dedicated instrument washer specifically designed to debride, wash, rinse, and dry instruments is the single greatest labor saving device in the office.


IDEA #3: All upper cabinets in sterilization cabinetry should have translucent(smoked) glass doors

The patients will see only an orderly sterilization center and the assistants will be able to view the cabinet contents.


IDEA #4: The sterilization area sink needs two faucets/ water sources
IDEA #5: Sterilization area entrance should not be more than 30 feet from the most distant operatory

Again, the average dental assistant will enter sterilization over 80 times daily, so the sterilization area should be centrally located in relation to the operatories.

About the Author

Dr. Mark Tholen is the past CEO of T.H.E. Design, Inc. and the author of A Guide to Designing the Elegant Dental or Medical Office…The Largest Marketing Tool of Your Career available at Amazon.com.

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