by Katie Poulsen, MPC, RDH
As a dental hygienist, what are your most essential tools—the physical or digital essentials you can’t live without? Maybe an ultrasonic scaler or your favorite pair of loupes? Perhaps a petite syringe for those with small hands who need to effectively aspirate a patient, and of course, a good headlight to see inside of someone’s mouth, right? And don’t forget a robust perio charting system to track a patient’s status.
Every hygienist could easily list the essential tools they can’t live without, the go-to resources they turn to daily to provide needed care for their patients.
So, did metrics make it on your list? For example, important measurements such as hygiene reappointment, perio acceptance, and hygiene preappointment rates, and many more. To be clear, if you don’t think of metrics or practice analytics as tools, that’s OK. The point is to encourage you to see measuring your performance as a powerful way to impact your patients’ health and to understand how vital your growth is to the overall success of the practice.
A hygienist often has more impact on whether a patient accepts treatment than a dentist does. This is due to several factors, but if true, it reaffirms how critical the hygiene department is to patient health and practice growth.
In a recent article on DentistryIQ, Connie Traynor, RDH, shared a few of the many reasons why hygienists should make knowing and understanding their numbers a top priority:
“The truth is that having an awareness of your office metrics and providing quality patient care are more connected than you may think. Being aware of your metrics
- allows you to engage and contribute to team culture and goal-setting;
- decreases differences between services recommended and provided;
- helps identify areas that need focus (along with areas of success and celebration);
- positions you with the ability to have a positive impact on comprehensive patient care and shows you the change in your service mix; and
- provides talking points for future compensation discussions.”
A hygienist should be involved in every aspect of a dental practice and should be regularly measuring performance and impact on patient health and overall practice growth.
Data helps hygienists to see and understand all the important things they should know as a treatment provider. It also helps them see the impact they are having on the overall practice and highlights ways to increase that impact. Now hygienists can easily view things like case acceptance, team treatment acceptance, hygiene preappointment and reappointment percentages, and so much more.
Here are a few of the many KPIs that data analytics helps hygienists track to provide more and better care to their patients:
- Hygiene preappointment:This is the percentage of active hygiene patients (patients seen within the last 18 months for hygiene) that currently have a scheduled hygiene appointment.
- Hygiene reappointment:The percentage of hygiene visits that on the same day of the hygiene visit have scheduled a subsequent hygiene appointment before leaving the dental office.
- New patient hygiene reappointment:The percentage of the provider's new hygiene patients that have scheduled a future hygiene appointment.
- Perio visit:This percentage divides the total number of patients that were seen for perio into the total number of hygiene patients seen in the period. To be counted as a patient seen for perio, one or more perio procedure codes need to have been completed on the day of the patient’s appointment.
- Hygiene visits per hour:This is calculated by taking the provider's total visits (not patients seen) and dividing by the actual clinical hours.
KPIs are simply a new and powerful way to better understand yourself as a provider. They enable you to see where you are and discover ways to provide even better care. In a very real sense, they provide an x-ray of how you and the practice are doing—to see things you might not otherwise be able to see so you can do things you otherwise couldn’t do.
Here’s a personal example. I had a patient recently who had been previously presented with implants several visits ago. This was my first appointment with this patient. Practice analytics revealed that he hadn’t accepted this treatment and prompted me to ask whether he wanted to proceed or remove it from his treatment plan. Frankly, I assumed he would tell me to remove it, but I took the time to discuss his overall health and how an implant would help him.
To my surprise and delight, he said, “Let’s do it!” Data allowed me to see what unscheduled treatment needed to be done easily. I didn’t have to go through his extensive chart or sift through outdated treatment plans. If left to check my practice management software, I probably wouldn’t have seen it, and it’s unlikely the patient would have brought it up.
Another way that data has improved clinical care relates to the team treatment acceptance rate. This is a great way to see how effective clinical teams are in presenting and getting acceptance for treatment. Imagine if Dr. Jones and Sarah, one of three hygienists in the practice, have a higher treatment team acceptance percentage than Dr. Jones and Matthew, another hygienist. This data provides a great entry point for conversations about what treatment teams are doing and why they see higher or lower acceptance rates. This is the power of data.
Understanding where you are and what is happening creates growth opportunities and is only possible when a hygienist has can access relevant data. To improve the health of your patients while accurately measuring your impact on the overall growth of the practice, adding data to your list of essentials tools is a smart step to take.
Katie Poulsen, MPC, RDH, is a subject matter expert at Dental Intelligence.