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The value of understanding and using metrics for dental hygienists—part 2

March 18, 2021
Delivery of comprehensive patient care is dependent upon metrics. But the benefits go beyond patient care and help the dental hygienist as well.

As I shared in part 1, there is value for dental hygienists in understanding office metrics. It can assist you with identifying your mix of services and guide you into creating new, attainable goals. Metrics also help you compare the services you think you are providing to those that you actually are providing to your patients. Again, setting goals requires that you know where the office is at present and aligns the team to unite in office success and growth later. But let’s review a few more reasons that building metric knowledge can benefit the dental hygienist.

  • 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 the change in your service mix
  • Provides talking points for future compensation discussions

Celebrate successes and identify office champions

Setting goals for the office and sharing them with the whole team can help keep everybody focused on the same task and striving to build a plan to achieve it. It provides an opportunity to celebrate along the path toward these achievements. If your perio goal was to get to 25% of hygiene services being in the perio category, and you moved the needle from 5–10%, celebrate that jump with a small recognition. Maybe celebrate every time it goes up 5%. When recall percentage hits 95%, what are you going to do as a team to mark the occasion?

If there is evidence that one dental hygienist within the team is having success, highlight that individual as an internal champion to share strategies and best practices. Position them as a resource to mentor others on your team. Sharing best practices that will build and calibrate the team will multiply the success at a quicker pace. Not only will the team become stronger, but if you are the champion, you will grow professionally from the mentorship opportunity.

What’s good for the patient is good for the practice

Hygienists want to treat our patients and find success in treatment outcomes based on our efforts. That is why we should avoid setting goals based on straight-up production numbers. Our attention will fade quickly from those types of goals. Instead, set goals that make you feel fulfilled. Pivot the thought process from numbers and “just cleaning teeth” to the impact and treatment of disease and infection. A more comprehensive mix of services will consequently boost those production metrics such as charge per patient and charge per hour, but perhaps more importantly, it will help keep the hygiene team focused on their patients’ needs and avoid hygiene burnout.

Have you heard the saying that patients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care? When patients see results from the care you provide, you engage them in the process of improving their oral health, and they will follow your lead and become much more proactive in their care. Improved gingival health often leads to patients who want to get new crowns, pursue whitening options, and change out the old amalgam fillings. They become patients who form a partnership with us and value the services the office provides. They are positive contributors to a growing practice.

Compensation discussions

Compensation is one of those topics that can be challenging to discuss, but you can use metrics data to advocate for the impact that you have made on the practice. Annual review time can also be challenging. Some dental hygienists may get a cost of living increase while others may not get any increase. An elevated business acumen will show that you understand the business aspects of the office and can identify where there has been a positive outcome in the hygiene services provided in your operatory.

If we change this discussion to highlight the value that you bring to the office with your mix of services, patients per day, or case acceptance, it becomes a much different conversation. Concrete numbers that show doctors and office managers the positive impact you have had on overall office performance will help support a compensation discussion. When you have that supportive evidence and a professional approach to why a change is in order, rather than the “it is just time” approach, the odds will be in your favor. A planned approach may even help you discover that your philosophy and values differ from that of your employer, and may also lead to consideration that a transition to another office may be something you need for self-fulfillment.

Where to begin

Now that we’ve gone beyond the numbers of metrics, where do we go?

  • Have a discussion with the doctor and office manager; most software has the ability to run some form of reporting on key performance indicators such as recall percent, case acceptance rate, and provider mix of services. 
  • Pick a metric as a team and have discussions to establish goals.
  • Revisit the goals at an agreed-upon interval. (Differentiate between fact and feeling.)
  • Celebrate success along the way.
  • Don’t lose sight of patient care.

Awareness of metrics makes you an informed employee. Setting goals that are based on comprehensive treatment and office efficiencies should reinforce your philosophy of patient care. It is an opportunity for the hygiene team to be recognized as active providers within the practice who contribute toward office goals and success. Metrics and the delivery of comprehensive patient care are not different, after all.

CONNIE TRAYNOR, BAS, RDH, is a 2003 graduate of the Fox Valley Technical College dental hygiene program and a 2018 graduate of the University of Oshkosh in leadership/organizational studies. Her clinical background includes private, specialty, and group practice. In 2012, she transitioned into a supportive role as a regional hygiene consultant with Midwest Dental, where she provides hygiene mentorship and builds doctor/hygiene relations. Please feel free to reach out to Connie at [email protected].

About the Author

Connie Traynor, BAS, RDH

Connie Traynor, BAS, RDH, is a 2003 graduate of the Fox Valley Technical College Dental Hygiene Program and a 2018 graduate of the University of Oshkosh in Leadership/Organizational Studies. Her clinical background includes private, specialty, and group practice. In 2012 she transitioned into a supportive role as a Regional Hygiene Consultant with Midwest Dental where she provides hygiene mentorship and builds doctor/hygiene relations. Please feel to reach out to Connie @[email protected].