Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2015 03 Collaborative Staff 1

Troubleshooting dental practice systems

March 20, 2015
All practice management systems need to be replaced eventually, and it's a good idea for dental practices to stay ahead of the game with regular system evaluations. These should start six months after the purchase of a system, and continue every six months thereafter.

Even the best practice management systems lose efficiency over time and as conditions change. In most cases the decline is gradual, so you and your staff may not realize there’s a problem until it becomes serious. All systems should be replaced every three to five years, but they can have a negative impact on production and stress levels much sooner than that.

When to troubleshoot systems System evaluations should be on the same schedule as hygiene visits – every six months. With this frequency, potentially serious problems will have little time to cause damage. Draw up a year-long schedule that spaces out the system audits to minimize impact on day-to-day operations.

If a system begins to show signs of trouble, rearrange the evaluation schedule so it can be addressed more quickly. Also, when there is a major change in the office or market – new scheduling software, aggressive new competitor in the area – make sure any related systems are still meeting your requirements.

Who should be involved?
Put together a unique work group for each system evaluation. Depending on the system being scrutinized, this may involve you, the office manager, and the true experts – staff members who use the systems regularly. Their familiarity with how systems do or don’t work is invaluable. Staff members who do not actually use a system but depend on the results should also take part in the performance analysis.

How the process should work
Troubleshooting a system, even if it’s less than three years old, should consist of four steps:

  1. Scan for trouble spots – Begin the evaluation with a discussion of how the system is working. How old is it? Are there steps that have become more complicated or time-consuming, mistakes that have cropped up, higher levels of stress than before, or performance targets not being met?
  2. Brainstorm solutions – Once problems are pinpointed, share ideas about how to solve them. The group may need to distinguish between what can and should be done immediately versus better long-term solutions.
  3. Implement the remedies – As tweaks, these may not be ideal, but if they will help improve performance, put them into effect.
  4. Check back to make sure the changes have truly helped – If the “fixes” fall short or cause unwanted side effects, the group needs to know this as it heads back to the drawing board.

Check your management systems regularly and modify them as needed. This will help in the short term and lay the groundwork for the totally new systems that should be developed every three to five years.

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