When it comes to running a successful dental practice, increasing production is the key to profitability. One effective way to achieve this is by incorporating the design of your office strategically.
In this article, we will explore the concept of the “unscheduled operatory” and how it can significantly boost production in your dental practice.
An unscheduled operatory refers to having one more operatory than you need for your daily patient schedule. The critical factor here is that this extra operatory must be left unscheduled.
It might seem counterintuitive, but having an operatory available for immediate use can lead to a substantial increase in production, month after month and year after year.
The primary purpose of the unscheduled operatory is to address patient needs promptly. For instance, emergency cases are a clear example of situations where immediate care is required.
However, there are other instances, such as a teacher with a fractured bicuspid or a patient whose employer is downsizing and wants to complete their dental treatment plan as soon as possible.
By offering immediate treatment options, you can capture additional procedures that might otherwise be postponed.
While the specific results may vary, on average, a four-operatory office that adds an unscheduled operatory can see an additional four to five patients per week. These incremental increases in patient visits have a significant impact on the overall production of the dental practice.
Therefore, the concept of an open or unscheduled operatory contributing to increased productivity holds true for virtually any dental practice.
Now that we’ve explored how the unscheduled operatory can enhance revenue generation let’s consider the expense side of the equation.
Capital equipment depreciation expenses typically represent about 5% of a dental practice’s annual budget, while labor expenses account for a much larger 25%.
It is crucial to focus on the expense that consumes a substantial portion of the budget. Unfortunately, many practices make the mistake of trying to save costs by reducing capital expenses.
This often involves avoiding necessary operatory equipment purchases, thinking they are saving money. However, the real financial opportunity lies in increasing production.
By embracing the idea of adding an unscheduled operatory, you create the potential for additional production month after month, leading to considerable revenue growth.
It’s essential not to let the capital expense of setting up an operatory distract you from the greater financial benefits of increased productivity.
Imagine a typical day in a dental practice, with eight to twelve patients scheduled for the doctor. Any delay or obstacle can cause the staff to fall behind schedule rapidly.
To illustrate the importance of an unscheduled operatory, let’s consider a specific scenario.
Suppose the doctor is performing a surgery in one operatory, while the dental hygienist is attending to a patient in another operatory. A third patient is anesthetized and awaiting treatment.
Suddenly, the doctor is informed that a patient treated yesterday is in severe pain and is crying in the reception area.
Without an available operatory, chaos ensues, and valuable time is lost shuffling patients and trying to accommodate urgent cases. The result is often a loss in production for that day, and the revenue may never be recovered.
However, with an unscheduled operatory, it is possible to treat emergency patients promptly without disrupting the existing schedule.
The unscheduled operatory is a powerful tool for any dental practice looking to boost productivity and profitability.
By having an additional operatory available for immediate use, you can address the needs of emergency patients and those seeking immediate care, leading to consistent increases in production over time.
Remember, focusing on increasing production, rather than solely reducing expenses, is the key to driving your practice towards long-term prosperity.
Embrace the concept of the unscheduled operatory, and you will find that it can significantly enhance both the efficiency of your dental office and the satisfaction of your patients.
Dr. Mark Tholen, a graduate of the University of Texas Dental School at San Antonio with an MBA from the University of Texas, is the past CEO of T.H.E. Design, Inc.
With involvement in designing and constructing over 3,000 offices, Dr. Tholen’s expertise and principles of dental office design have been derived from vast experience.
You can find more insights on this topic in his book, “A Guide to Designing the Elegant Dental or Medical Office…The Largest Marketing Tool of Your Career,” available on Amazon.com.