We all worry about how long a wire change takes when talking about orthodontic office efficiency but often we are missing the boat by focusing on that. The time it takes to do the procedure is rarely the issue. It’s the time between finishing one patient and starting on the next that is the killer in my experience. A reasonably adroit clinician can change wires in just a couple minutes and they have their hands in a person’s mouth so they are generally motivated to finish as fast as possible. However there can be a distinct lack of motivation when it comes to moving on from the procedure at hand, preparing the chair and getting the next patient. I guess it’s just human nature but I see it all the time in offices of all types.

What’s the solution? Well, for me it’s cultural. When I take on a new team I spend a great deal of time explaining why we do what we do and helping each clinician improve her or his skill. I also take time to explain that we have X number of patients on the schedule and that we have to see them all before we can go to lunch or go home. Furthermore, we have two options when it comes to getting the required/scheduled work done:

1) We can hide in the bathroom, slow roll the turning over of chairs, slip around the corner to check our text messages, cherry pick patients and generally drag our feet. This will result in a lot of upset patients and parents, an upset doctor, an unhappy staff and a late exit for lunch and at the end of the day.

2) We can work as a team to get the patients in, take great care of them, get them appointed for their next visit and help them out the door again (and repeat this process as fast as we can) until we are finished. This leads to happy patients and parents because they are seen on time, a happy doctor (because if the patients and parents are happy, the doctor is happy) and happy team members who can now take advantage of their new found free time that comes with running ahead of schedule to reach in their pocket, pull out their cell phone and check in with their family in front of God and everyone. Leaving early for lunch and at the end of the day now and then ain’t bad either.

Which sounds better to you? It’s not a tough choice. There will be the occasional clinician who will refuse to be a team player and you’ll have to remove them from the office to move ahead but I can tell you that once there is a culture change and the team works together to get the job done, life is awesome. Well it is IF the doctor will get off the phone and quit playing on the computer and come when the clinicians call…