Why Adding One Operatory To Your Capacity Issue Is No Fix

Is your practice at capacity? By capacity, I mean, the demand for patient care is greater than the number of hours and full time employee providers your dental practice has available. It’s not the worst problem to have. Getting patients in the door is the biggest struggle many dentists face when owning a dental practice. Now, they’re here and you’re the best dentist in town but you have to fix your problem. Adding one operatory may slow down the bleeding but it is only a Band-Aid on the bullet wound.

I know you believe that one operatory is going to solve your capacity issue but don’t jump the gun, yet. Don’t go through the headache and expense of a remodel just to add one operatory because it won’t take long before you’re looking for another Band-Aid. If you are bleeding inefficiency in your clinical department, the answer is not to add more treatment rooms. I am fairly certain that with improved systems, you could open up more opportunities to treat patients – maybe as much or more than that one operatory could provide for you. While adding an operatory might make you busier, it will not make you more productive. Does that make sense? You can only be in one place at a time. By improving the systems in your practice, you can maximize what you already have before you start tearing down walls. If you can improve the efficiency in your clinical department and gain you ten minutes per appointment, I’ve just opened the door for you to add another patient into your schedule.

There is a level of psychology involved when having discussions with dentists about options for their growing dental practice. One of the best “shrinks” at Design Ergonomics is Victoria Paquin. She is a great listener which makes her one of the best Practice Liaisons in our industry. A client recently contacted her for help in adding one operatory to his practice. He has run out of room.

Victoria – “Why are you adding just one op? I want a real answer. “

Dentist – “We hired a new hygienist.”

Victoria – “(You know what gets me is when a doctor says “we hired a new hygienist)” WAIT! So, you’re increasing hygiene, but you yourself are booked out. You think this is going to solve the problem? Doc, you are literally adding gas to a fire.”

Dentist – “Yes but, she is really good, we want her on the team.”

Victoria – “This is not a good reason to make all your existing patients wait even longer for treatment. Lay off your worst hygienist, make your rooms universal and change your entire model to get an associate in there. Those emergency practices can do really well with the right patient experience and systems in place. That could at least get you to the next level.”

Victoria may not have worked a clinical day in the dental practice but has developed a very unique perspective of the dental practice… understanding the clinical systems/set ups, and immersing herself into the business of dentistry for a decade. She said – and I’m paraphrasing, “Dealer/reps are like pill mills. They rushed to your aid, just like that huh? Write a prescription for painkillers, no questions asked? Not surprised… You need to work with people that are supporting your growth and success without their first priority being their own gains. Quit calling those jokers. We are all here to do business but you know what you’re getting with a deal/rep. What dealer reps do won’t kill people – just keep them in debt, like a prison preventing dentists from the freedom of moving forward to their goals.”

What we are really talking about here is growth strategy. Maybe we should go back to when you acquired the office. Did you buy it existing, knowing one day you’d have to expand? Did you design it this way? Is it what fit the budget at the time? How did you get here? We don’t ever want you to do that again.

Let’s face it. You were probably in need of Design Ergonomics therapy about six months ago when the steady influx of new patients were scheduling recare visits. We will encourage you to ask us to review the efficacy of your clinical department first. This is the discovery phase. Let an outside eye view your practice to determine the next stage of treatment.

Just know all of your options. At the end of the day, we want you to be happy, less stressed and prepared. At the end of the day promise me you will fix your systems, but if you REALLY want an OP now, we can probably help. Our Design Team is very good at creating what we call “Small Room Solutions”. But I only want you to do this if you PROMISE to accept that it’s a temporary fix. The additional revenue is there to get you to a better long-term solution faster.


Author Angie Bachman