Developing and Adapting Systems for Your Dental Office

By William J. Moorhead, D.M.D.

Looking for ways to systematize your dental office? In the book “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande, M.D., Dr. Gawande talks about the advantages of using discipline in our work day. Let’s face it, we’re human and prone to mistakes. Gawande reveals how systems and checklists can decrease mistakes, boost efficiency and reduce stress.

Even the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) agrees. In an article published in August 2010, Harold M. Pinsky, D.D.S., a part-time dentist and part-time pilot, states, “To enhance safety, practitioners must implement forward-thinking strategies. Because human error is inevitable, threat and error management techniques are needed to help identify and trap error before it develops into unexpected outcomes. Risk analysis heightens situational awareness for possible dental error. Efficiency increases with early error detection.”

If you already have a good handle on discipline and have the time, energy and motivation to develop your own systems and checklists for your practice, here are a few guidelines that make the creation process easier:

  • Checklists are more helpful when divided into smaller sections.
  • Items that are often repeated in many procedures can be hidden or omitted. Digital system software enables you to hide the lists of repetitive items so that a newer trainee has access, but an experienced user isn’t bogged down by unnecessary detail.

  • While a trainee focused on competency should follow a checklist to the last detail, an experienced team member can set up for a procedure, then review the checklist as a fail-safe to prevent missing details.

As I develop checklists for dental procedures, I like to include: items to bring into the operatory; room setup (steps unique to the procedure); what to do when the patient is seated; what to say in order to review the consent form; post-op instructions; and steps to be completed before the patient is dismissed.

Do you use checklists in your practice? I would love to hear about them. Come see me at the Global Oral Health Summit in Orlando in November, and you can share what’s working well in your practice. Plus, my presentation will give you valuable information on the advantages of applying systems to everything you do in your practice.

If you haven’t already registered for the Summit, I am pleased to offer you some incentive to do it today. Here’s $200 off your registration! Just enter code BLOG when you register.

I can’t wait to see you in November at the Summit in Orlando.

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