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Time Studies: Efficiency for Your Dental Practice


If you haven’t ever performed a time study on yourself or your staff, you should! Although it can seem a bit intimidating, the entire goal of the process is to help your office run more efficiently.

Let Staff Know it Can Help Them

The first thing your staff may think is that a time study is there to show them they’re taking too long to complete a certain type of procedure. While this can be true, time studies make it easier to do things like establish a reliable block schedule or give them enough time for things that they don’t have time to do already. Basically, a time study will tell you how much time you really need for everyday operations or specific procedures.

How it Works

There’s more to a time study than simply setting a stopwatch when you begin a crown prep and hitting the button once you’re complete. It’s not a race. Give yourself enough time for things like anesthetizing the patient in the next room, or performing a quick check on patients with the hygienist.

During a time study, you’ll track your daily movements for several days in a row. This gives you a baseline reading and average timeframes to work with for realistic expectations.

Every staff member should have a time study done, so that you can track every detail of manpower that’s spent throughout the day. On your spreadsheet, you will include start and finish times for things like the time…

  • Until the doctor comes in for an exam, after the hygienist informs him that the patient is ready,
  • A patient sits down in the waiting room until he is escorted back by the assistant or hygienist for x-rays,
  • Needed to seat a patient, perform a one or two-quadrant SCRP and dismiss them from the room,
  • Needed for disinfecting a room and setting it up for the next patient,
  • Used to impress for whitening trays and create models.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, your office can do it on its own, without a consultant. Be sure to break down things as necessary, such as a sub-section in the SCRP visit if you spend time waiting on the dentist to come in and provide local anesthesia.

Establish Production Goals

Based on the time needed for your procedures, decide how many appointments of each type can realistically be completed each day - and create a block schedule with those precise time frames.

Knowing what’s actually possible, you can finally determine what you want your daily production goals need to be. To meet appropriate financial goals, you need to arrange the time slots in a manner where maximum production can be met for specific types of procedures - such as a root canal. But you can only book high production procedures when you know how long they take to complete!

What You Need to Accomplish

The goal of a time study isn’t to work your staff (or yourself) to death. Instead, it gives you realistic expectations as to the day-to-day services or duties that everyone is performing. Then, and only then, can you create realistic expectations to improve patient flow from the beginning to the end of each day.

If running behind is something you’re getting sick and tired of - then it’s time to update your appointment lengths (or talk to your staff.) Start with a time study!

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This article contains general information only. Sunflower Bank is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, before making any decisions related to these matters, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.