Why Your Clinician Mindset Might Be Costing You

Mindset affects everything that you do.

Do you have the mindset of a clinician?

In today’s video, Wendy Briggs and Dr. John Meis are talking about how mindset could be costing you. They discuss one area where dentists often get tripped up in their thinking and how to use the speed-quality ratio to make improvements in your practice.

Watch now:

Dr. John Meis: All right. So I want to talk a little bit about clinician mindsets and one of the places where clinicians sometimes get tripped up. I'm going to start out by telling a little story about my dental school experience and how this mindset gets into kind of the dental and hygiene thought process.

I had a dental school instructor, and he was a good instructor, and he was a good clinician. During the time that I was in dental school, I had to spend half a day watching him practice. So he had a private practice within the dental school, and everybody had to rotate through there. So he was doing a buccal pit alloy on tooth number 30. I remember the procedure and I remember it clearly. He's going along, and he's pulling out his hand instruments, and he's making this prep absolutely perfect... perfect in his mind. And while he's doing that, he was telling us that this is how you do great clinical dentistry. And if you do great clinical dentistry, you'll be financially successful. So he told us at that time that if you took less than two hours to do a buccal pit amalgam, you were not doing high-quality work.

Now, of course, because my dad was a dentist, and his dad was a dentist, and his dad was a dentist, I was in the back row chuckling because I knew that you couldn't be successful in dental practice if you were taking that much time for such a simple procedure, right? So somewhere in dental school, many of us got into this conundrum where if you do it quickly, you're not doing it well. But the reality of that is that's not true. Where I learned the science behind that is a book called Gut Feelings. Gut Feelings talks about this speed-quality conundrum.

What their research showed ... And they did research in many different fields, not just industry, but they did many different fields. And what they found was that if you have not mastered the procedure, like the first time you do it, second time you do it, third time you do it, maybe the hundredth time you do it, then there is a relationship between speed and quality. But once you've mastered it, it goes the other way where the longer you take, the lower the quality is. So that's interesting. Never learned that in dental school. So how does that show up in the dental practice?

Wendy Briggs: Well, it shows up in a lot of different ways. It shows up on the hygiene side, too. And I would say in hygiene there's also outdated philosophies, things that have maybe been disproven by science. I was taught that if we focused on the numbers or the production at all, if we were focused on that side, then we were the wrong kind of a hygienist, right?

Dr. John Meis: Ah, yes. Yes, yes.

Wendy Briggs: So kind of the same thing. You couldn't be focused on production because that equals bad. And really, they're related. Because what that means is if it's going to take me four hours to do this, these four quads of perio, then that's what I need to do because it's the right thing to do. When in reality, just like you said, the more efficient, the more proficient you become at our basic skill sets that you're using every day, the less time it should take. So we can't look down our noses at seasoned providers who may schedule less time than newbies, right?

Dr. John Meis: Yes.

Wendy Briggs: But we also need to recognize that's been a tremendous shift. The business of dentistry demands that we focus on our production every day. One of the things that I learned early on as well that makes me feel a little bit better about this scenario is that, for me, production was never the goal, right? We teach that. Production's the result that comes when we do the right thing, but we still have to focus on production. Because if you're the wrong kind of a hygienist and you're not focusing on the production, you may only produce $600 or $700 in a day. And in reality, if you look at the day sheet at the end of that day, our patients were not served at the highest level.

Dr. John Meis: For sure.

Wendy Briggs: We've missed opportunities to serve them better. You've said it before, and we say it again, production really is the only way we have of measuring the care we provide. So that's another example of limited thinking or outdated thinking that permeates in hygiene.

Dr. John Meis: And if the technology you have for doing scaling and root planing is a rock and a stick, well, may take you four hours, right?

Wendy Briggs: That's right.

Dr. John Meis: So have the right technology and have the right pieces in place so that you can do it more quickly. So I could tell you that patients appreciate speed, right? If you ask a patient, "I can do this root canal in two hours or I can do this root canal in 45 minutes," ask the patient what they would prefer, I'll tell you, every one of them is going to say 45 minutes, right?

Wendy Briggs: Absolutely.

Dr. John Meis: So being able to work through things quickly with high quality is important. So focusing on that productivity per hour or clinical speed is really a factor in an excellent patient experience. Very unlike what we were taught at school.

Wendy Briggs: Absolutely. And just like you said, when you look at our society at large, people pay more for express service, so you would think ... Sometimes we have this antiquated way of thinking that if I can do those two or three quadrants of scaling root planing in only an hour and a half, the patient's not going to be satisfied with that. We got to lengthen the time out-

Dr. John Meis: Yes, yes.

Wendy Briggs: In order to charge what the fee is. And it's just backwards thinking.

Dr. John Meis: That's not how the consumer thinks. I can tell you that.

Wendy Briggs: Absolutely.

Dr. John Meis: Right. So remember these few things. Number one, it's doing the right thing for the patient at the right time every time. Never, never wavering from that not even a millimeter, right?

Wendy Briggs: Yeah, and production.

Dr. John Meis: So focusing on that.

Wendy Briggs: Production is never the goal. Instead, it's the result that comes when we do the right thing.

Dr. John Meis: That's right.

Wendy Briggs: So if you're driven by production, that probably is the wrong kind of a provider, but recognizing that productions result that comes when we provide excellent care is not a bad thing.

Dr. John Meis: Yeah, very good.