Kaizen – Taking Everything Apart and Putting It Back Together Better

Productive Practice Mindset

Kaizen is a Japanese word that means to take apart and put back together better.

Japanese manufacturers, such as Toyota, perform Kaizen on their systems. They aim to achieve flow when a car being manufactured moves down the line without ever stopping. There’s a constant flow of things going onto the car. It’s timed just right so each step has a consistent flow.

We learned about this concept through a wonderful training by the manufacturing team at Ergonomic Products.

Our First Kaizen New Patient Flow

In our office, we chose the new patient experience as our first area for a Kaizen. In retrospect, we don’t recommend starting here.

The new patient appointment is the most complex dental appointment you have. At the time, we thought we would be able to redesign our entire new patient process in an afternoon, but we had bitten off way more than we could chew

The Vision

We asked ourselves how the patient could experience a flow where they were involved the whole time, with no lags and no waiting. We wanted a constant flow of activity centered around them.

The idea was to have the patient flow be seamless—with everything in the right place at the right time with the right people. We imaged our new patients as those cars going down the assembly line. (That sounds impersonal, but we built in systems to ensure a connection with personal touches along the way.)

The Process

We listed every single activity that happened during our new patient process. We went through the entire procedure from the minute they reached the front desk to the minute they left.

Some things were obviously in need of transformation.

After that, we went back and had another four or five staff meetings where we approached individual areas; for instance, what exactly happens when the patient’s in the chair?

We detailed every step, making sure it was organized and orchestrated, with all the necessary team members and materials present so there would be minimal waiting time for the patient.

The Results

When we instituted these changes, the patients were absolutely thrilled. They appreciated being able to move through the office in a timely manner. The experience was seamless. They loved that movement and moving forward.

Doing a Kaizen for your systems is an extremely powerful experience—but start with something small. Don’t start with something as monumental as your new patient experience.

You’ll find it takes time to walk through this. Don’t give up because the results are amazing Our Kaizen made us fundamentally rethink how we do things.

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