A Simple Score Sheet Gamifies Moving Patients Forward 

June 10, 2024 Clayton Davis, DMD

By Clayton Davis, DDS 

About 15 years ago, my wife and I were on a trip to New York City. My laboratory had told me about two dentists there who practiced together and did an amazing amount of cosmetic and restorative dentistry. Their best month was about six or seven times more than my best month, so I was curious. I knew they had studied with some of the same mentors I had. They had gone to Pankey and Dawson. They have a a comprehensive approach. While I was in New York, one morning I told my wife I was going to visit their Manhattan office and see what I could learn. 

Their office had reasonable furnishings (nothing fancy) and a reasonable level of equipment. It was tidy with nice staff. It seemed similar to what I have in my office. I sat down with the dentist who was there that day, and he shared with me what they do in their practice. They do a fair amount of marketing in health and beauty magazines that are circulated in the New York City area but otherwise it all sounded very familiar to my practice.  

A few moments later, there was a knock at the door. It was the hygienist, and she said, “Doctor, ready when you get a chance for your examination. Mr. Anderson is in today, you may not recall, but he had said that he wanted to get his veneers done after his daughter graduated from college. That was a couple years ago when he said that, and his daughter is graduating in June, so it’s time to bring that up again. I mentioned it to him today, and he’s scheduled to start that in July. So, when you want to come on in and talk to him about it, that would be great.” 

She walked away, and I looked at the dentist. I said, “What just happened? The hygienist handled everything about moving that patient forward for treatment. I can’t get mine to do that. As a matter of fact, we’ve had conversations, and they don’t seem to feel comfortable doing that.” 

He said, “I don’t know. We talked to them about it, and they’re tremendous about it. They really help our practice move patients into treatment.” 

I went home wondering how I could move my hygienists in the same direction, and an old business concept came back to me. If you want to improve something, you need to come up with a way to measure it. So, I came up with a form for logging what I call “Hygiene Points” and presented it to my hygienists. We talked about how we want to improve our ability to move patients forward with their treatment through the hygiene department. I simply asked them to score themselves on how it went at each appointment in talking to patients about any kind of treatment that came up. 

As each patient passes through hygiene, they receive a score. The lowest score, a score of 1, is for when I come into the operatory, talk to the hygiene patient, bring up some previously recommended treatment, and they go ahead and schedule it. A score of 2 is for when the hygienist finds a problem like a cracked tooth and says that it needs to be monitored. A score of 3 is for when I’m in hygiene and diagnose something new and get the patient to commit to schedule treatment. A score of 4 is for when the hygienist gets previously recommended treatment scheduled at the front desk without my involvement. A score of 5 is for when the hygienist takes an intraoral picture and points out a problem to me and I get a commitment to schedule. In other words, they say, “Let’s take a picture of this. I want Dr. Davis’s opinion on it when he comes in the room.” And then because the hygienist was concerned and I confirm in front of the patient that this is an issue that needs to be addressed, the patient schedules treatment. The collaboration and communication go so well, this is worth 5 points. And then the ultimate score is 6 for when the hygienist gets a commitment to schedule treatment for an obvious problem before I come in to confirm the diagnosis.  

The first couple of months that we used this scoring, we recorded a baseline monthly total.  After that, the competitive instincts of the hygienists kicked in and they wanted to improve their total score each month. I did not give them a reward incentive, and over two years, more production was coming out of hygiene. The old saw “You can improve what you measure” has certainly increased restorative collaboration and revenue in our practice, and the pursuit of higher Hygiene Points has been fun. 

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About Author

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Clayton Davis, DMD

Dr. Clayton Davis received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina. Continuing his education at the Medical College of Georgia, he earned his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree in 1980. Having grown up in the Metro Atlanta area, Dr. Davis and his wife, Julia, returned to establish practice and residence in Gwinnett County. In addition to being a Visiting Faculty Member of The Pankey Institute, Dr. Davis is a leader in Georgia dentistry, both in terms of education and service. He is an active member of the Atlanta Dental Study Group, Hinman Dental Society, and the Georgia Academy of Dental Practice. He served terms as president of the Georgia Dental Education Foundation, Northern District Dental Society, Gwinnett Dental Society, and Atlanta Dental Study Group. He has been state coordinator for Children’s Dental Health Month, facilities chairman of Georgia Mission of Mercy, and served three terms in the Georgia Dental Association House of Delegates.

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