Software of Excellence, a Henry Schein One brand, has released a new White Paper that investigates the ongoing challenges facing UK dentistry and the strategies that practices can employ to overcome and flourish in the prevailing conditions. The report also offers insight into the challenges that might be lying ahead, helping practices to better prepare and protect their businesses.
Below is a taster of the White Paper findings – you can read the White Paper in full at https://www.softwareofexcellence.com/en-gb/barriers-to-success-white-paper-0
The ‘Barriers to Success’ White Paper 2023 reveals that practice priorities and problems have changed over the course of the last year and a range of issues are combining to create a challenging environment for UK dentistry. It will likely come as little surprise that the biggest challenge facing practices in 2023 is cost of materials, with almost three quarters of respondents citing this as their most pressing issue.
As higher overheads and increased costs squeeze practice profits, some businesses are trying to counteract by cutting costs or increasing capacity to try and treat more patients. In 2022 practices were still facing the post-Covid backlog and were overwhelmed with patients but in 2023 this issue has evened out. Furthermore, the number of practices that regard ‘attracting new patients’ as their most challenging issue has dramatically risen from 19.6% in 2022 to 34.4% in 2023.
Staff shortages remain a serious threat. 96.1% of respondents who had tried to recruit this year reported difficulties, (this figure increased to 100% within the NHS sector). The recruitment challenge is most severe ion the clinical area with dental nurses being in shortest supply, followed by dentists, therapists and hygienists.
Recruitment problems are not something that can be solved by individually and practices are implementing a variety of tools, including wage rises, to retain staff and therefore avoid the recruitment process altogether.
Dentistry has long been considered one of the most stressful working environments, and the 2023 survey suggests it’s a growing problem. The number of respondents rating stress levels as 10 out of 10 has tripled since 2022. Furthermore, the number of respondents who rated their team’s stress as 10/10 has multiplied by 5 times in the last 12 months.
The survey also asked how practices describe themselves in order to get a view of practice morale and in this area, there is a clear discrepancy in results between private and NHS practices. 43% of private practices describe themselves as ‘friendly’, compared with 26.8% of NHS practices and the survey found that no NHS practices described themselves as ‘calm’, with two thirds of this cohort using the word ‘chaotic’ to best describe their practice environment.
Pressure for reception teams
Booking by phone in practice hours is the most popular method for practices to book appointments, with in-practice face-to-face booking a close second. This approach is in stark contrast to the numbers adopting remote electronic form filling and. The report’s conclusion and recommendations reveal how practices can ensure more efficient processes are implemented business-wide to reduce pressure on reception teams and stress throughout the business, rather than in isolated areas.
The report also suggests that staff shortages are causing practice owners and managers to spend more time working in their business, rather than on their business. Only 56% of respondents in this year’s survey actively measure key performance indicators (KPIs), compared to 62% in 2022. Furthermore, 30.9% say that they are “too busy” to measure KPIs.
NHS practices are less likely to measure KPIs than private practices, and the number of NHS practices that do not measure at all has doubled since 2022. Of the practices that do monitor performance, the most common KPIs to be measured are Fail to Attend (FTAs) and recall success – the same as last year. However, more practices are measuring Short Notice Cancellations (SNCs) than last year, suggesting a preoccupation with capacity, and its effect on practice efficiency and profit. Those who measure KPIs have been found to measure a good breadth of information that is used to make decisions, motivate staff and set realistic targets.
Interestingly, the survey finds that practices who do not measure KPIs do have the desire to do so, yet 29.1% say they do not know where to find this information.
As energy prices stabilise, the White Paper finds cause for optimism that the cost-of-living crisis might be nearing its end.
The survey reveals overwhelming acknowledgement from the whole cohort that efficiency is important for dental practices, but it also reveals that little is being done to address the most basic elements of efficiency, such as using online booking and remote check-in. It’s possible that practices do not recognise the effect these tools would have on efficiency or do not feel they have time to implement new processes at the moment.
Based on its findings, the ‘Barriers to Success’ White Paper offers a Best Practice Checklist to aid the efficiency and success of practices. These steps include working on the business instead of getting dragged into day-to-day minutiae, having the confidence to implement technology that will improve efficiency, prioritising the patient experience and encouraging practice owners to ask for help when it’s needed.
It is recommended that all practices read the report and the detailed checklist it contains in order to be better prepared for the challenges that may lie ahead, and to seek out help when needed. The White Paper can be downloaded in full at https://www.softwareofexcellence.com/en-gb/barriers-to-success-white-paper-0