Judy the juggler works the front desk for Dr. Paperman. The front desk is the data center of the office. The data is the schedule, financial records and the charts. If the schedule is a paper book the book can only be in one place at one time and can only be accessed by one person at a time. If the financial records are paper insurance forms and ledger cards they also can only be in one place. And finally if the treatment or chart information is on a paper chart it too can only be in one place at a time. We have managed all this paper data by grouping it in one place, the front desk. Here is how it works.
Dr. Paperman finishes a procedure and skates off to the next room. The patient wanders up to the front desk. Judy ignores him because she has no idea what needs to be done for the patient. Finally Harriet the assistant brings up a paper chart with some scribbled notes. Harriet knows she is supposed to “hand off” the patient to the front desk, but she is already running late and she has to get that room cleaned up. So she ‘Frisbees” the chart onto the desk and takes off. Once the chart has stopped spinning; Judy tries to read the notes and determine what she needs to charge the patient. She thinks she has it right and starts to check him out.
They have a pleasant conversation, discuss fees, she takes a payment and then starts to make the next appointment when…the phone rings. So she breaks off the one-on-one conversation and starts dealing with the person on the phone. This person needs to make an appointment so she runs off to the back to find the paper chart, hoping it was filed in the proper place.
Harriet then rushes up and drops a form on the desk. “Call the lab, we have a pick up.” she says.
That reminds Judy she needs to give the doctor the message slip to call the lab back about Mrs. Pita.
The first phone call is about half done when….another patient comes strolling up from the back. This second patient also needs to check out, make an appointment and all the rest. The second patient waits, rocking to and fro, glancing at her watch behind the first patient who is listening to the phone conversation when…the other line rings. “Hold please” “Hello, dental office, hold please” Two people on the phone, two people standing there waiting, all needing to make an appointment
Flossy, the hygienist, is running late…again. Judy sees her next patient approaching the desk with a determined look on his face. About that time Flossy runs by and slaps a sticky note down on the pile; “Where are my supplies?” The note says.
Judy is into high juggle mode. How many items can she keep in the air?
Ooops, Judy dropped one of the items she was juggling and the rest of them are threatening to come crashing down. Judy is conscientious, she loves her job, she loves the patients and thinks Dr. Paperman is the best. But she is totally stressed out and she feels horrible that things aren’t getting done.
“Dr Paperman” she says, “I think we need to hire another front desk person. We are just too busy.”
“OK” Paperman replies, “That may be a good idea.”
What Dr. Paperman hasn’t realized is that hiring another person to work with Judy up front will cost him over $50,000. That is $50,000 per year every year; in fact that number is likely to get bigger as time goes on. Dr. Paperman will not just be paying another salary he will have hiring and training costs. He will also have the ever increasing costs of social security, medical insurance, workman’s comp and all the other items which add at least 30% to the base cost of a team member’s salary.
As an alternative Dr. Paperman could invest a lot less than $50,000 a year in a computer system with computers networked in the treatment rooms and Judy would be able to do her job faster and better without hiring another person.