The Color Method: The Key to Organization for Your Group Practice

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Sometimes we have to stop and evaluate the systems we have in place at our group practices and consider if there may be a better way of doing things. We need to ask ourselves “Why?” “Why do we do things the way we do?” I would always answer “Because that is the way we’ve always done it!” That isn’t always a good reason because the same old thinking will always give you the same old results. Now, that might be perfectly fine if your practices are running like fine-tuned machines! This means, you rarely run behind schedule, the dental team can work at a comfortable pace without being stressed, your materials and instrument set-ups are well organized and streamlined. You are continually praised by your patients and new patient referrals are plentiful. On top of all of this, you are meeting or exceeding your financial goals. Sounds like a dream practice, doesn’t it?

I am licensed dental assistant and an efficiency expert at Zirc Dental Products, Inc. I have worked with both private and group practices, and unfortunately the reality is CHAOS! We find that offices are unintentionally wasting time and money due to poor instrument and material management systems. This leads to high anxiety in both the team members and patients. Dr. Cappy Sinclair from Virginia Beach, VA states, “One my biggest pet peeves as a dentist has to be getting up mid-procedure. There is nothing that can break your confidence like telling a patient to wait, we have to go and get something.”

If you are finding that room turn-over, restocking supplies, and instrument reprocessing is too time consuming, and you are having to leave the treatment room during a procedure to find a missing item, you should consider re-evaluating your materials and instrument management systems. Zirc is an innovative company that manufactures products that help dental teams become happier and more efficient. Think about the most important things you need to perform your dental procedures. Ok, the patient is obviously number one, but we can’t help them without the equipment, instruments, and materials. Group practices should be designing all of their practices so these items are well organized, easily identified, and accessible. Zirc has done extensive research in the area of managing dental materials and instrumentation and has created a simple Color Method to achieve a well-organized, efficient, more profitable, and happier environment. Color- coding has been utilized across the world for decades. Why? Because it works! Stop lights, electrical wiring, apparel sizes, labels, and the list goes on. Identification by color has proven to be very efficient and effective.

You can implement The Color Method in 5 easy Steps!

  1.  Get Colorful!
  2. Instrument Management
  3.  Material Management
  4.  The Sterilization Area
  5.  The Treatment Room

Let me explain how it works.


1. Get Colorful!

Start by assigning each of your procedures a different color. Zirc has 16 colors to choose from to help you get organized while satisfying the groups color preference and complimenting any décor. You can even utilize the colors in your logo promote your branding. If you have the capability to color-code your schedules with your dental software, you can apply those same colors to manage your instruments and materials throughout the clinic. There is no right or wrong way to choose colors; just have fun with it! The instruments, instrument organizers, bur holders and materials will now be easily identified for each procedure by their assigned color.

2. Instrument Management:

For optimal efficiency and compliance, it is best to utilize an instrument cassette with a matching bur holder for each procedure. Rather than struggling with a pile of loose dirty instruments to sort through, your instruments and burs will be contained throughout the procedure, and the entire sterilization process. Several minutes will be shaved off of the tedious task of instrument reprocessing and room turnover. Having the instruments for each procedure in cassettes will eliminate the possibility of missing instruments during the procedure. Since you are not handling the individual, loose, dirty instruments, the risk of injury and potential exposure is greatly reduced. If this should happen, the employee and patient should immediately go to a clinic to have blood drawn to get a baseline in the event there was an exposure to an infectious disease. Now you not only lost more time in your day, but you are also working short-handed. As an added bonus, cassettes will save you money by increasing the life of your instruments. (When several instruments are dumped loosely into the ultrasonic cleaner, the sharp edges will dull more quickly and the mirrors lenses can scratch.) Once the cassettes and bur holders are done being washed, they are simply pouched or wrapped and go right into the autoclave. After sterilization, store the pouched cassette with bur holder and any additional items, on a matching procedure tray with a locking cover. Not only will this keep everything together and ready to go, it will look very sanitary, professional, and organized to your patient. The CDC and OSHA guideline to transport dirty instruments in a covered, leak-proof, puncture-proof container will be satisfied by using this same covered tray. What a great way to save time, money, maintain compliance, eliminate missing instruments, and protect the team!

3. Material Management:

 Pair your instrument set-up with a procedure tub to house your procedure specific materials like etch, wedges, composite, etc., versus storing the materials in the treatment room drawers. A matching tub for each procedure becomes your portable drawer, and the tub accessories will keep everything at your fingertips and easy to find. So often, in the midst of a hectic day, smaller items in the drawer get covered up or pushed to the back and get lost. This results in having to leave during a procedure to find a missing material, unnecessarily ordering more products, wasting money by stocking all the treatment rooms versus one tub per procedure, and accumulating expired materials. Re-stocking becomes a breeze with the clear locking cover and tub organizers making it easy to see what materials are running low. Once or twice a week, re-stock each tub in your bulk storage area, usually in central sterilization. Every material has an assigned place, for quick re-stocking. No more running up and down the halls to re-stock all of the rooms and trying to remember what was needed for which room. And, best of all, no more missing materials at chairside! Implementing the procedure tubs with the tub accessories is by far the best way to control inventory costs to save time and money!

4. The Sterilization Area:

Ideally you will want to have enough space and cabinetry to keep all the procedure trays and tubs in one centralized area, such as the sterilization room. It is also helpful to have the over-stock of procedure-specific materials in this area for efficient re-stocking of procedure tubs and inventory control. Removing all of the bulky disposable products like gloves, masks, gauze, cotton rolls, patient napkins etc., from central sterilization will make room for the Instrument set-ups and Procedure Tubs.

5. The Treatment Room:

The excess supply of the disposable products can be divided amongst the treatment room, or other storage area within the practice. Countertops should be clutter-free. It is a good idea to store extra gauze, cotton rolls, dry angles, etc., in a drawer within arm’s reach, to access additional items, as needed. Having a few additional single pouched instruments nearby is helpful in the event one is dropped during a procedure. Another can be quickly retrieved without having to leave the room to find a replacement.

 You will be amazed how much time and revenue you will earn by implementing The Color Method into your group Practice! Check out what the following practice discovered when they incorporated Zirc’s Color-Code products.

Written by Kay Hickey, LDA
Product Specialist, Zirc Dental Products

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