An ounce of prevention: Biannual equipment maintenance program saves money, downtime and preserves peace of mind

written by Brenna Sadler, Director of Communications and Membership [email protected]

Dr. Craig Janssen knows from experience that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – and not just when it comes to six-month hygiene visits. Working with WDA Service Solutions to set up a comprehensive maintenance equipment program for his eight operatory practice in Green Bay, Dr. Janssen has been able to keep his dental equipment in good working shape and reduce downtime, save money and have happier patients and staff.

Dr. Janssen has worked with Preferred Dental Services – the power behind the WDA Service Solutions and WDA Equipment Solutions programs – for 10 years. Early on, PDS was performing maintenance on “vital” equipment like his air compressors, vacuum system and autoclaves, but technicians were still visiting the office monthly to take care of little equipment issues or failures.

Together, Dr. Janssen and PDS owner Richard Wilde developed an “all inclusive” plan for maintaining all of Janssen Dental’s equipment, minimizing frequency of service visits and enabling the practice to run more smoothly. WDA Service Solutions now offers customized maintenance equipment programs exclusively for WDA members.

“I thought it was great idea,” Dr. Janssen says. “It’s really no different than maintaining your car. Do you keep the tires inflated, do you change the oil, do you fill the windshield washer fluid, the transmission fluid…or do you wait until you basically have a tire that blows or an engine light that goes on?

“If I’m in a room and working on a patient, and we’ve got a procedure going on, then all of a sudden I have equipment that doesn’t work, that’s a huge problem,” he said. “You either have to struggle along and try to finish, or shift the individual to another operatory – either way, it’s a big inconvenience.”

There’s a cost factor, too – not only in dollars and cents, but also in patient confidence. “If one operatory goes down and your hygienist doesn’t have an operatory to work in, the revenue loss and the inconvenience to the patient are huge,” he said. “If an hour of hygiene is out of commission, between your exam, maybe some bitewings, the hygiene appointment, it could cost you $200 to $300 easily per hour. Plus you have an agitated patient – it undermines every bit of confidence and security you try to instill.”

With the WDA Service Solutions comprehensive maintenance program, technicians visit the office twice a year and inspect every piece of equipment, from air/water syringes and suction valves to autoclaves and X-rays. To minimize disruption, maintenance visits are scheduled for days the office is either closed or has a slow patient schedule.

During maintenance visits, technicians catch problems before they become major issues, keep the equipment in good working order and follow the manufacturer recommended guidelines for maintenance. They also make recommendations for replacing equipment nearing the end of its life expectancy or experiencing consistent problems. This makes it easier to budget for equipment replacement and minimizes cost and scheduling surprises caused by emergency breakdowns.

“The name of the game is to identify problems, current issues and things that are going to adversely affect you in the near future,” Dr. Janssen said. “It’s a ‘scheduled equipment care plan’ instead of a string of emergency fixes.”

Since implementing the biannual maintenance program, service technician visits have gone from about once a month to two to three times a year, other than the two major maintenance visits. Dr. Janssen’s productivity has gone up, he and the staff are happier because equipment “just works,” and they rarely have to adjust their schedule or cancel patients due to equipment failure.

“I think it makes total sense,” he said.  “In dentistry, for instance, we don’t tell people, ‘Well, when something feels uncomfortable and you can’t chew or you’ve got pain, then call us. Otherwise, go ahead and do what you want.’ That leads to a very disjointed type of treatment.

“If you’re going to be profitable in your practice, you have to be organized, you have to use your time efficiently,” he said. “Having a maintenance program through WDA Service Solutions makes our equipment predictable and keeps it running in good condition. There are enough things that come up in the dental practice during the course of a day – you don’t need to add equipment trouble to the mix.”