Building an Effective Orthodontic Observation Program

September 18, 2023
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How to Create a Seamless Observation Pipeline for Sustainable Orthodontic Practice Growth

In the orthodontic world, observation programs are key drivers of orthodontic practice performance. Recommended for children as young as age seven, obs programs do more than indicate when it's time to start treatment. They play a critical role in your practice's success and stability.

But despite these programs' importance, many practices fall short in managing their observation patients. Whether it's infrequent follow-ups or failing to track patient development, continued oversights hamper conversion rates. As a result, practices leave money—and patient well-being—on the table.

Consider this: Industry benchmarks indicate that 25% (or greater) of starts should come from your observation pool. Sending an occasional postcard or text message won't help you meet this goal.

As an Observation Coordinator, you can optimize these opportunities to move more patients through the pipeline and grow your orthodontic practice. With continuous tracking, strong recall, and a structured approach, you can turn your observation patients into successful orthodontic treatment starts.

Ready to maximize your conversions and start growing your practice? Here's how to build a strong observation program for lasting practice growth.

Why Prioritize Observation Program Management?

In your orthodontic office, there's no simple path to maintaining financial health. On top of observation appointments, you have to handle scheduling, follow-ups, insurance, new patient acquisitions, and various treatment plans. Not to mention, you still have to provide high-quality, ethical care—giving you a full plate of responsibilities to juggle.

Moreover, the observation program itself can become a neglected area, causing missed opportunities. In 2022, only 23% of treatment starts came from observations, falling short of the recommended 25%—hinting at room for growth. As a result of this oversight, many practices missed out on thousands of dollars in revenue.

But by working with your team and aligning strategies, you can ensure no potential patients slip through the cracks. It allows you to predict and mitigate risks, manage patient flow, and improve your bottom line.

5 Components of an Effective Obs Program

Building an effective observation program isn't a one-size-fits-all task. It requires attention to detail and customization to suit your ortho practice's unique needs. Here's a breakdown of what an effective obs program looks like:

1. Preventive Measures

The saying "prevention is better than cure" rings true in observation management. With clearly defined steps, you can ensure long-term success and avoid common pitfalls, like missed follow-ups and revenue loss. For example, a step-by-step system that you can consistently track can help you capture nearly every observation patient.

2. Intelligent Analytics for Early Detection

For example, Gaidge's Observation Report gives you key metrics like the number of observation patients, upcoming appointments, and even age groups. This detail lets you tailor engagement strategies more effectively, helping you target the right patients at the right developmental stages.

3. A Patient Engagement Strategy

Data-driven decision-making can be your best ally. Knowing your program's observation patient count and which patients are due helps your practice be proactive. Intelligent analytics helps you prepare for case presentation rather than an observation-only exam.

Building strong relationships with your patients is an essential part of maximizing conversions. To make your observation patients feel like they're part of the practice, you need a multi-faceted patient engagement strategy.

Regular communication about updates and fun activities can engage patients, motivating them to choose your practice for treatment.

Plus, periodic surveys allow you to understand patients' needs better, providing valuable insights for refining your observation program.

4. Team Collaboration

A strong observation program sees all of your team members—especially the Treatment Coordinator—as essential collaborators. Working together with a shared vision can yield excellent results. Open communication, shared objectives, and complementary efforts can turn the observation process into an efficient pipeline for patient conversion.

5. Continuous Tracking and Performance Adjustments

Tracking your observation data is paramount. It keeps you informed on conversion rates, treatment acceptance, new additions, and no-shows. This level of insight is crucial for spotting trends, managing risks, and making data-driven decisions that can significantly impact outcomes. Plus, it allows for necessary performance adjustments, keeping your practice responsive and adaptable to changing dynamics.

Altogether, an effective observation program is a strategic alignment of people, processes, and technology focused on a common goal. It's about adopting a systemized approach that maximizes efficiency and optimizes your practice's potential every step of the way.

How to Build a Secure Obs Program

Having everything organized in one place is an essential advantage of Gaidge's role-based dashboards.

As an Observation Coordinator, you can use the Observation Report dashboard to:

  • View the patient pipeline to prioritize key focus areas, helping balance pre-treatment and observation stages.
  • Analyze trends by revealing metrics such as the percentage of observation patients seen each month, pinpointing timing for interventions.
  • Utilize age breakout data to tailor strategies for different patient demographics, from kids to adults.
  • Keep tabs on the time between visits to identify and contact patients missing for more than a year.
  • Track patients in real-time, offering targeted care when and where needed.

With Gaidge, you have a much more systematic way to turn your observation patients into starts. Instead of occasional check-ins, you can turn patient insights into organized actions for real results.

Empowering Observation Coordinators

Understanding the power of observation programs is one thing; putting it into practice is another. As an observation coordinator, you face the daily challenge of translating raw data into real-world actions. With Gaidge, you can transform patient insights into coordinated efforts, simplifying the process of starting treatment for your orthodontic patients. Meeting—and even exceeding—your practice's goals is more achievable with a systematic approach.

With the Observation Report dashboard, viewing patient pipelines, revealing trends, and pinpointing care opportunities become intuitive aspects of your daily routine. For managing admin, Gaidge turns complex tasks into a streamlined and structured process, putting control in your hands.

Need guidance on improving your observation program? Our team of experts are here to help. Whether it's boosting productivity, streamlining operations, or enhancing patient experiences, Gaidge 360 Consulting offers the expertise you need for continuing growth. Get started today to optimize your observation program and maximize your practice's success.

Callie Norton

Bills, Dr. D. A. (2019). 2019 AAO Annual Session - Connect from Birth to Braces: Use Technology to Upgrade Your Observation Program to Start More, Happier Patients! American Association of Orthodontists.

Norton, C. (2023, August 24). Orthodontic Team Management: The Power of Role-Based Data. Gaidge.

When Should My Child See an Orthodontist? Age 7. (2023, May 15). American Association of Orthodontists.

Wilson, S. (2021, July 22). How To Gain Competitive Advantage Through Data-Driven Decision-Making. Orthodontic Products.