Can you imagine a dental office with no front desk or office manager? Have you ever double trained your hygienist to be an assistant? What about triple trained your hygienist to also work the front desk? Listening to Dr. Courtney Lavigne talk about her office at first seems crazy, almost radical. But the way in which she nonchalantly talks about this setup, it quickly begins to make sense. Listening to her, my opinion changes from “How does she operate her office like this?” to “Why are there not more dentists who practice like this?”
I met Dr. Lavigne at a lecture for the Tufts Aesthetics Dental Society. She is a talented lecturer with the ability to explain complex topics in an easy manner. I approached Dr. Lavigne after the lecture, and we quickly hit it off. Dr. Lavigne grew up in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. She has two older sisters – ten and twelve years older. Her dad was a carpenter and her mom is a nurse – the perfect combination to raise a budding dentist. She did a lot of finished carpentry with her father, teaching her to be detail oriented while her mother passed on the desire to help people. Originally, she wanted to be a facial reconstructive surgeon but soon realized that she would be almost forty before finishing her residency and would have a lot of debt and a crazy work schedule.
Dr. Lavigne started her practice from scratch about four years after finishing dental school at UConn. She did not buy an existing practice and had to do the entire build out of the office. For the first 4 months of practice, she worked as an associate at another office but quickly built up a stable patient base using Facebook and friends of friends.
At the beginning she had an office manager, but one day the office manager broke her leg and that led to a lot of questions: For how long would the office manager be out? How long would it take to train a temp or advertise for one? So, Dr. Lavigne trained the assistants and hygienists to schedule, which they picked up quickly because they knew how much time was needed for each procedure. The hygienists then started to collect payments in the chairs. The hygienists were also trained as assistants, so Dr. Lavigne could do a small filling or a crown insert in a hygiene chair. This was a huge benefit to the patients because, in a fee-for-service practice, time is just as important as money.
Do you think this model could be the future of dental practices? Dr. Lavigne thinks so. It helps cut down on costs, keeps the staff busy and increases efficiency in the office. Only time will tell.