'Lean' Means You Spend Less Time at the Dentist; A Local Doctor Is Applying Toyota's Set of Organizational Principles to His Practice

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

Sami Bahri's waiting room doesn't look much different from those you might see at other dental practices - same magazines, same chairs, same reminders to brush and floss.

The difference is what you don't see.

People.

At the Bahri Dental Group, patients show up and are shown to their dental chair within minutes, rather than hanging out reading gingivitis posters.

You can call it just-in-time dentistry ... . No, really, you can; that's not a joke. The behind-the-scenes processes that enable Bahri's office to move patients through quickly and smoothly draw upon a series of principles, including just-in-time delivery, derived from Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota.

Bahri has taken these principles, known as lean manufacturing, and applied them to his practice.

Lean is both a way of thinking and a set of processes, all designed to cut out wasted time and effort and make the business operation more efficient.

For the dental office, this means small things - like arranging sterilization areas in a way that minimizes steps - as well as large things. One of the biggest differences at Bahri's office, for example, is that patients don't move from room to room or have to deal with multiple appointments even when they have multiple issues that need to be addressed. Need a cleaning, an exam and a cavity filled? Get it all done in one go, rather than coming back another day.

For his efforts, earlier this year the Lebanon-born dentist received the Shingo Prize, a national award given companies and researchers who use and studies lean principals. Bahri has been using lean techniques for around a decade, after running through a buffet of management philosophies.

Although his patients' visits are shorter, Bahri said, the time spent with each is about the same.

The difference is that the patient is supposed to spend as little time as possible being made to do things he or she doesn't want to do, particularly things that don't lead to accomplishment: Sitting around the waiting room, waiting for a hygienist to show up, coming back for another appointment when a problem is found on the first one. …