The Prime Engine: Transformative Technology.

Dr Michael Sernik, September 2014 

When computers were first invented, no one, including the inventors, could grasp the way the technology could be used. At Prime, we developed a customised technology for the ‘Corporates’. Now, after 12 months in use by hundreds of practices, it’s dawning on us that we have created a system that is truly transformational. Its application is just being utilised by our regular client base.

As our coaches are working with their clients, they are starting to report back results that are feeling almost miraculous. Teams that were feeling dispirited and disengaged are reporting that “coming to work is now for the first time really fun”. Production in these practices is soaring.

While some elements of this article will not be new, just like the computer keyboard was no different from a typewriter keyboard, there is definitely something happening that’s very interesting, to say the least.

In the last 5 years the most significant evolution in the dental industry has been the proliferation of mini-corporates, mega-corporates and dental groups of various sizes.

The new challenges faced by these groups have led to new solutions designed specifically for them. What’s interesting, is that these new solutions can also be used by any small practice.

The large groups are facing the same spectrum of problems:
• how to deliver consistent high levels of service
• how to implement and maintain ‘best practice’ systems across the network
• how to train big teams without losing production time
• how to get teams aligned in skills
• how to reduce team inter-personal friction
• how to get all employees to have a practice-owner mentality
• how to rapidly replace a key team member who leaves.

In other words, these are the traditional challenges of any service-based industry and they apply to all practices, whatever their size.

At Prime, over the last 3 years, we’ve developed and tested a system for the mega-corporates called The Prime Engine. I’ll describe how it works and explain how this helps any size practice - even the smallest one-man practice.

The Prime Engine is a custom built training and tracking intranet for dental enterprises that leads to team empowerment and provides accurate monitoring on a scale never achieved before.

Intranet information out
The Engine facilitates the delivery of all messages, including media-rich training videos, compliance requirements, corporate messages, and best-practice protocols to each individual in the entire network.

Intranet information in
Through a ‘Dashboard’, graphical views enable the leadership team (or single owner] to monitor and compare performance levels of each team member, each clinician and each practice.

Creating a Team-Managed Practice.
A pre-requisite for using The Prime Engine is getting the leadership strategy right. The distinction between management and leadership should be crystal clear.

The corporate head, [or the practice owner] is the leader. Leaders set the strategies and need to be able to get reports on how the managers are progressing.

The management needs to be firmly in the team’s hands. If management power is not given to the team, then, by default, the team become mere pawns in the process. They won’t display initiative because they’ll be waiting for the next instruction. 

When dentists complain about lack of team initiative, the root cause is usually down to 3 issues:

1. The team needs a process to enable them to have management responsibility.
2. Leaders needs to let go of management.
3. Leaders need a way of monitoring management, so corrective actions can be taken before they become problems.

Team Meetings
Getting together for team meetings is essential in this Team-Managed Practice model. The Team Meeting agendas are available on-line on The Prime Engine Dashboard, so the leaders can see what’s being dealt with.

Having information on-line in a database means all topics can be easily tracked, so a clear history is available of what was dealt with, when it was dealt with, what actions were taken, and who was responsible for the implementation.

Without this level of monitoring even the smallest practice gets out of control. Think of how much more effective you personally are when you have your own trackable to-do list. Now imagine the leader having a graphical view of each practice’s to-do list compared to just trying to remember all the details of who did what.

Every team meeting normally generates a list of actions for various team members. These can go straight into the Prime Engine. When an action is set, it’s clear who it’s for and when it needs to be done by. Team members can check their assigned actions, their due date and can even comment on how completing the action went for them.

Having reminders, having different permission-based views for team members, managers, leaders etc makes all the difference.

Employees can access training videos that are available anytime from any location via a web browser. They can review information at will. The practice manager or corporate head can track the training history of each team member.

The Prime Engine Dashboard enables leaders to see who has learned what…even if there are 10,000 employees. Scale is not a problem. The Dashboard helps the Corporate identify what training is working, how well it’s working and, as a result, reward team members for productive behaviour.

Policies and procedures: a new paradigm.
In The Prime Engine, we refer to all policies and procedures as How-We’s. Each practice needs to have the power to make adjustments to ‘how we do things in our practice’.

The traditional model is to have a practice manual. Typically, it lies on a shelf in the lunch room, covered in dust. It’s someone else’s imposed solution to problems that the team does not own.

Having the team create their own solutions to their own problems is a key ingredient in getting the team to own their problems.

How-We’s are created, referred to and stored in the Engine’s cloud-based storage system. In any form. For example, in a training session, the team can make an audio recording of the ideal way to answer a phone. This can be uploaded then referred to by any team member from any location at will.

Or a new team member can access a How-we comprised solely of a photo showing the ideal layout of a surgical instrument tray. Any media format can be used, and ‘best-practice’ systems can be made available to any practice in the network.

Most clinicians want to have the time to do the type of dentistry they prefer. Most clinicians would love it if their team were truly great partners in the business of improving all elements of the practice. Most team members would love to work in a practice that runs smoothly, with happy patients and excellent relationships all round.

We’ve seen that applying all the technology mentioned truly makes the difference. But it needs the right leadership to make it happen. Unlike a computer, this is not a plug ’n’ play system. The human touch is still essential.

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