The importance of introducing a quality management system in a dental practice
What are the benefits of ISO 9001 certification?
Both private and public healthcare facilities are showing an increased interest in ISO 9001 quality system certification because it leads to constant improvement in patient-oriented activities and a guarantee of well-being when cutting-edge first-class therapies and treatments are called into play.
Together with doctors, dentists aspire to reach a standard of care that enables them to offer their patients a service that complies with internationally recognised technological and hygiene requirements. Doctors and dental practitioners have no legal obligation to put a quality system in place, but there can be no doubt about how important is to have one to improve patient satisfaction and heighten the overall prestige of the dental practice.
One of the main reasons that prompts dental clinicians to ask for a certification is the need for a recognition of their professional qualifications and of the status of their clinic. And ISO 9001 certification is indeed an official acknowledgement of a clinician’s commitment to stay up-to-date with new methods and techniques, and raising the standards of care.
Apart from enabling dental practitioners to benefit from the accreditations and agreements available with private and state healthcare insurance institutions, having a certification also gives them an edge on the market while putting their practice head and shoulders over the others, boosting its reputation and increasing its visibility.
Another significant advantage lies in the improvements in terms of the organisation and management of the practice. A quality certification requires a practice to have a specific organisational system in place. This is likely to help it cut down on financial losses caused by a poor use of resources and guide it towards operational procedures, routine practices and skill sets which boost efficiency levels and performance standards.
How to obtain a quality system certification?
Three main steps are necessary in order to obtain a quality system certification:
- Choosing a consulting agency and drawing up a project plan identifying the objectives to be achieved;
- Quality improvement in terms of structure, organisation, equipment and technological systems, materials, know-how and skills;
- Identifying a body to audit quality levels and issue the certification.
1. The first step requires you to define the main goals and a suitable time frame for the project, pick out a reference figure for the practice and define suitable guidelines to be followed.
As far as the reference figure (in other words, the Quality Manager) is concerned, in a small practice there is no reason why this responsibility should not lie with the owner. As for the guidelines, they must prioritise the goals to be achieved; for instance, more technological equipment, a better organisation, more efficient in-house supervision and a stronger focus on customer relations.
2. Step two requires you to conduct an in-depth analysis of the existing situation, and to properly reorganise and improve all the areas involved, educating and training all relevant staff members. You can plot out this path in a series of meetings with the consulting agency where you can deal with the most pressing issues. At this stage, the improvement procedure, which has been properly defined and documented, is disclosed and implemented in accordance with the strategy.
3. The third and last step requires you to select a certification body: this is an independent company which represents a wide range of stakeholders (suppliers, public and private customers and associations) that is accredited by a specific company and tasked with supervisory activities. Once a contract has been drawn up with the certification body, the audit will take place: first of all, all documents will be reviewed to make sure that they comply with legislative requirements, and secondly, an on-site verification will take place to ensure that the system has been implemented both properly and effectively.
When the audit is over, the dental practice will receive its quality certification, which is valid for three years but subject to surveillance audits. Should any non-compliance arise during the audits, they may be scheduled with a greater frequency. There is also a risk of the certificate being temporarily suspended or even withdrawn (although this latter circumstance is highly unlikely).
The importance of ISO certification for patients
The importance of having a quality system is not merely confined to the benefits for the dental practice. This is because raising overall standards means also improving the level of the healthcare services provided, therefore patients feel more protected and their satisfaction is significantly higher. Customers will enjoy a better quality of service and more up-to-date treatments, with a reliable guarantee on hygiene, health safety and the professional skills of the dental practitioner.