You know your practice’s supply spend. But do you know how many dollars and how much staff satisfaction you’re bleeding as part of your current purchasing workflow?

This column offers a close-up look at orthodontic product purchasing and how it is evolving. Orthodontic Products teamed up with Jeff Biggs, DDS, MS—who is not only the owner of his own private practice in Indiana, but also the founder and CEO of Orthodontic Details Marketplace, an online marketplace built for orthodontists’ purchasing needs—to get his unique insight into the orthodontist-supplier relationship and purchasing trends, and, more importantly, answer your questions. 

The scary thing about internal bleeding isn’t the bleeding. It’s where the bleeding is occuring. Because it’s internal, it may not get spotted until it’s too late. It takes someone external, with an outside perspective, to spot the signs, run the tests, and address the bleeding accordingly.

Now, I feel compelled to tell you I’m not normally sitting in my office day-dreaming about blood. Nor do I think I just shared some revolutionary perspective on bleeding.

But I have a report sitting in front of me that brought this concept screaming into my mind.

You see, the phrase “Pulse of Purchasing” originated when our team at Orthodontic Details began analyzing supply spend for our customers, resulting in a Pulse of Purchasing report for the practice. What they found was shocking: Hundreds in incorrect shipping charges, thousands in missed discounts or exact-match alternatives for basic supplies, and genuine burn-out amongst ordering staff.

In one instance, a prominent supplier charged a practice three different fees (spanning $200) for a recurring monthly subscription over the course of 3 months. The answer from the supplier? “We have no idea how that happened.” 

In another, the purchasing staff shared “Just last night I was putting my kids to bed, and the only thing I could think was ‘Did I order gloves? I think I placed the order, but I’m not sure. I remember adding it to the cart, but did I check out?’”

If 20-plus years of managing staff has taught me anything, it’s that most are slow to speak up when they’re feeling burned out, and often, it’s too late. And they sure don’t have time to chase down each and every discount or ensure the appropriate price breaks were applied when they’re ordering.

These two examples pose an important but scary question: What else is happening below the surface that we’re not aware of? I believe most practices are suffering from some amount of internal bleeding on two fronts: supply spend and staff satisfaction.

First, supply spend. My purchasing staff member was doing an amazing job with the time she had hunting down discounts, finding better prices, etc. Not to mention, each month I was going through our invoices line by line to look for areas where we had been overcharged or for mistakes, over-ordering, etc. And yet, when the Details team brought us through their Pulse of Purchasing analysis, they found over $10k in savings opportunities. Frankly, my purchasing staff couldn’t have found that simply by throwing hours at ordering. It took someone with an outside perspective, conducting analysis across many practices, to know where to look to stop the bleeding.

Second, staff satisfaction. Do I care about that $10k I just mentioned? Absolutely. But honestly, to me, the most dangerous aspect of the internal bleeding is with purchasing staff. They are typically an important member of the clinical team who is quick to say “Yes!” and slow to complain. Which is the perfect cocktail for burnout.

While we don’t always feel the dollars draining, and don’t often see the hours and energy being zapped out of purchasing staff until it’s too late, these are solvable problems with enviable outcomes: more money in our bank accounts, and more energy + efficiency (not to mention higher retention) for our purchasing staff members. It just may take someone coming externally to know where to look for the bleeding.

It’s caused me to wonder, where else might there be “internal bleeding” in my practice? We’d love to hear from you. Where have you discovered internal bleeding in your practice? And what did you do to address it?  OP

Orthodontic Details Marketplace is offering Orthodontic Products readers a complimentary Pulse of Purchasing report for their practice. Email them at [email protected].

Send us your thoughts and questions at [email protected] and we will answer them in a future column.

jeff biggs

Jeff Biggs, DDS, MS, is an ABO certified orthodontist with more than 20 years of experience. In addition to actively practicing in Indianapolis, Biggs is the CEO of Orthodontic Details Marketplace, and a sought-after advisor for other practices.