Total Quality Management, also known as total productive maintenance, is, at its foundation, a management approach geared towards achieving success in the long-term, by focusing on achieving customer satisfaction. To achieve Total Quality in a given industry or services, in our case in health programs and projects, requires both the employers and the employees to commit to improving the processes, goods, and services in their work placement, as well as a general atmosphere and culture.
Total Quality Management is built around three principles, which define this approach: client (patient) focus, continuous improvement, and teamwork (Longest, 2004). Each of these aspects has a deep meaning and importance to high productive maintenance. Client focus requires managers who want to achieve the best quality of service to identify the current client/patient needs and wants, and correlate them with the programs or projects that fulfill that need most. These projects and programs are then developed into products and services. The long-term success of any medical program or projects depends on the satisfaction of patients.
By aiming to achieve continuous improvement, managers and employees commit themselves to incessantly examining the services or products they provide for enhancement and refinement opportunities, and acting upon those opportunities.
The last principle is that of teamwork. Total Quality Management is the responsibility of all stakeholders, and that means both employees and employers, so achieving success should be a controlled collective effort. This requires not just an individual desire by everyone involved to achieve the set goals, but also the understanding of the importance of cohesive, collaborative work. Teamwork requires everyone to understand their role and responsibility in the team, especially if achieving the goals requires effective interdisciplinary collaboration.
The principles of Total Quality Management can be applied efficiently to the dental public health programs and projects. Unfortunately, currently there is a stereotype that dentists can gain patient loyalty simply by using only the latest equipment, and constantly upgrading. In reality, this approach is questionable from numerous perspectives, not the least of which is the financial expenditure. Currently close to one-fourth of the patients change their service providers to not because of high costs or older equipment, but because of lack of staff courtesy towards the customers and poor service. This shows that clients see the quality of the dental treatment provided as a given, and fully expect the best quality. This, however, does not make the continuous improvement principle of TQM moot, but rather means that a dental care provider and staff should focus on the development of general service even more than they focus on equipment novelty. The managers need to work with the staff to create an atmosphere of politeness and efficiency, in spite of the day-to-day routine and stress.
Client focus means that a dental business needs to remember that they are providing a “service” to the customer, which implies that they have to “serve” the customer. The patients need to associate the dental care program with positive experiences if the business wants them to come back. At the same time, it is essential that the firm keeps track of current trends and innovations so that it can quickly meet a new demand in the dental market before it is exploited by the competition.
Finally, teamwork is still essential to the productive maintenance of a dental care project. People are a business’s most valuable resource, and should be treated accordingly. It is crucial to provide the team with a clear sense of purpose so that they know their roles and responsibilities. It is also important to create staff satisfaction, to encourage better performance and job pride. People should have a sense of personal agency in the team, and see their efforts recognized. To accomplish these goals, as well as achieve efficient teamwork, it is important to establish good communication between different practitioners in the team and the management. All of this would considerably improve team confidence and productivity, improving the business, and facilitating continuous improvement and client focus.
Longest, B. B. (2004). Managing health programs and projects. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.