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08.19.05 Issue #180
   
Patient Coordinator…What do they do?


Belle M. DuCharme
RDA, CDPMA. Director
The Center for
Dental Career Development
belle@ dentalcareerdevelop.com

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Getting patients to return for their periodic oral health examination is the most neglected system in dentistry. Systems that “get the job done” with minimal time and effort are usually instituted with little or no regard to their effectiveness. A recall system, which solely employs contacting every patient that is due via telephone, takes “uninterrupted” time and is rarely implemented, even though verbal contact is the best means of communicating with patients. For Business Coordinators who are actively checking patients in and out each day, this telephone process is too time consuming and never without interruption. Likewise, hygienists who rely on “down time” from treating patients to work on the system rarely devote the amount of time actually needed to make the system successful. Devoting “specific time” to maintain a successful system rarely occurs.

The time required to successfully operate this system can only be obtained by delegating the task to a person who is not involved in duties which routinely contain interruptions as most front desk positions do. This very important system requires its own job description and title knows as the Patient Coordinator .

The addition of another employee at this time may initially appear to be an additional expense for an already overloaded budget. And likewise, the overhead expense category for salaries would increase. However, an alternative approach is employing a Patient Coordinator a minimum of three hours a day for three days a week; a salary of $15.00 an hour for example, would cost the practice $135 a week, not including payroll taxes. Not many recall appointments would have to be scheduled to pay for this salary. The Patient Coordinators are soliciting patients to schedule appointments; therefore, they are able to directly increase the practice's productivity.

The number of hours that the Patient Coordinator would be employed is dependent on the number of active patients in your practice, i.e., an active patient being defined as a patient due for recall between today and one year from today. While this is not black or white, 15 hours a week would usually support up to 750 active patients. 16 to 30 hours a week would support 1,000 to 1,500 active patients and 40 hours a week would support a patient base of 2,000 or more. A Patient Coordinator employed full time would then be available to have all incoming telephone calls relating to hygiene scheduling transferred to her workstation. This would allow more time for the Business/Scheduling Coordinator to concentrate on the doctor's schedule.

The job description of the Patient Coordinator can vary depending on the number of hours employed. For example, at the minimum of three hours per day, their main assignment would be strictly making telephone calls to appoint patients who are not already scheduled, whether currently due, or past due. When consistent effort is applied in securing this “return business”, an increase in production and patient base will occur. As this occurs, the hours the Patient Coordinator applies to the system would be increased.

A problem that often occurs with the addition of another person in the business area is delegation of “menial” tasks to the Patient Coordinator by the Business Coordinator. Duties such as, confirming appointments, pulling and filing of charts and preparing the daily schedule can affect the true purpose of the new employee's job description.

Another advantage of employing a Patient Coordinator is having a person devoted to filling cancellations and no shows in the hygienist's schedule. Business/Scheduling Coordinators have the responsibility of patient check-in and checkout, which consumes the majority of their time. When confronted with open appointment times in the doctor and hygiene schedule, they will make the doctor's schedule top priority. The Patient Coordinator's top priority is to ensure the hygiene schedule meets the daily hygiene production goal.

Developing a marketing strategy for the practice, which turns existing patients into a referral source, can effectively be accomplished in the Patient Coordinator's job description. However, their main responsibility is retaining the existing patient base. With this being the number one priority and having time to perform the responsibilities, they will greatly enhance the growth of the practice.

If you would like more information on training your Patient Coordinator contact The Center for Dental Career Development at info@dentalcareerdevelop.com.

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