Achieving a Full Schedule
The Patient Coordinator is confirming appointments and as the phone calls are being made, the patients are canceling, leaving open time in hygiene. It’s lunchtime and there are five appointments to be filled. Getting the schedule filled for tomorrow has now become the number one concern of the entire staff. The Patient Coordinator should have a plan of attack.
The earlier that patients are confirmed, the more time the office will have to fill the open time. Even when appointments are confirmed first thing in the morning, it does not mean that the appointments will actually be confirmed with the patient. One suggestion is make a note of the time of day that you get in touch with the most patients. This is as easy as marking the schedule with a different color if the patient is firm, left message on machine, left message at home, or no answer. Then on a piece of paper write the time of day most of the confirming was done and how many people were actually confirmed. Try to allow enough time so that if the schedule falls apart, there will be enough time to try and fill it. Again, knowing what time of day most patients can be reached helps when trying to fill time also.
In addition to the above suggestions, a more detailed plan of action should be thought out and written down. Attempt to fill the empty time with patients who are due that month and are unscheduled. Ask the hygienist if she has anybody in mind that you may be able to call. If this is unsuccessful, call those patients who are 30, 60, 90 days past due. As a last resort, begin calling patients who are due for the next month. Avoid those patients who have insurance and require exactly six-month time intervals.
Even if a last minute cancellation occurs, try to move the next patient ahead in the day. Check to see if there is anybody currently in your office due for a hygiene appointment who is willing to stay. These people would have been noted at the morning meeting. This will allow more time to fill the schedule and is the easiest measure to take in getting the schedule filled.
Whenever possible, avoid filling cancellations with people who are already scheduled but want an earlier appointment time. Make sure to ask every patient as they leave if it is all right to telephone them if an earlier appointment should come available. This should be noted in the computer when it comes to the patient’s response.
One of the most important things that the hygienist and every person on the dental team can do is put value on each appointment. Create a need more important than what the patient considers “just a cleaning.” It is rare that a patient comes in the office for a professional hygiene appointment and they don’t demonstrate some type of inflammation that will need to be monitored or cared for not only at the current appointment, but also at the next appointment.
When the patient is leaving, remind them they have an area that needs to be evaluated. The problem or concern that is being monitored should also be put in the computer and the entire staff should know where to find this information. That way when the Patient Coordinator is making phone calls to fill open time, he/she can mention to the patient, “Mr. Jones, the last time you were in there was an area in the upper left that Jane the hygienist and Dr. Hill want to monitor. It would be best for you if we get you into the office for your appointment as close to the time you are due as possible. We actually had a change in our schedule for tomorrow and we thought it might be the perfect time for you. We would like to see you at 2:00.”
This may also be used if a patient is trying to cancel an appointment. “Mr. Jones, we really are sorry that you have to cancel your professional hygiene appointment. Both the doctor and hygienist will be concerned. I noticed that the hygienist and doctor are monitoring an area in the upper left. This really should be evaluated sooner than later in order to help maintain the health of your mouth. Are you sure you want to give up this time?”
Remember that an open appointment time is lost productivity. It should be the goal of the office to prevent any no shows or cancellations from occurring in the first place. Managing no shows is one of dentistry’s biggest practice frustrations. Some practices have more broken appointments than others, but overall the situation does not discriminate.
Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
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