Scheduling Appointments and Not Filling Holes
Many offices book all of their appointments in advance. This is alright, as long as you are 100% sure that all of those patients are going to keep their appointments. However, I’m sure this is not the case with many, if any, practices. So what happens? You and your staff look at the appointment books and realize that if an existing patient were to call for an appointment, s/he may have to wait a month or two - which is not good.
What is the solution? Many doctors will have a knee-jerk reaction and want to add another hygiene day without running any type of analysis to determine if the need is really there. So they add another hygiene day, and then wonder why they have so much open time. Even if it has been determined that you do not need another hygiene day, based on your active patients and the demand for future hygiene appointments, you can still have a lot of open time, last minute cancellations, and no shows. This is where booking all patients in advance may lead to a false security that the schedule is full. However, when it comes to the actual day, it all falls apart - leaving the hygienist and entire team scratching their heads, because when they try to schedule appointments there is no time available.
Do you really need to add hygiene time, or is it an illusion of grandeur? Do yourself a favor and look at the amount of open time over the past month. This includes no-shows, open time, last minute cancellations…any time the hygienist was available to see a patient, but didn’t. Many offices will find more than one or two days of hygiene available that were not productive with a patient in the hygienist’s chair. Some offices will find even more days. This is when the office has to look not only at the verbiage used by the hygienist, front office, assistants, and doctor, but also evaluate the patient education that is being distributed. Teaching patients about office policies and procedures in a kind, compassionate way will help, and scheduling is critical. Be sure all of the appointment blocks created in your schedule based on your past history are being used properly.
In addition, you may want to consider the patients you are scheduling in advance - remember that not all people are good at keeping appointments. Are the patients scheduling in advance the ones who are compliant and have always kept their appointments, or are they the patients that have to miss a couple of appointments before they actually make it in? Possibly they are good at canceling two or three days in advance, but they always do, and this is making your schedule look fuller than it really is. Be sure to screen the people that you schedule in advance. We know our patients.
Is it that you don't have the appointments available, or do you not have the specific time of day available? Has the patient been put on the call list and been offered appointments that have become available, at the time and day they want, but they keep saying no? Are they really not able to get in, or is it perceived that they are not able to get in? If I call today, what appointment date would I be offered? How many appointments will you have unfilled by the end of the month?
Before you throw caution to the wind and add additional hygiene time to your schedule, it is recommended that you evaluate how many days of hygiene you really need. Look to see if the high production and new patient blocks are being used properly. The last thing you want is a hygienist not being productive with patients in the chair while she is there.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151Forward this article to a friend
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