Why Your Schedule Isnít Working
The headline on the article read: “Never say, ‘I don’t have time’ again.” Yeah right, I thought. This article was going to enable me to restore all the lost moments and hours in my day. And it was going to do so in 700 words or less. As you might expect, it didn’t quite achieve that, but it was a valuable reminder that our time is dictated by the priorities we choose.
Day-to-day we are responsible for our time and where we focus our energies. Yet don’t we all prefer to blame the external forces - like the scheduling coordinator who seems to enjoy watching you sweat as you race from room to room, or the sudden departure of an employee whose vacancy leaves you scrambling, or the emergency case that walks in the door at 4:55 p.m. on Friday.
Dentists and dental teams know all too well the daily drill of life and work under seemingly relentless pressure and managing the latest round of unexpected events while balancing an ever-present sense of urgency. Tensions are high and tempers flare because with all the racing and running, there should be a decent payout in production and profits. There should be, but there isn’t. They don’t measure up to the perceived output of time and energy. But why? If you and your team feel you are constantly racing through your day, yet perpetually spinning your wheels, there are a number of factors that could be playing into this continuous state of inertia. Look first at the obvious: the daily schedule and who is managing it.
“Who” is important, not because you are going to point fingers but because you must have accountability. Let me explain. You have “Cari” and “Jill” taking care of the majority of the business duties in your practice. You reason that it makes sense to have both of them “in charge” because you view this as insurance, if you will. If one is out or quits, the other just takes over. It may seem counterintuitive, but if there are multiple people responsible for managing the appointment schedule, no one is truly responsible for its success. They are looking to “fill in the blanks.” They aren’t looking to achieve a specific goal, yet how they “fill in the blanks” sets the financial course for the entire practice.
It’s far more effective to designate a scheduling coordinator. This person, through training and experience, becomes highly skilled in scheduling to meet specific daily goals. The schedule becomes “their baby,” they can take ownership of it and have pride when it delivers on its objectives. Of course, another person is trained and can step in when the scheduling coordinator is out ill or on vacation, but accountability rests in the hands of the designated scheduling coordinator.
Now before you trot off and anoint “Debbie” as your scheduling coordinator and assume that all will be right in your now expertly-scheduled world, you must communicate your expectations. You must realistically consider the amount of time it takes you to complete procedures. You must establish realistic goals. And if you really want to improve your scheduling outcomes, you must professionally train this employee to maximize your schedule.
Practices that are consistently able to schedule to meet ambitious production goals are maximizing the clinical team, the available treatment rooms, and the scheduling procedures. The assistants are trained to perform every procedure legally allowable in their state. Treatment times are overlapped by 10 minutes at the start and conclusion of each appointment. Not only is the doctor’s time scheduled, so too is the assistant’s.
The scheduling coordinator knows exactly how much time to allow for each type of procedure. S/he doesn’t guess how much time to allocate. S/he doesn’t simply schedule to keep the doctor “busy.” Rather, the doctor(s) and the clinical staff have evaluated each standard procedure and have determined the amount of “doctor” time and the amount of “assistant” time necessary. Examining the clinical procedures is essential because it enables the clinical team to carefully consider what could and should be delegated to maximize efficiency and practice profits. Ultimately, the scheduling coordinator is scheduling to meet specific goals, not merely “fill in the blanks.”
Next week, scheduling your “dream day” - don’t let it become your nightmare.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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