Make Your ‘Ideal Day’ Deliver Dollars
You’ve paid your dues. You’ve done your time. You’ve endured the challenges, setbacks, and the Great Recession. You reason it’s time to start livin’ the dream, starting with what you consider to be your “dream day.” It’s a good idea, as long as it doesn’t become a nightmare. Let me explain.
“Dr. Tom” decides that he wants to start working “ideal days.” He wants X number of crown and bridge appointments reserved each week and X number of implant cases, so the scheduling coordinator reserves X number of crown and bridge appointments and implant appointments. But wanting these higher dollar cases and actually having them scheduled are, unfortunately, two very different things. The practice reserves what the doctor would like to have in the schedule rather than what is realistic.
The numbers are commonly selected arbitrarily. There is no research conducted to determine how much time should be blocked to realistically manage the demand. And that’s where the nightmare begins. The doctor finds that s/he can’t fill those times with “ideal” treatment. Yet, there’s not enough time in the schedule for new patients seeking other procedures, so the bread and butter patients are given the schedule’s “leftovers.”
If you are going to block the schedule, base it on historical data - what you know you can achieve - not just on what you would like to do. Calculate the number of crown and bridge units and implant cases over the last six months, divide by the number of days worked. Reserve time in the schedule based on this number.
In addition, carefully examine your treatment recommendation and presentation procedures. If your perception is that you should have more demand for these procedures based on your patient demographics, it could indicate weaknesses in both treatment recommendation and presentation systems. One of the most obvious is when patients are in the practice for routine hygiene appointments. Too many practices fail to seize this opportunity to educate the patient about treatment options and get them excited about treatment opportunities they may not have even considered because they didn’t know the doctor offered them - the most obvious being dental implants.
All that being said, don’t let visions of the "ideal" cloud your view of reality. You may be dreaming of the big-dollar cases, but if you ignore the bread and butter patients, you won’t be livin’ the dream any time soon. Reserve time for new patients; they won’t wait six months, three months, or even four weeks for an appointment. When new patients call, they want your services promptly. They want to feel valued.
Conduct a similar assessment of new patient activity in your practice, and set aside time based on past history. Look at new patient appointments completed over the last six months. If you saw 60 new patients, that would be 10 per month and 2.5 per week. Reserve at least that much time in your schedule to handle immediate demand.
Monitor new patient activity each week. If demand increases, block additional new patient time in your schedule, even if it means extending hours for a period. Don’t give new patients the schedule leftovers. New patient appointments should be reserved during prime time. Those are the hours in which your practice experiences the greatest demand for appointments, and typically they are in the late afternoons, evenings, and on Saturdays.
Next, consider what is happening in hygiene. This department is critical to funneling ideal patients into ideal treatment. You want to ensure that you have an adequate supply of hygiene days so that new and existing patients do not have to wait weeks or worse yet months for hygiene appointments. You can’t recommend ideal treatment if patients can’t get an appointment.
If your practice schedules patients when they are due, examine how far ahead patients are booked for appointments. If there are no openings in the hygiene schedule for a three-week period and some patients are being bumped into the fourth week, begin increasing the hygiene department’s availability in half-day increments. If there are several open appointments, develop a patient retention strategy.
Effectively managing the schedule requires constant vigilance, commitment, and training. It is the foundation for the success of the entire practice. And every solid foundation begins with a few sturdy cornerstones upon which everything else is framed.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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