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
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Be a Coach to Your Team
As an alumnus of the University of Connecticut, I was thrilled by last week’s NCAA Women’s Basketball victory. Head coach Geno Auriemma has established himself in history by taking UConn to eight NCAA Division I national championships. Before Auriemma, the Huskies had posted just one winning season in their entire history. Yes, he’s known to be controversial and confrontational, but if you look beyond those behaviors you’ll see a coach to emulate. Here are some tips for leading your team to victory.
Greatness is Not an Accident
Drive for Excellence
Surround Yourself with Winners
Be a Teacher
Care about your Players
Be a Visionary
Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously
Championship performance is about inspiring your team to give their best effort. It’s tough work unifying individuals into a cohesive group. It takes time, coordination, and the right mix of personnel. It takes planning and preparation. Add to the equation personalities and conflicting goals or ideals and it becomes even more challenging to find a team of people that work well together - let alone on the fly at a moment’s notice. But ask Coach Auriemma if it’s worth it. Ask him if it’s rewarding. You know the answer.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club?Click here
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 877-777-6151
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