How to Avoid Three Common Scheduling Mistakes
Maintaining a productive schedule isn’t easy. It takes commitment and the willingness to implement measurable systems that will bring about real change in your practice. The person in charge of your schedule (and there should only be one) must be properly trained and have a clear understanding of the difference between scheduling to keep the team busy, and scheduling to keep the team productive.
When you finally start scheduling to meet productivity objectives rather than just to fill the day, you’ll notice a huge difference in your practice, as will your patients. Stress levels will go down, patients won’t wait as long to see you, and instead of just reacting to what’s thrown your direction, you will be prepared for every appointment. All this, plus you’ll start meeting your practice’s financial goals.
Yes, managing the schedule can be tricky business, but it’s vital to your practice’s success. You may be overwhelmed by the thought of nixing your old system and designing one that actually works, but I’m here to help you through it. I’m about to share with you three of the most common scheduling mistakes dental practices make, along with tips on how you can avoid them. Read on, then start making the necessary changes.
Mistake #1: You’re Not Communicating with your Scheduling Coordinator
Instead of making your coordinator play the guessing game, let him or her know exactly how long it will take you to perform a scheduled procedure, as well as how long it will take the assistant. The coordinator should then mark the times in different colors on the schedule. Just like that, you’ve saved yourself and your team some unnecessary frustration and aggravation, and you’ve ensured you’re not double-booked.
Whether it comes directly from you or from a hygienist after you’ve provided the time break down, I can’t stress enough how important it is to clearly communicate procedure times with your scheduling coordinator. Scheduling templates and guessing games aren’t the answer. Communication is.
Mistake #2: You’re Not Leaving Enough Room in the Schedule for New Patients
Don’t let this happen to you. Figure out, on average, how many new patients you see each month and block out time in your schedule. Look at new patient activity 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 every week, and if demand increases, block out additional new patient time in your schedule. If that means you need to extend hours to meet the demand, then that’s what you do. And remember to block out new patient slots during prime times—in the late afternoon, evenings and on Saturdays.
Mistake #3: You’re Scheduling Dream Days
Sadly, these so called dream days quickly turn into production nightmares. Too often, the doctor has no data backing up his numbers, and the patient demand is nowhere near his dream scenario. That kind of math is going to leave you with huge gaps in your schedule, gaps that your coordinator will have to scramble to fill.
If you’re going to block out sections of the schedule for certain procedures, you have to be realistic. Base it on historical data, focusing on what the practice actually can achieve rather than on what you’d like to achieve. Calculate how many crown and bridge procedures you’ve completed in the last six months, then divide that by the number of days worked to determine how many spots you should reserve. There’s no guarantee this number will be exact, but you’ll be much closer than if you start picking numbers out of the air.
Controlling the schedule is vital to your practice’s success. The schedule determines the level of care you provide, how stressful your day is and how much money you bring in. Avoiding these common pitfalls and making a commitment to properly manage the schedule will help ensure that you meet daily production objectives, allowing you and your team to focus on what’s most important—providing the best patient care possible.
For more information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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We’ve all heard the cliché…you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. In my last article, I explained that perceptions – especially first impressions – are strong and lasting. First impressions form the foundation from which all future thoughts about someone will be based. Those first bits of information are more powerful than information received later. It’s part of our human wiring, our survival instinct. When we first meet someone, our senses go into overdrive. And once we’ve formed an opinion, we need to be persuaded otherwise.
If you’ve made a negative impression on someone, it is difficult to recover. However, with time and the right actions, you can do it. Doing so requires a consistent flow of new positive messages. That means learning to be mindful of your behavior at all times. It will take time and energy. Success at work starts with positive perceptions. If you need to modify your image, here are some options.
First, you need to understand both the existing perception and the new one you want to make. Feedback is vitally important because we can justify our own behavior very easily. If you are unsure whether you offended someone, get a second opinion. Ask for feedback such as, “Was I out of line?” If you’ve done something wrong, apologize. Explain your actions by taking responsibility. In other words, don’t blame others or external factors. Own your behavior. Be genuine and convey sincerity by making eye contact with a serious facial expression. Pause for several seconds to allow the other person to absorb what you’ve said. At the same time, don't drone on and make it dramatic, especially if it’s a simple mistake. Be brief. For example, If you call a patient the wrong name all you need to say is, “Sally, I am so sorry I’ve been calling you Susan” and make sure from then on you call her by the right name.
The next step is to create opportunities to convey your positive messages. The persona you put forward, however, must be you. You cannot be someone you are not. In fact, other people will see that as disingenuous and that will only make matters worse. Living a lie is extraordinarily difficult to sustain. Remember how strange and off-putting Clark Kent was as he tried to act like a regular Joe...because he had something to hide? Be yourself but be your best self.
Be consistent. Over time, a relationship that started on a bad note will be more comfortable as long as you continue to be yourself. Although you can never change the story of when you first met, at least your actions can be explained as an aberration. In the long run, consistency of character is much more important than making a good first impression.
Should the misperception be more prevalent, seek out people who have opportunities to observe your behavior. Explain that you are concerned you may not be projecting the right image and ask if there is anything you can do to improve the way you are viewed by others. Consider the when's and why's. Stress often allows unintentional behavior to surface. It is possible, too, that you have been completely unaware of the behavior that has created the impression you want to change. One of my executive clients told me about a colleague who talked so much that he annoyed everyone around him. No one would speak up to tell him, so he was unaware of the problem. You may never know if you don't have the courage to ask.
As you interact with others, take note of the way they react to you. Pay attention to their behavior, speech and body language. Do they seem to react positively or negatively to you? Are they interested in what you have to say? Following each interaction, record your observations in a notebook. Review them later and try to pinpoint what behaviors you may be exhibiting to cause any negative reactions.
It’s easy to get impatient for results and give up too quickly. Behavioral change is not easy; it requires dedication and consistency. Only constant repetition and reinforcement of your new behavior will change people's perceptions of you. Remember that building self-awareness requires courage and commitment. Remain positive. Thinking that someone dislikes you, or pressuring yourself to change someone's mind, is self-defeating behavior. Remind yourself that you cannot change what is in the past. Let the experience be a wake-up call and allow yourself to move on. And if you need a coach, I’m here to help.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Periodontal Process
Many of you work in offices that are under-productive with periodontal treatments. It is likely because you have always done prophylaxis as the standard of care, or you have done root planing in the past and when the patients returned they were scheduled 3 or 6 months later as a prophylaxis. This may also be true if you have always been an insurance-based practice.
It is easy to schedule new periodontal patients appropriately. The new patient will be probed, and all six-point probings will be done out loud so the patient is enabled to co-diagnose their periodontal disease. The patient should be educated about periodontal disease and their own mouth. Then the patient will be given a treatment plan and the financial coordinator will go over the cost. The treatment will either start at this appointment, or the patient will return to have the root planing and then return 3 months later for a periodontal maintenance. This is routine standard of care.
The difficulty in scheduling often comes from existing patients, such as those who have been on a 3, 4, 5, or 6 month recall and have been having necessary treatment completed, but who have never had to actually pay full price for the quality of care being provided. It is recommended that these patients have the six-point probings done out loud as well, so they can co-diagnose the need for periodontal treatment. They will need to be educated on the etiology of periodontal disease and how it pertains to what you have found in their mouth during the hygiene appointment.
How well you know the individual patient effects how you will move forward from here. What direction you decide to take may depend on the health of the patient’s mouth, his or her personality, and possibly the patient’s financial situation. If the person is a long-term patient who has never been told anything about periodontal disease, you may decide to educate him or her at this visit and schedule a return visit at a shorter interval to have their mouth evaluated again to determine the need for more aggressive treatment to help slow down the disease process.
Then there are patients who have been coming in every three months and have been educated on periodontal disease and the health of their mouth in the past. However, you are not seeing the gum tissue look any better or respond to the shorter recall appointment. As a result, you and the doctor have decided to go ahead and treatment plan the patient for their specific root planing needs, and have them return as soon as possible. The financial coordinator will go over the treatment plan when they leave and the root planing will be scheduled as soon as possible.
You may also have patients who know they have periodontal disease, but because of their personality type you have decided to educate them again on the need to do better hygiene. You plan to reevaluate them at a 1, 2, or 3 month recall to determine if they need to have root planing. These are the type of patients who may step up to the plate and start doing better with their home care, because they either do not want to have root planing again or they don’t want to have it at all. They just needed to be educated more.
These are a few examples of the types of patients you may encounter in the process of becoming a more periodontal driven hygiene department. Patients will have a lot of questions. It is important to educate yourself and staff on how to handle these questions so you don’t risk losing patients during the process. How and why you decide to convert a patient into your periodontal program is a system within the dental office itself. Once all of the protocols are in place, it is still clinically up to the provider to determine how to approach the individual patient needs.
To say that all existing patients will be educated about periodontal disease and then treatment planned for root planing at their next 3 month appointment is not recommended. The important thing is that patients are educated about the disease process, told what their needs are, and continually treated with quality of care in mind.
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