5 Ways to Set Your Scheduling Coordinator Up for Success
You’ve finally done it. You’ve hired Kelly, a top-notch Scheduling Coordinator, and you’re confident she’s exactly what your practice needs. She’ll be the sole person in charge of setting your schedule, eliminating the almost daily chaos and frustration you and your team members have come to know so well.
This is a great first step, but if you want your new Scheduling Coordinator to help your practice reach its full potential, you have to set her up for success. You can’t expect her to read your mind, or simply tell her it’s her job to keep your schedule full. You have to empower her to take complete control of the schedule, and set clear expectations. When you do, you’ll not only enjoy less stressful days, you’ll start to notice a growing bottom line.
How, you ask? Here are a few tips I’ve put together to help ensure your Scheduling Coordinator is prepared to schedule your practice for success and profitability.
1. Provide a job description. I know I’ve talked about this before, but it’s important. Create a written job description for your Scheduling Coordinator (as well as for every other position in your practice) and make sure it outlines job duties, expectations and performance measurements. If you need help putting a job description together, visit my website HERE. You’ll find job descriptions for every positon. They may need to be altered to fit your practice, but they’ll give you a good start.
2. Provide training to meet daily production goals. Your Scheduling Coordinator shouldn’t just schedule your days to keep you busy; this person should schedule your days to keep you productive. If you haven’t already, determine how much money you need to bring in to meet both your personal and professional goals. Factor in practice overhead costs as well as how many hours a week you’re willing to work to meet those goals. The number you come up with should dictate your schedule.
3. Communicate procedure times. Unless you like dealing with stress and aggravation, don’t leave your Scheduling Coordinator guessing about procedure times. If you do, you’ll be scheduled for 60 minutes here and 90 minutes there, and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a scheduling nightmare. Tell your Scheduling Coordinator exactly how much time you and your assistant need to complete a procedure. Let me give you an example.
You examine a hygiene patient and determine the patient needs two fillings and a crown. You then tell your hygienist how much time you’ll need to complete the treatment, and she passes that information on to the Scheduling Coordinator. From there, the coordinator marks the procedure in the schedule, using different colors for both the doctor and the assistant. Seems simple, but it’s an important step that will help make sure you’re never double-booked. It also helps ensure you have enough time with every patient and can focus on providing the best care possible, instead of worrying about how far behind you’ve fallen.
4. Stress the importance of booking new patients. When potential new patients call your practice to schedule an appointment, they want to come in as soon as possible, not in three, four or even five weeks. But if you are booking patients months out, your Scheduling Coordinator will be under the illusion the schedule is jam packed, leaving no room for new patients any time soon.
Make sure your Scheduling Coordinator understands the importance of leaving room in the schedule for new patients, but don’t just throw out a random number. Instead, determine how much time you actually need to allocate to new patients in your schedule. How? Look at new patient activity over the last six months. Let’s say you treated 60 patients in that timeframe, which is an average of 10 patients per month or 2.5 patients a week. That’s how much time you should reserve in your schedule to handle new patient demand.
New patients are the bread and butter of your practice. If you can’t fit them into your schedule when they call, that clearly tells them you don’t value their business. Even if they do make an appointment for three months down the road, I can guarantee they’re going to keep looking for a dentist who isn’t quite so busy.
5. Train your Scheduling Coordinator to confirm appointments. You can’t just schedule appointments and forget about them. The Scheduling Coordinator needs to be responsible for confirming every appointment, which in turn will reduce the cancellations and no-shows that plague every practice.
Patients should be contacted 48 hours before their appointment, whether it’s by phone call, text message or email. When scheduling appointments, patients should be asked which method they prefer. If the patient prefers a phone call, make sure your coordinator knows not to leave a message and to actually talk to the patient to confirm. This will help reduce cancellations and no-shows, as well as the chaos and lost revenues that go along with them.
You’re ready to take back your schedule, and hiring a Scheduling Coordinator is a great first step. Arm this person with the tools and training needed to succeed, and your practice will soon reap the benefits.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
False Expectations Appearing Real (F.E.A.R.)
Today’s world is filled with things to make us afraid. The constant threat of terrorism. Monster storms. Ebola virus. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Children not safe in their classrooms. Violence in our own neighborhood streets. Given these terrifying facts, it’s truly amazing that most of us get up, get dressed and go to work or school each day!
Fear is an emotion we all have. It is a survival response to danger and it’s normal. However, much of what you fear may very well be self-created, inaccurate beliefs that keep you stuck. Are you haunted by fear of failure? Do you worry about being out of control or criticized? Looking foolish? Being lonely? Painful as these may be, they are often illusions that you imagine in your mind. They make you anxious about the future and cause you to procrastinate. Fear can cause you to opt for a mediocre life because it seems safe and predictable.
I’m not knocking fear, because it does have value. Without fear you wouldn’t be able to protect yourself from legitimate threats. Fear can also be a motivating force. Remember how much you studied before an exam? But fear isn’t a positive trait in the workplace. Fear inhibits learning and performance. And unfortunately many of us fear situations that are far from life-and-death. Mark Twain said it best, “I’ve suffered a great many tragedies in my life and most of them never happened.” Ask yourself if what you find threatening is actually something you’re building in your brain.
Certainly there are genetic and chemical predispositions to be fearful. Yet while you may be wired to worry, courage is something you can learn. If you spend most of your time trying to avoid fear, if you are muddling along, it’s time to get skilled at the art of mastering your insecurities. Your team hungers for leadership, for guidance and direction from someone with a clear vision and a cool head. Great leaders are not born; they’re made. You can conquer your fears and be the leader your family, community and practice needs. Here are some practical strategies to push you out of your comfort zone so you can tackle new opportunities.
Exercise. There are many benefits of cardiovascular fitness, among them lower anxiety and depression. Researchers have found that when we exercise we are less responsive to the stress hormone cortisol.
Get support. Humans are social creatures and we need the emotional support of family and friends. Oxytocin, the hormone that binds mothers and children as well as romantic partners, lessens the sensation of pain and fear. Leaning on your support network can make all the difference.
Switch the ‘station’. If you don’t like the song or the TV program, you change the station. The same holds true in managing thoughts. Reframe the situation that produces fear and see it from a different perspective. To use a theatre metaphor, go to the balcony and get a bigger view of what’s before you. By putting things in a broader context you will be in a better mindset. Remember that there are always ‘trade-offs’ in our choices and decisions. Rewards often come with some risks, but focus on the good things that might come.
Take it in bite-size pieces. A daunting task can drive even the toughest into discouragement. Break that project you’ve been avoiding into small parts. Focus on taking incremental steps rather than getting bogged down and despaired by the hugeness of what’s before you. Take action on something that you can do in an hour or less and be disciplined in your attention.
Take safe risks. A key factor to mastering fear is to develop a sense of confidence. Engage in activities that challenge you but have minimal risk. For example, if your introverted style is hindering your treatment case presentations, initiate short conversations with people in the grocery store. Or make a toast at a dinner party. When you intentionally push the boundaries of your comfort zone you become more self-assured and progressively take on more difficult challenges.
Befriend your fear. There have been important research discoveries about the impact of stress on longevity. Once thought to be harmful, fear itself is not as detrimental as once thought. What is significant is how we define and respond to anxiety and fear. In fact, those who overcome social challenges and work the hardest live the longest. When you feel afraid, use that as a signal of an inaccurate belief and challenge yourself to think about what you want to achieve.
It’s normal to be apprehensive when facing uncertain outcomes, but if you try to protect yourself from all the horrible things that could go wrong, you will be stagnant. The infamous words of Theodore Roosevelt ring true - “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Having courage is not being fearless, but resolving to meet a scary circumstance head on. Be brave.
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
Five Tips for Talking to Patients about Perio Scaling and Perio Maintenance
The need for perio scaling can be a difficult topic for dental hygienists to broach with patients. It is often more difficult for patients of record than for new patients, although both can be a challenge. People often think that by brushing their teeth and using a T.V. advertised mouthwash they are doing everything that needs to be done to maintain good oral health. It can come as a shock when they are told they have periodontal disease. Here are a few tips to set the stage for a successful conversation.
1. Explain and then perform full mouth perio charting. To get patients on board with the need for perio scaling, they must first understand how we discern a perio condition. This can be accomplished by using something as simple as a hand drawn diagram of a tooth including the root, bone and gum tissue, or a professionally prepared video shown in the treatment room. The important aspect is that there is a visual so they can see what we are talking about. The visual can be used to describe what we are looking for, how we are going to obtain data concerning their condition (showing them the perio probe and its millimeter divisions), and where on a tooth the readings will be taken.
An intraoral camera and monitor are great tools to show a probe disappearing into a pocket in their own mouths, or a simple hand mirror can be utilized. We then explain what the readings mean. According to the latest guidelines by the American Academy of Periodontology, any reading deeper than 4mm indicates a need for treatment. Full mouth charting can be accomplished by the hygienist alone, but a minimum of ten minutes must be allowed for this if going from the mouth to the computer. About five minutes is all it takes if working with an assistant or voice-activated system. It is important for the patient to hear what the readings are.
2. Sit the patient upright and go over all of the results. Leaving a patient lying down is not conducive to an effective conversation. Ideally the patient and hygienist should be just about eye-to-eye. The perio chart results can be shown on the monitor with the readings over 4mm highlighted.
3. Describe what perio disease is and what perio scaling accomplishes. Talking about perio disease as an infection is often a successful method of approaching this part of the discussion. People will typically ask how they got the disease, why no one ever talked to them about it before, and why didn’t their own brushing and flossing take care of it. If they are patients of record they may want to know why they are just finding out about this problem now.
Addressing perio disease as a condition somewhat like high blood pressure may be helpful. A person may have gone many years without high blood pressure, yet have this condition diagnosed at a recent check-up. The fact that high blood pressure can be managed, just as perio disease can often be managed, is also a good comparison. Brushing and flossing is important, but just as eating a healthy diet and exercising may not be enough to control blood pressure, their home care up until now has not been enough to control their perio condition. Perio scaling removes the source of the infection (bacteria and toxic bacterial by-products living in the areas around the teeth) so that their own immune systems can work successfully. It reduces the bacterial load so brushing and flossing can be effective.
4. Explain what tools will be used to perform the perio scaling. Patients do not want to be hurt! It is very important to stress they will be numb for the procedure, hand tools and ultrasonics will be used, and they will be comfortable throughout. Typically one side (top and bottom) will be done at a time, although an appointment for the entire mouth is not uncommon. Beware of insurance guidelines if performing a full mouth procedure, as some carriers reduce the amount they will pay if the entire service is done at one appointment.
5. Be sure patients understand that perio maintenance is a must! It is important for patients to know that from now on they will be coming for a different service than a standard “cleaning” when they come for their recall appointments. They also need to know they will be coming more frequently. They must understand that in the future they will be receiving a maintenance procedure, not a prophy, three or four times a year. It is usually a mistake to spring this on patients after they have already had the perio scaling.
Talking about maintenance further reinforces the fact that meticulous home care and professional treatment are all part of the “deal” in getting them to health and keeping them there. Fees and insurance limitations are also an important part of the discussion. Nothing makes patients more uneasy than not knowing or understanding what the cost of their treatment will be.
Perio procedures are an important service we can offer our patients. We can help to keep our patients healthy, but we need them to understand and “buy-in” to perio procedures in order to ensure a successful result.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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