3 Signs Your Schedule Needs Help
Your schedule should never be a source of stress and frustration. Instead, it should guide your day and keep you on track to meeting your practice’s daily production goals. Yet, most dentists feel like their schedule is out of control. In fact, nearly 87% of McKenzie Management seminar attendees surveyed between 2014 and 2015 admitted their schedule needs help.
The problem? Instead of keeping their practice running like a well-oiled machine, the schedule is plagued with openings that go unfilled and broken appointments that bring chaos to their day. Some doctors consistently find themselves double-booked, leaving them no hope of ever getting caught up, while others always seem to fall short of daily production goals.
Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, it’s time to make some changes to your schedule. I’ve put together four signs your schedule needs help, along with tips designed to help you streamline your schedule, meet production goals and boost profits.
1. More than one person schedules appointments. This is huge. If you task more than one person with managing the schedule, it will only lead to confusion and frustration. Think about it. If scheduling is everyone’s job but no one’s responsibility, who’s going to notice when the schedule isn’t filled to meet production goals, or develop a plan to handle cancellations and no-shows? No one, because you haven’t made any of your team members accountable for the schedule. And this, doctor, is doing nothing but hurting your practice.
Now is the time to empower one person to take over the schedule. I suggest hiring a Scheduling Coordinator, and giving this important team member the tools and training needed to succeed. Once you do, you’ll not only find that you’re finally meeting production goals, your days will also be much less chaotic.
2. You haven’t set production goals. Setting and meeting production goals is vital to your practice’s success. Take the time to sit down with your team members to determine daily practice production. Base this number on how much money you need to live your ideal lifestyle, and how many hours you’re willing to work each week to get there. Talk with team members about setting attainable goals, both as a practice and as individuals, and make sure they understand how important their contributions are to meeting those goals and helping the practice succeed.
Your coordinator should schedule you to meet daily production goals, not just to keep you busy. Once your Scheduling Coordinator understands this, you’ll be well on your way to transforming your chaotic schedule into your roadmap to practice success and profitability.
3. You don’t leave room for new patients. When a new patient calls your practice, he or she doesn’t want to wait four to six weeks to see the doctor. But if your schedule is “booked” months out because you pre-appoint, that’s exactly what will happen…sending many potential new patients to the practice down the street. Even if they do book, chances are they’ll cancel at the last minute or simply not show up, leaving gaping holes in your schedule that your coordinator will be left scrambling to fill.
You simply must leave room in your schedule for new patients. They’re the bread and butter of your practice, and you need them to grow a thriving, successful business. But don’t just guess and leave a random number of open slots for these important patients. 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 during that time, 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.
If you’re not managing your schedule properly, it’s costing you money. It’s also leading to undue stress and frustration, which isn’t doing your practice any favors either. The truth is, a chaotic schedule is holding your practice back from meeting its full potential.
If you’re finally ready to take your schedule back, remember you don’t have to do it alone. Click here to take my free scheduling assessment, or reach out to me directly. Remember I’m here to help, and will do what I can to get your practice on the path to true success and profitability.
Next week, How to fix your schedule.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Have You Reviewed Your Forms and Signs Lately?
Chartless/paperless dental practices are becoming more prevalent as the years go by. For me, I would venture to say that at least 75% of the offices I visit are chartless. I say “chartless” because they are not paperless; just ask the doctor how many reams of paper they purchase in a year! What is the paper used for? Good question. Patient registrations including medical histories, consent forms, financial option forms, treatment plans, insurance claims, HIPAA Privacy Act forms, surveys, and on and on.
You want to provide top-notch customer service and deliver excellent clinical skills. Your physical practice is beautiful with refreshment centers, professionally decorated reception areas, etc. Unfortunately, attention to detail in other areas is often ignored, such as forms you present to patients and the signage they see every day. It may be time to make updates and changes where necessary.
• Clarity opposed to a copy of a copy of a copy of the original form that was initiated 15 years ago.
Speaking of nice paper, how about professional pens with your name on them? Those pens with plastic flowers attached to the top are cheesy. You are saying to your valued patients that you don’t want them to steal your pen! And take a look at your clipboards, if that is what you are using. When was the last time they were wiped down with sanitizer? Think about how many patients have handled those clip boards. Do they look presentable? I prefer the nice “leatherette” presentation folder that includes the pen, office business cards and a place for the office brochure.
Take a look at the signs in the staff lounge. I realize patients don’t see them, but your employees do. Look at your Emergency Exit instructions. Typically, I see these on a white piece of paper taped to a wall somewhere in view of the patients. Think about having a sign made that is easy to read with clear instructions.
There is also the “Payment Expected at the Time of Service” sign. I often see this posted, but when I review the Accounts Receivables it is $100,000 higher than it should be. Payment options should be made clear at the time of scheduling the appointment using the financial options form, not with a sign at the checkout counter!
Walk outside and take a look at the signage that patients are searching for to confirm they are at the right location. Is it kept clean and legible? Is it well-lit so it can be seen after dark? If you have a stand-alone sign, is the landscaping around it (where applicable) well-kept, free of weeds, and attractive? And last but not least, the door mat at the entrance of your beautiful office. Is it kept clean, trash-free and inviting?
These are just a few areas to check in your practice. I hope this article has encouraged you and your team to review these items, as well as other details in your office such as the lens on the operatory light. See what your patients see and ask yourself what they must think!
Non-Covered Dental Procedures Are Not Write-Offs
New legislation regarding non-covered dental services prohibits insurance companies from controlling what a dentist may charge for those procedures. As these laws begin taking effect in various states across the country, many dental insurance companies in the effected states are amending their provider contracts to reflect the new language and law.
It only seems fair that if a procedure is not a covered benefit of the policy, the insurance company can say, “I don’t want to participate in the cost of this service.” The contracted dentist would then charge the patient the standard fee schedule (cash patient). But it hasn’t always been this way for many insurance policies.
In the past, insurance policies dictated that if a procedure (for instance: an occlusal guard) was not covered by the patient’s insurance policy, but was found on the list of covered procedures issued by the policy, then the patient paid the in-network fee (if the practice was a network provider), even though it was not covered by the policy. This isn’t fair because the insurance company is dictating what the dentist can charge, even though they are not participating in the coverage.
Thirty-five states have passed new legislation that no longer allows insurers to require dental providers to give discounts for services not covered under an insured dental plan. Listed below are the states that have passed this legislation. You can find the document source HERE.
1. Alabama. Effective date: September 1, 2015
Many practices are wondering how to discuss the new legislation with patients, especially when it becomes apparent that their out-of-pocket expenses will increase due to the loss of discounts or write-off adjustments for certain dental procedures. Employers may experience more complaints due to employee dissatisfaction at increased costs for non-covered services. Patients may opt not to have the service performed if there isn’t a required discount or their insurance company declines to participate in the cost of services that their dental provider recommends.
Here is some scripting for this situation.
Patient: Why doesn’t my insurance cover this procedure?
Office: The purchaser or your employer has chosen this policy coverage to give you basic care with the interest of keeping the group dental premium more affordable for all employees. This procedure is not considered basic care under your policy. Basic care is cleanings, examinations, x-rays and fillings.
Patient: Why can’t you give me a discount or write-off what the insurance won’t pay?
Office: I understand how you feel. We are contracted with your insurance company to accept their discounted fee schedule. You are receiving substantial discounts with this plan. Part of that contract states that we have to collect your deductibles and coinsurance to comply with the contract.
For in-network or contracted dentists, the challenge of selling the benefits of dental care after the per-calendar year maximum has been met is another subject. Even with insurance covering some of the costs, it can be a challenge to get patients to accept treatment due to out-of-pocket costs. In the past, after the patient’s maximum was met they could still receive discounted benefits on further treatment even if not covered by the policy. This is subject to interpretation by the state, but if it is not covered by the policy it can be charged at the standard fee.
This legislature, although fair to the dentists, will not necessarily increase production and collections. Those are skills based on the providers and their dental team’s ability to sell the benefits of good dental health and motivate the patients to accept health.
Want to improve your skills as a Dental Business Manager? Call McKenzie Management today and lock in training dates that meet your demanding schedule.
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