4 Reasons Your Schedule is Chaotic (And How to Fix It!)
When you walk into your practice each morning, you never quite know what to expect. It might be another busy day that keeps you running from patient to patient with no time for a break, or last minute cancellations and no-shows might leave you with gaping holes in your schedule that go unfilled. Either way, there’s one thing for sure: it’s likely to be stressful.
If this describes your practice, it’s time to take your schedule back. Your schedule shouldn’t be a source of stress. Instead, it should keep you on track to meet daily production goals. If it isn’t, it might be time to make some changes.
Not sure how your schedule got so out of control? Here are four reasons your schedule is chaotic, and what you can do to fix it.
1. More than one person handles scheduling. This is a big one. When there are multiple hands in your schedule, it’s bound to lead to frustration and confusion. Instead of meeting production goals, your days are filled with inaccurate procedure times, double bookings and those dreaded broken appointments that cost you money and bring everyone on the team down.
So what’s the fix? I suggest you hire a TRAINED Scheduling Coordinator. This important team member should understand the importance of scheduling to meet daily production goals – not just scheduling to keep you busy – and is the person accountable for the schedule. If you properly communicate with your Scheduling Coordinator and provide the necessary training, you’ll finally enjoy a more streamlined, stress-free schedule.
2. You schedule dream days. Sure, most dentists would love to fill in their own schedule with the procedures they enjoy doing the most and that bring in the most revenue. The problem is, just because you tell your Scheduling Coordinator to block out a certain number of crown and bridge appointments every day doesn’t mean you have enough demand to fill those spots.
If you’re going to block out sections of the schedule for your favorite procedures, you have to be realistic. Base the number on historical data and what the practice can actually achieve, not what you wish it could achieve.
Let’s say you want to block out time for crown and bridge procedures. First, calculate how many you’ve done in the last six months. Divide that by the number of days you worked to determine how many spots to reserve. Now remember there’s no guarantee this number is exact, but it will be much closer than if you simply guess.
3. You don’t have daily production goals. It’s difficult for your Scheduling Coordinator to schedule you to meet daily production goals if you haven’t figured out what those goals are. This is key to practice success, so if you haven’t already, now is a great time to determine practice production goals.
Start by gathering your team members and working together to come up with goals for both the practice and everyone as individuals. Make sure team members understand how important their contributions are to meeting those goals and to practice success. From there, think about how much money you need to live the lifestyle you want and how many hours a week you’re willing to work to get there. Don’t forget to factor in all practice related overhead, including salaries and lab fees. This will help you determine how much money you need to bring in each day to meet your goals, and that’s the number that should dictate your schedule.
Once you know your daily production goals, train the Scheduling Coordinator to schedule you to meet them. This will be a huge step forward in fixing your schedule and growing your bottom line.
4. You rely on pre-appointing alone. This is a practice dentists have used for years, but all it does is wreak havoc on your schedule. Most people have no idea what they’re doing six months from now, which is why many of the patients who schedule this far in advance end up cancelling at the last minute or simply not showing up at all, leaving your team scrambling to fill holes in the schedule. Bottom line, these broken appointments cost you money and lead to undue stress in your practice.
Another problem with pre-appointing? The schedule looks full even though it really isn’t. That means when new patients call to schedule an appointment, they can’t get in for weeks. Even if they do schedule, many of these patients won’t wait that long to see a doctor. Instead, they’ll keep calling practices until they find a dentist who can get them in sooner.
I know you might not be ready to give up pre-appointing, so consider developing a hybrid method instead. This will help reduce the number of cancellations and no-shows your practice deals with each day as well as open up more room in your schedule for new patients.
Managing a schedule isn’t easy, which is why it’s so important to hire a TRAINED Scheduling Coordinator to take over this important task. You’ll find your schedule is more streamlined and much less stressful, and that of course leads to increased production and a more robust bottom line.
Next week: Get the most out of your Scheduling Coordinator
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
The Dos and Don’ts of the Employee Policy Manual
Called by many names including “Personnel Manual”, “Office Policy Manual” or “Staff Handbook”, it amounts to being a workplace document that is valued by most employers as a reliable way to convey expectations of the rights and obligations of staff to the business or employer.
When training doctors and their management team, I often ask if this document exists, who wrote it, and when it was written or updated. Most reply that it is at least as old as the practice, has been scribbled in, has crossed out sentences and loose pages added, and for the most part is a useless and maybe dangerously outdated document.
Unfortunately, many offices create their own office or employee policy manual to save money, without knowledge of the possible legal consequences that could come out of a carelessly created document. Your handbook should convey the mission, history, purpose and goals of the practice. The culture of the practice is necessary for new employees to understand, to ensure a good fit with the existing team.
Make sure the handbook is written so it complies with federal and state employment laws. If written correctly, it will minimize the potential for legal woes having to do with bad hires and termination issues.
Clarify to a new hire the expectations of employee conduct, behavior, attendance and job performance. Performance review details should be illustrated, and the discipline process and employee notifications defined for consistency of understanding. Clarify who the employee should report to for issues relating to work problems and disagreements with other staff members. It is important for the manual to be written in a clear, concise format and for team members to completely understand the language of the policies.
If you have employees who will be subject to different workplace rules from other employees, ensure there is a separate employee handbook for each type of employee. Don’t release the employee handbook until it is legally compliant. Have it either written completely by a legal HR specialist or have the current one reviewed by an attorney to be compliant with federal and state law.
Each employee’s handbook should contain their job descriptions and areas they are accountable for in the practice. The job description should be open-ended so management can decide whether to delegate new tasks or assign stated tasks to other employees. A job description is not a contract of employment.
As an employer, the dentist should be aware of legal requirement changes and trends that occur in the state. Regularly consult with experts regarding laws that may affect hiring practices. Don’t use another practices’ employee handbook as a model to develop your own, as it may not be compliant or up-to-date and may represent policies that you are not in agreement with. Some newer employee handbooks contain new rules regarding social media, cell phone, texting and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies.
Have policies in place that protect your practice from workplace safety issues, workplace violence and sexual harassment issues. Train managers or supervisors on the policies stated in the handbook and how it is to be used in the practice.
Avoid making any absolute statements or promises in the handbook, such as “After a year of continued employment you will receive a bonus of $500.” Don’t be too specific when discussing employee benefits, raises and other perks because these could change dependent upon whether the practice is operating in the black or not. Guaranteeing a yearly raise is not prudent when you don’t know if the practice can afford it.
Update the employee handbook each year to include any changes in office policy or state or federal employment law. Think of the handbook as a living document that evolves as the law, society and practice business changes and develops.
McKenzie Management has resources for expertly written and compliant Employee Policy Handbooks. To perfect your business skills, including recruiting and hiring the best employees, please call McKenzie Management today and schedule a business training course for yourself and your staff.
Looking to Expand? What to Consider First
At the beginning of their careers, many dentists dream of one day owning a larger, highly successful practice complete with multiple operatories and the most high-tech equipment available. They can envision themselves happily treating patients in this beautiful space and can’t wait to make this vision a reality.
That’s a great goal, but if you’re one of those dentists with dreams of expanding, it could all turn into a nightmare if you’re not careful.
These large, high-tech practices enable you to provide top-notch care while also attracting more patients, but they also come with serious overhead headaches. Don’t worry, I’m not here to crush your dreams. A large practice isn’t out of reach; a little pre-planning will go a long way in ensuring your move to a larger practice is successful. Here are a few tips.
Industry overhead standard: 55% of collections
Determining your Numbers
Now let’s look at payroll. At 20% of collections, your staff overhead budget should be $20,000 a month. If your math puts you above that benchmark, you’ll want to make some changes before getting to that larger practice. That could include looking at the way you handle raises and finding ways to make your current team more efficient before you hire anyone new.
Here’s a look at different ways to get that number down:
- Work more days. While this might seem like a good idea, working extra days doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have higher production. You still need patients in the chair.
- Lease two of your operatories to specialists. While this could help keep overhead down, it isn’t a setup you should enter into lightly. Adding specialists enables you to offer more treatment in-house, which could attract more patients, but these arrangements also involve other logistics and concerns such as legal agreements.
- Reduce the number of employees. Of course you want to avoid this if you can, especially if you’re preparing for growth in the new practice. With that said, make sure you’re scheduling properly and don’t have too many clinical people on staff.
- Increase production. This is the best way to grow your practice and boost your revenues.
And like I mentioned before, market to patients both internally and externally. Let current patients know you’re expanding your practice and educate them about any new services you’re providing, whether you spread your message with posters in your waiting area, through an e-newsletter or simply by talking with patients while they’re at the practice. Find ways to reach out to potential new patients to get them excited as well. Determine which options work best in your area. If you’re not comfortable with this, don’t be afraid to reach out to dental marketing experts for help.
Whether you’re ready to expand your space or want to move to a larger practice, it’s important to put a plan in place first. Work out the numbers so you don’t run the risk of your overhead costs skyrocketing out of control. Determine where you are and where you need to be, then start making the necessary changes and you’ll be much more successful in your new space.
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