5 Ways to Streamline Your Chaotic Schedule
You really can’t remember the last time your schedule actually went as planned. On your busiest days, it doesn’t take long for you to fall behind and for patients to grow more and more annoyed as they wait for you in the reception area. Then there are the days plagued by last-minute cancellations and no-shows, leaving you with extra time to fill and keeping you from meeting production goals. You truly never know what to expect, which is both stressful and costly.
A poorly managed schedule can do a lot of damage to a practice. It leads to stress, low team morale and it hurts your bottom line. Streamlining your schedule will not only make your days more pleasant, it will help you boost production as well as practice revenues. The problem is, most dentists don’t know how to fix their chaotic schedules. That’s what I’m here for. Here are five of my tips:
1. Put one person in charge of your schedule. If multiple people are scheduling appointments in your practice, it’s no wonder your days feel a bit crazed. There’s no consistency and no one tasked with making sure you reach daily production goals. That’s why I suggest you hire a Scheduling Coordinator who you empower to take over the schedule. Make your expectations clear through a detailed job description, and provide this new hire with the tools and training necessary to succeed. Your days will be much less stressful as well as more predictable.
2. Establish daily production goals. Hiring a Scheduling Coordinator represents a great step toward streamlining your schedule, but this team member won’t be very effective if he or she only schedules you and other practice producers to stay busy. Keep in mind that busy doesn’t mean productive. That’s why it’s so important to sit down with your team to set production goals and train your coordinator to schedule you to meet those goals.
How, you ask? Determine how much money you need to lead your ideal lifestyle, and how many hours a week you’re willing to work to get there. Next, factor in the practice’s financial obligations. This will give you the number that should dictate your schedule, and the knowledge you need to turn your once chaotic schedule into a roadmap to success.
3. Communicate procedure times. If your Scheduling Coordinator is left to play the guessing game on procedure times, I can pretty much guarantee your schedule will be a mess. Scheduling 30 minute procedures here and 60 minute procedures there is a surefire way to send your day out of whack, especially if some of that scheduled treatment actually requires 90 minutes.
The good news? This is an easy fix. If you and your assistant always communicate accurate procedure times to your Scheduling Coordinator, he or she will be able to allot the proper amount of time in the schedule. No more guessing, and no more falling behind because the coordinator’s guess was way off.
4. Always confirm appointments. Part of your Scheduling Coordinator’s job should be to confirm appointments with every patient. This will help reduce the number of cancellations and no-shows you deal with, making your days less stressful and enabling you to meet production goals.
Your coordinator should confirm appointments two days in advance, either via phone, text message or email, depending on which form of communication the patient prefers.
5. Don’t schedule dream days. This is a common mistake I see many dentists make. They decide they prefer to perform certain types of revenue-generating procedures, and tell their Scheduling Coordinator to block out time for these procedures each week. The problem? Just because you enjoy crown and bridge work, for example, doesn’t mean you have enough demand to fill all the slots you left open. That leaves you with gaps in the schedule your coordinator will have to scramble to fill, making it difficult for you to meet your daily production goals.
If you’re going to block out sections of your schedule for certain procedures, you have to base that decision on reality – not what you wish was reality. Let’s say you’d like to block out time for crown and bridge work. Calculate how many crown and bridge procedures you’ve completed in the last six months, then divide that by the number of days you worked. This will tell you how many spots you can reserve without creating a scheduling nightmare. The number might not be exact, but it will get you much closer to patient demand than simply guessing.
Bottom line: If your schedule is a mess, it’s costing you money. These tips will help you get it back on track. Need more guidance? Feel free to contact me. I’m happy to help.
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
Everyone talks about time management, but few address it realistically. We have a set amount of time each day to see a certain number of patients, to care for them appropriately and generate the most revenue possible for the office. It is a daily challenge for hygienists.
• Update and recording of the patient’s medical and dental history (5 min)
Total 69 minutes
In some practices, the appointment must also include the use of a Cari-Vue or other caries detection device and recording of findings (5-10 minutes), and it must be remembered that fluoride varnish is placed after the dentist’s exam so as not to obscure the hygienist’s view of the teeth. Consider how long the hygienist waits for the dentist to come to the treatment room.
Some offices also want the hygienist to use the treatment room computer to make the patient’s next appointment, generate a walk-out statement and generate an insurance claim form. All in a 40-50 minute appointment.
What actually happens is that some services just do not get done.
Many offices long ago discarded the blood pressure reading and recording as being too time consuming. The rationale that a patient sees his dentist more than his physician, therefore can benefit from a blood pressure evaluation, has not compelled many offices to adopt this practice. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, the fact is many are not performing this service.
While an update of the patient’s medical history is extremely important, when time is short, this may also fall by the wayside. Offices do not like to talk about this, but it happens. If the patient has had a health situation that requires pre-medication, the dentist will not know. A dangerous post-hygiene complication for the patient may occur.
Full mouth probing and recording is another procedure that may or may not be accomplished. If the patient is perceived as being “healthy”, it becomes easy to do a little “spot-check” here and there and call it good. This happens more frequently in offices without a voice-activated recording system or access to an assistant to help. Without probing information, a new diagnosis of periodontitis may be missed. Not good for the patient, or for office revenue.
Home care instructions may also be ignored when time is short. Patients already know what they should be doing, right? And if time is getting short during the appointment, a less than adequate scaling and polishing may happen. If the hygienist knows the next patient is waiting and the dentist must time for an exam, pressure builds to “finish up”.
If the hygienist must schedule the patient’s next appointment, generate a walk-out statement, and/or generate an insurance form, treatment time is also significantly shortened.
By these examples, it can be readily seen that few clinical hygiene services can be eliminated without a possible negative consequence. How can we manage our time more appropriately?
• Schedule longer hygiene appointments. Make each appointment at least one hour. Even at one hour, a hygienist must keep moving relentlessly.
• If appointment times are not lengthened, eliminate some services performed by the hygienist. The most obvious choices would be non-clinical services such as making a patient’s next appointment and generating statements and forms. Allow for the hygienist to accompany the patient to the front desk area where clinical staff handle these necessary tasks.
• Work to develop less waiting time for the dentist’s exam. Allow for the dentist to come in any time during the patient’s hygiene appointment, not just at the end. This one step alone can greatly streamline the hygiene day. The dentist watches the schedule, and comes in when he or she has an appropriate “break” in patient treatment time.
• Invest in voice-activated software for probing depth recording; or allow for an assistant to be available for short periods during the hygiene appointment. Identifying periodontal patients cannot be accurately documented without complete recording of conditions. In addition, insurance carriers will not cover periodontal procedures without appropriate verification.
It is very important to always consider the most essential elements of a hygiene appointment. Updating the patient’s medical history, probing and recording, appropriate radiographs, scaling and polishing and home care instructions fall into the “essential” category. Shortcuts in these areas are not in alignment with current dental practice. Additional important clinical services such as the use of decay detecting devices, blood pressure readings, photographs, and fluoride application need to be considered as well. Realistically considering what can be done during the time provided is important to be sure the most important services of the hygiene department are not neglected.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
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