Streamline your schedule to grow production and revenues

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

You know your messy, chaotic schedule is damaging your practice. It brings you nothing but stress and frustration, and is keeping you from meeting your full potential. You keep telling yourself there has to be a better way, as you deal with broken appointments and double bookings that either leave you with extra time in your day or running way behind.

You’re right, doctor. There is a better way, and it starts with streamlining your schedule. Once you get your schedule in order, your days will be much more productive—and of course less stressful. Revenues will grow and team morale will get a boost.

Sound good to you? I thought so. To help you get started, I’ve put together some tips designed to streamline your schedule so you can grow practice production and revenues:

Consider hiring a Scheduling Coordinator. If more than one person handles scheduling in your practice, it’s contributing to the chaos you deal with every day. When everyone has their hands in the schedule, no one is really responsible for it. So, you end up with random names and procedure times that don’t make any sense, and no effort to schedule your days to be productive.

That’s why I suggest implementing a Scheduling Coordinator. With the proper training and tools, this team member can start scheduling you to meet daily production goals—which will in turn boost practice revenues.

What does this team member need to succeed? A detailed job description and clear direction from you. Be sure to train your coordinator to confirm appointments with every patient two days in advance using their preferred method of communication, whether it’s text, email or phone call. This team member also should put a plan in place to handle broken appointments so that when they do happen, they don’t send the entire practice into a frenzy. In short, make this person accountable for the schedule.

Stop relying on pre-appointing alone. Why? This is an outdated approach that is likely costing you money. Let me explain.

Most patients don’t know what they’ll be doing on a random Wednesday morning six months from now. So, when they schedule an appointment with your practice that far out, there’s a good chance something else will come up that keeps them from your office. These patients may call to let you know they’re not coming a few hours before they’re supposed to arrive, or they may forget to call and just not show up.

To reduce the number of last-minute cancellations and no-shows you deal with, I suggest using a hybrid scheduling method. That means only pre-appointing reliable patients who have a history of making their appointments, and waiting to schedule the ones who are known for flaking out. Flag these patients and let them know you’ll call them a few weeks before they’re due to set their appointment. That way, they’ll have a much better idea of what their schedule will be, making them more likely to make it in.

This system also leaves more room in the schedule for patients who are ready to go forward with treatment. If you pre-appoint everyone, it gives you the illusion your schedule is full, and that means patients who are ready for treatment might have to wait four to six weeks to get in. That could be enough to send even your most loyal patients looking for a new dentist.

Communicate procedure times. As nice as it would be, your Scheduling Coordinator isn’t a mind reader. If you and your assistant don’t communicate procedure times, she’ll fill in random 60-minute appointments here and 90-minute appointments there. If those times are off, both you and your patients will suffer for it.

Make sure your Scheduling Coordinator knows exactly how much time you need for every procedure and train her to use different colors for you and your assistant. This will help ensure you have the appropriate time allocated for each procedure, while also helping you avoid being double booked.

Resist the urge to schedule dream days. While there are certain procedures you enjoy more than others, that doesn’t mean there is high demand for those procedures. Before having your Scheduling Coordinator block out a certain number of slots for crown and bridge work, for example, make sure you can actually fill them. If you can’t, you’ll end up with openings in your schedule that could keep you from meeting production goals.

Determine how many patients will actually need these appointments before blocking them out. To do this, calculate the number of crown and bridge procedures you’ve completed in the last six months, then divide that by the number of days worked. This will tell you how many spots you can reserve. Keep in mind this number might not be exact, but it will be a lot more realistic than basing it on what you hope to achieve.

The schedule is a source of stress and frustration for many dentists. It doesn’t have to be. These tips will help you streamline your days so you can grow production and your bottom line.

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