6.24.16 Issue #746 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Carol Tekavec, RDH
Hygiene Consultant
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Staying on Schedule in the Hygiene Department
By Carol Tekavec RDH

A major concern for many dental offices is staying on time in the hygiene department. We know that our patients hate to wait. The problem is, when dealing with human beings, a schedule doesn’t always run as planned. A patient may arrive five minutes late. Not a big deal for that particular patient, but if there are any other delays, such as changes in their medical history that must be noted, a particular tooth bothering them that necessitates an unplanned radiograph, or the patient just wants to talk a little more than usual, then we suddenly have an appointment running 15 or 20 minutes late. If the next patient has any unplanned issues, the time problem snowballs. Each patient is started later and later. If the dentist is tied up with another patient and does not come to the hygiene room in a timely manner, the situation becomes even worse. The schedule is now 45 minutes behind and everyone is frazzled and upset.

Having a strategy for staying on time and on schedule is important, even though we realize that despite the best plans we can make, sometimes we will still be late. We know that without a plan, the likelihood of being constantly behind is almost assured. So, we need to organize as best we can and all work together, front office and clerical staff, to keep the hygiene schedule moving. Here are some ideas:

1. Patient Has Not Arrived for Scheduled Appointment
After five minutes, the Patient Coordinator should call and ask the patient if they are on the way. If the patient will not be arriving within the next five minutes, the coordinator should let the patient know that he/she may still have the prophy, but any other services might need to be rescheduled. If the patient will be there within the next 15 to 20 minutes, the coordinator should offer to reschedule.

“Mr. Patient, I am so sorry, but that will make your appointment start too late to complete your necessary services. Let me reschedule your time so everything can be done appropriately.” 

2. Patient Cannot be Reached at the Five-Minute Late Mark
In this case the coordinator should text or email the patient, saying: “Mr. Patient, your appointment was at 2 pm and it is now past that. I was not able to reach you by phone, but want to let you know that we may have to reschedule your time. Please call us as soon as you receive this message.” This lets the patient know that the office takes appointment times seriously.

3. Patient Shows Up Late
Depending on the patient and what else is happening, the hygienist can elect to go ahead with the appointment and let the patient know that one of the regular services may need to be rescheduled. However, it is not appropriate to skip the update of the patient’s medical history to save time. This is an essential service that cannot be ignored.

4. Patient is Frequently Late
When certain patients are repeatedly late, they can be placed on a “cancellation same-day call list” rather than rescheduled that day. That way if another patient cancels in the future, you can call the frequently-late patient as a fill-in. This often works well for the chronically late or “broken appointment” type patient.

5. Timing of Dentist Exam
In many offices, the dentist’s exam can be accomplished at any time during the hygiene appointment. It does not always need to be done at the end, unless the dentist requires this as his/her preference. If the exam is determined by the dentist to be appropriate during the hygiene appointment, the doctor can look at the schedule, see that the hygiene patient is in the chair, come for the exam, and then go ahead with the patient scheduled for the doctor’s own chair time. This way the doctor is not in the middle of a surgical procedure or a difficult endo when the hygienist rings for the exam.

6. Delay of Dentist Exam
If the dentist is busy and the hygienist has other patients waiting, perhaps the patient can be dismissed without the dentist’s exam today, and at the next recall the exam can be accomplished (this should never be done without the dentist’s prior approval). During a staff meeting, when people are not under stress, it should be determined when the dentist thinks it will be appropriate for the hygienist to let a patient go without an exam. If “never”, then the office needs to decide how to handle patients who are waiting. Should the coordinator reschedule them? Should the coordinator call patients who are scheduled later in the day to tell them to come in 20 or 30 minutes later? Should the hygienist and other staff work through their lunch hours? While none of these answers might be preferred, the problem of running behind needs to be addressed realistically. Letting a patient go without a scheduled exam is problematic, both from the patient care aspect, and from the office revenue aspect. Decisions need to be made.

While no schedule can run perfectly, we can keep on time by making plans and enlisting the help of the entire dental team. Keeping our patients happy is one of our most important jobs. Keeping on time is an essential part of this.

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 hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

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