Frustrated With Open Time?
Dr. Little has a lot of open time, both in the hygiene department and his own chair. He is very frustrated and is considering dropping hygiene time, using his own retirement to pay the practice bills, reducing benefits and salaries - all because of the decrease in money coming into the practice. The most frustrating thing of all… his hygienist and staff are not stepping up to the plate to help get the practice rolling again.
When there is open time in hygiene, it means that the doctor’s chair will experience the same open time in a few weeks. Many times, it is the recall patients that keep the doctor busy - so working the recall system is essential! Yes, we at McKenzie Management would like to have a person hired to do nothing but work the recall system. However, if there is not enough money to pay all the bills and the current staff find themselves doing busy work, then there is no reason to hire somebody new. They do, however, need to make recall a number one priority!
Filling the hygiene chairs is the number one focus of everybody on the payroll when there is open time. When the hygiene chairs are full, the doctor’s chair will also be full. You may be thinking: “We have the patients scheduled but they cancel last minute or don’t show up at all.” You have to ask yourself, “Why is this happening? What can we do to help prevent this from happening?”
The hygienist and doctor need to find a reason why the patient must return in 3 months for their hygiene appointment. If nothing else, they need to keep their teeth and oral cavity healthy because of the affect over the entire body (diabetes and heart disease for example).
As a patient, I may be thinking that anybody can clean his or her teeth at home. It doesn’t matter if I miss a hygiene appointment or two. Nothing hurts me. Educate your patients of the “need” to return.
Hygienists use their education to take care of patient’s dental health. The patient is depending on you to do so, and thinking that it is solely the doctor’s job is not fair. All licensed professionals are responsible for the patients care. It takes a dental team to care for patients the way they need to be taken care of - and patients depend on their healthcare professionals. When I visit my physician, I depend on that health care professional to read and diagnose my symptoms accurately and tell me what needs to be done - not just do what they can in the time allotted and hope that it’s good enough. I wouldn’t want to have health care professionals taking care of me that are just there to collect a paycheck and go home… would you?
Doctors and hygienists diagnose and treat periodontal disease, and then inform the patient of what needs to be done and the options that they have when it comes to treatment. This is an ongoing process the entire time the patient is in your practice, and should be evaluated every time the patient is in the hygienist chair.
It may be difficult for some dental professionals to tell the patient bad news or that they will have to pay more money than anticipated. But failing to tell a patient what the optimal care is and what their options include is not providing any service or quality of care to the patient. Don’t just inform them - say it with confidence! When dismissing the patient, remind them of why they need to return. This also is noted in the chart or computer so the entire staff is aware of the patients needs when they are talking to them.
Go over the office protocol and recall system with all new patients. Remind them to give as much notice as possible if they need to change an appointment. Mention to them that if they are not good at keeping their appointments, they may want to hold off on scheduling and receive a reminder, and to call the minute they get the reminder because appointment times go fast.
Without patients in the chair, there is not going to be money in the bank to meet the expenses of the practice. Just because there are checks in the checkbook doesn’t mean there is money in the bank. Think of the practice as your own when it comes to keeping the doctor and hygiene schedules productive. Always remember it is not only the doctor that pays you and the costs to keep the practice alive, but the patients that are actually coming into the practice for their appointments and keeping the chair warm.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program.
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