Things aren't always as they seem are they. That special offer on the new cell phone isn't so special when you have to fill out multiple forms to get your promised rebate. The great deal on the snow skiing vacation isn't so wonderful when the only time you can schedule it is in July. That price break on a hot, new product isn't such a bargain when you have to purchase a package of 25 rather than the one that you need. And that jam-packed hygiene schedule probably isn't as full as it appears, nor is it bringing in the revenues you think it is.
Practices often perceive that their hygiene schedules are so full that if patients don't book their appointments six months in advance, well, they can just forget it. They're not getting in, plain and simple. Then low and behold the doctor is sweating overhead numbers because hygiene salaries are outpacing hygiene production by leaps and bounds. Maybe it's time your practice started scheduling based on the realities of supply and demand.
Let me explain. You want to ensure that you have an adequate supply of hygiene days so that new and existing patients do not have to wait weeks or, worse yet, months for hygiene appointments and you want enough patient demand to ensure that the hygiene department accounts for 33% of your total practice production and your hygienist is producing 3x her/his daily wage. Follow this formula to ensure that your supply meets demand:
- Count the number of active patients – those seen in the past year for oral health evaluations.
- Multiply that figure by two, since most patients come in twice a year for oral hygiene appointments.
- Add the number of new patients receiving a comprehensive diagnosis per year. For example: your practice has 1,000 active patients + 300 new patients = 1,300 x 2 = 2,600 possible hygiene appointments.
- Now take that number and compare it to the hygienist's potential patient load.
If the hygienist works four days a week, sees 10 patients per day, and works 48 weeks a year there are 1,920 hygiene appointments available.
- Subtract that total from 2,600. You are losing nearly 700 appointments per year – 680 to be exact – or 14 patients per week. In this scenario, the hygiene department should be increased 1.5 days per week.
If your practice schedules patients when they are due rather than pre-scheduling appointments, examine how far ahead patients are booked for appointments. If there are no openings in the hygiene schedule for a solid three-week period and some patients are being bumped into the fourth week, begin increasing the hygiene department's availability in half-day increments. If you find there is more hygiene time than necessary develop a patient retention strategy and focus greater attention on filling those extra days.
Unless your hygienist doubles as a superhero, she/he is going to need assistance achieving the goal of 33% of practice revenue. That help comes in the form of a solid recall system, a trained patient coordinator to ensure that the hygiene schedule is full, and advanced hygiene training.
Patients are very busy people, if they don't perceive the importance of keeping their regular oral hygiene appointment, they won't. Use your recall system to do more than just remind patients of a “regular check-up” educate them and emphasize the importance and value of every oral hygiene appointment. Send professionally printed recall notices that fit into an envelope with an educational brochure that informs them about a new or existing service that they may want to consider. The patient coordinator personalizes the notice by writing a short, personal note directly to the patient.
The coordinator also is responsible for ensuring the hygienist is scheduled to meet daily production goals and for confirming all appointments at least two days in advance. Finally, the practice should have a clear policy regarding cancellations and broken appointments that is shared with all new patients and regularly mentioned to existing patients.
Take just a few steps to ensure that your hygiene department is as productive as it is busy, and that full schedule will quickly become a reality and not just an illusion.
If you would like more information on our Advanced Hygiene Training Programs, please email Sally at firstname.lastname@example.org
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