11.03.06 - Issue # 243 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Steer Clear of the Top Three
Scheduling Missteps
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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You’re Scheduling Coordinator may be pretty good, but I’ll bet she/he doesn’t wear a cape, and I’m virtually certain she/he doesn’t have mind reading super powers. So why would you think this person is capable of knowing how much time to schedule for each procedure. And therein lies Mistake #1 in scheduling.

Too often the person booking the appointments has little or no direction as to how the doctor wants to schedule his or her day other than, “The doctor wants to be busy.” As we talked about last week, and as virtually every dental team eventually discovers, there’s a big difference between busy and productive.

The Scheduling Coordinator should not be dictating the doctor’s day. If she/he is forced to guess how much time to allocate for procedures, because she/he has little or no direction, doctor and staff will pay dearly in frustration and aggravation – to say nothing of lost revenues. And…if you think that scheduling templates might be the answer…they’re not.  Scheduling time for each patient must be communicated by the doctor/assistant to the Scheduling Coordinator – not the other way around.  It also should be clear and consistent.

For example, the Doctor examines a hygiene patient and determines the patient needs two fillings and a crown. The Doctor tells the Hygienist exactly how much time is necessary. She, in turn, communicates to the Scheduling Coordinator the amount of doctor time and assistant time required. The doctor’s time should be scheduled in one color on the computer and the assistant’s in another. This simple strategy ensures that the doctor is not double-booked. And with just a bit more communication among the team, you can steer clear of scheduling mistake #1.

Scheduling Mistake #2 - Dream days can turn production into a nightmare. Here’s what happens, the Doctor decides that she/he wants to start living the dream and building her/his ideal day one unit at a time, blocking the schedule for specific procedures. Doctor wants X number of crown and bridge appointments reserved each week, so the Scheduling Coordinator reserves X number of crown and bridge appointments. But wanting crown and bridge cases and having crown and bridge cases actually scheduled are, unfortunately, two very different things. Oftentimes the doctor pulls a number out of the air without the benefit of actual data or information. The practice reserves what the doctor would like to have in the schedule rather than what is realistic.

If you are going to block the schedule base it on historical data - what you know you can achieve -  not just on what you would like to do. Calculate the number of crown and bridge units over the last six months, divide by the number of days worked. Reserve time in the schedule based on the number of units actually performed. And while nothing in life or work is truly perfect, you’re on your way to enjoying far more ideal days.

Mistake #3 – Ignoring the bread and butter. You may be on a low carb diet, but if you ignore the bread and butter in your practice, it will be the revenues, not your waistline growing thin. Reserve time for new patients; they won’t wait six months, three months, or even four weeks for an appointment. When new patients call, they want your services promptly. They want to feel like you would actually value them in your practice. Be prepared to handle the demand and don’t forget to diversify the time to provide good customer service.

First, determine how much time you need to allocate in the schedule to accommodate new patients.  Look at new patient activity over the last six months. If you saw 60 new patients, that would be 10 per month and 2.5 per week. Reserve at least that much time in your schedule to handle immediate demand.

Second, monitor new patient activity each week. If demand increases, block additional new patient time in your schedule, even if it means extending hours for a period. Third, new patient slots should be reserved during prime time. Those are the hours in which your practice experiences the greatest demand for appointments, and, typically, they are in the late afternoons, evenings, and on Saturdays.

Effectively managing the schedule requires constant vigilance, commitment, and training. It is the foundation for the success of the entire practice. And every solid foundation begins with a few sturdy cornerstones upon which everything else is framed.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

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