12.11.09 Issue #405 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Who’s Dropping the Ball on Recall?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Hygienists, I have a few questions for you. Who is responsible for keeping your schedule productive? Does someone in the practice confirm your patients’ appointments? Does the practice regularly monitor and adjust for necessary hygiene days? Let’s look at the first and second questions. Who is responsible for keeping the hygiene schedule productive? And are hygiene appointments confirmed? Both of these are essential to a successful dental practice, and neither is the responsibility of the hygienist. I strongly recommend that practices designate a Patient Coordinator. This point person is responsible for keeping a steady flow of patients streaming into the hygiene treatment rooms. The hygienist is a clinical producer.  The recall system is a business operational system.

The Patient Coordinator position has an enormous impact on production/overhead. The responsibility should be assigned to one business person – NOT the hygienist. In addition, this person should not be a “floater” who is expected to fill in here, there, and everywhere. The coordinator is professionally trained to make calls. They are given uninterrupted time to carry out their responsibilities, and this is their mission:

  • Make a specific number of patient phone calls each day
  • Schedule a definite number of appointments
  • Ensure that a precise number of patients complete treatment
  • Develop a schedule that ensures the hygienist achieves a daily or monthly financial goal – at 3x their wages
  • Manage the unscheduled time units in the hygiene schedule

This person should be able to handle a patient base of 500 to 1000 on an average of 15 hours per week. Reactivating a few inactive patients pays for the position quickly. Monitor results. Each month, divide the number of patients due for prophies that month by the number performed. Shoot for a goal of around 95%.

Next, does the practice monitor and adjust the hygiene schedule? Hygiene schedules frequently appear  to be overbooked. At times hygiene is so crowded there isn’t an appointment to be had for weeks. Consequently, if patients can’t get appointments in a timely manner, they start shopping around for a new dentist, which translates to bad news for the practice. However, little attention is paid to those holes in the schedule, and that translates into lost hygiene days. If the practice has more hygiene days than patients to fill them, revenues go down and overhead goes up. But how do you establish that seemingly elusive perfect balance in the hygiene schedule? It’s as easy as ABC.

  1. Determine the number of recall hygiene appointments necessary for the year. Count the number of patients on six-month recall and multiply that by two. Count the number of patients on four-month recall and multiply that by three and so on for the remaining recall patients.
  2. Calculate the total number of hygiene appointments needed yearly.
  3. Count the number of new patient appointments needed in the last year.
  4. Determine the number of weeks per year that your practice provides hygiene services.
  5. Calculate the average number of hygiene patients seen by one hygienist per day over the last six months.
  6. Calculate the number of patients to be treated in a week. Take the total of yearly hygiene appointments needed (B) add new patient appointments (C) and divide by the number of weeks worked (D).
  7. Determine the average number of hygiene days needed each week by dividing the number of patients to be treated in a week (F) by the number treated per day (E).
  8. Now determine the number of days worked in a year by each hygienist. Divide that aggregate total by the number of weeks per year that hygiene services are provided (D).
  9. The answer is the average number of hygiene days per week you need to offer your patients.
  10. To accommodate increasing patient demand, increase your number of hygiene days per week by 1.1 times. For example, if you determine you need 7.9 patient days per week you can increase it to 8.69.

Another means of measuring the need for additional hygiene time is to assess how long patients have to wait for appointments. If the waiting time is consistently three weeks and is beginning to slip into the fourth week, it may be time to add one more day of hygiene.

Understanding how the hygiene numbers stack up in your practice will provide you with clear information to determine if your doctor is meeting patient demand with existing resources, or if he/she needs to add hygiene time. It also will give you solid data on the efficiency of your hygiene department.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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