10.3.14 Issue #656 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

How to Avoid Three Common Scheduling Mistakes
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Maintaining a productive schedule isn’t easy. It takes commitment and the willingness to implement measurable systems that will bring about real change in your practice. The person in charge of your schedule (and there should only be one) must be properly trained and have a clear understanding of the difference between scheduling to keep the team busy, and scheduling to keep the team productive.

When you finally start scheduling to meet productivity objectives rather than just to fill the day, you’ll notice a huge difference in your practice, as will your patients. Stress levels will go down, patients won’t wait as long to see you, and instead of just reacting to what’s thrown your direction, you will be prepared for every appointment. All this, plus you’ll start meeting your practice’s financial goals.

Yes, managing the schedule can be tricky business, but it’s vital to your practice’s success. You may be overwhelmed by the thought of nixing your old system and designing one that actually works, but I’m here to help you through it. I’m about to share with you three of the most common scheduling mistakes dental practices make, along with tips on how you can avoid them. Read on, then start making the necessary changes.

Mistake #1: You’re Not Communicating with your Scheduling Coordinator
I don’t care how good your scheduling coordinator is, he or she likely does not wear a cape (except maybe on Halloween) and probably can’t read your mind, as nice as that would be. So how can you expect your coordinator to fill in procedure times if you’re not communicating how long the procedures take? Your scheduling coordinator shouldn’t be dictating your day, and he or she certainly shouldn’t be throwing random procedure times into the schedule. Unless, of course, you enjoy stress and losing money!

Instead of making your coordinator play the guessing game, let him or her know exactly how long it will take you to perform a scheduled procedure, as well as how long it will take the assistant. The coordinator should then mark the times in different colors on the schedule. Just like that, you’ve saved yourself and your team some unnecessary frustration and aggravation, and you’ve ensured you’re not double-booked.

Whether it comes directly from you or from a hygienist after you’ve provided the time break down, I can’t stress enough how important it is to clearly communicate procedure times with your scheduling coordinator. Scheduling templates and guessing games aren’t the answer. Communication is.

Mistake #2: You’re Not Leaving Enough Room in the Schedule for New Patients
New patients are the bread and butter of your practice, and you must carve out adequate time for them in your schedule. When potential new patients call your office and are told they can’t see the doctor for three or four weeks or even months, they hang up feeling like they’re not very important to your practice. Chances are, they’d prefer to make an appointment as soon as possible, and that means they’re likely calling the practice down the street to see if they’re more accommodating.

Don’t let this happen to you. Figure out, on average, how many new patients you see each month and block out time in your schedule. 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.

Monitor new patient activity every week, and if demand increases, block out additional new patient time in your schedule. If that means you need to extend hours to meet the demand, then that’s what you do. And remember to block out new patient slots during prime times—in the late afternoon, evenings and on Saturdays.

Mistake #3: You’re Scheduling Dream Days
Sure it would be great if you could fill out your own schedule, blocking out time for the type of procedures you enjoy doing most and that bring in the most revenue. You build your dream days, telling your coordinator to block out X number of crown and bridge appointments every day.

Sadly, these so called dream days quickly turn into production nightmares. Too often, the doctor has no data backing up his numbers, and the patient demand is nowhere near his dream scenario. That kind of math is going to leave you with huge gaps in your schedule, gaps that your coordinator will have to scramble to fill.

If you’re going to block out sections of the schedule for certain procedures, you have to be realistic. Base it on historical data, focusing on what the practice actually can achieve rather than on what you’d like to achieve. Calculate how many crown and bridge procedures you’ve completed in the last six months, then divide that by the number of days worked to determine how many spots you should reserve. There’s no guarantee this number will be exact, but you’ll be much closer than if you start picking numbers out of the air. 

Controlling the schedule is vital to your practice’s success. The schedule determines the level of care you provide, how stressful your day is and how much money you bring in. Avoiding these common pitfalls and making a commitment to properly manage the schedule will help ensure that you meet daily production objectives, allowing you and your team to focus on what’s most important—providing the best patient care possible.

For more information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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