Do You Have Too Many Hands In Your Schedule?
As much as you’d like to, you simply can’t deny it. You know your schedule is a mess. Some days you run from patient to patient at break neck speed, doing your best to stay on track (and usually failing), while other days you struggle to fill the down time caused by cancellations, no-shows and good old fashioned poor planning. You never know what to expect, and this chaotic schedule has you stressed out and bleeding money.
I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way, doctor. Your schedule should be a well-oiled machine that keeps you on track to meet daily production goals, not a hodgepodge of names, dates and procedures. Not sure how to make this happen in your practice? Start by designating one person to take control of the schedule, and then empower that team member to fix it.
That’s right, just one team member should be responsible for filling the schedule. Now you might pride yourself on the fact that your team is cross-trained, that anyone can handle scheduling patients whether it’s the hygienist, the dental assistant or a member of the front office staff. But the fact is, this system is failing you. If anyone can handle scheduling duties, then no one is actually accountable for keeping the schedule full, and that’s causing huge problems in your practice.
Think about it. How many times have you heard a team member say, “Oh, I didn’t realize that was my job,” or “I thought Megan said she was going to do that?” If you don’t give team members clear expectations, they won’t take ownership of any of the systems. And that’s when tasks, such as scheduling treatment, start falling through the cracks.
The “it’s everyone’s job” approach accomplishes one thing: a total lack of accountability. No one has any specific duties or performance measurements to meet, so nothing gets done, at least not properly. No one takes pride or ownership in the systems, because why should they?
Let’s take scheduling patients for example. If scheduling is everyone’s job but no one’s responsibility, no one is going to take notice when the schedule isn’t filled to meet production goals, and there will be no plan in place to handle cancellations and no-shows. They have no reason to because you haven’t made anyone accountable. So no one is focused on calling patients to schedule treatment and everyone is scrambling to fill gaps when they pop up, which is likely happening often if you don’t have a dedicated Scheduling Coordinator tasked with not only scheduling patients, but also confirming appointments.
Now, let’s talk about training. While a cross-trained team seems attractive, there usually isn’t much training involved at all. I’ve seen it again and again during my more than 30 years as a consultant. Dentists with the “it’s everyone’s job” mentality just expect employees to do what needs to be done, whatever that happens to be. So team members aren’t really trained on anything specific, just given a loose overview of everything that could possibly ever need to be done in the practice. They’re left to figure it out on their own. There’s no structure, just chaos – which is why your schedule is in such bad shape.
Many doctors don’t like to hear this, but not only do you need to designate someone to take over the scheduling system, you also have to create a job description for this important team member. While it’s true that too many hands in the schedule will do nothing but hurt your practice, hiring a Scheduling Coordinator won’t do you much good if you don’t communicate your expectations.
As the practice CEO, you have to make sure team members know exactly what systems they’re accountable for and your expectations for those systems. If you want your Scheduling Coordinator to make five calls a day and successfully schedule treatment through 35% of those calls, make sure this person knows that is a critical part of his or her role, and how it will help the practice meet its full potential. Put these performance measurements in the job description, and hold your Scheduling Coordinator accountable when they’re not met. Your team will know exactly what is needed to help you succeed, and how important their contribution is to the practice.
Your schedule can’t be left open for just anyone to fill when someone happens to have the time to make a few phone calls. If you want to achieve practice success and profitability, you have to designate a Scheduling Coordinator who knows how to schedule to meet daily production goals, and who is accountable for the system’s success. Once you do, you’ll notice smoother days and a much more robust bottom line.
If you’d like to learn more about how your schedule might be holding you back from reaching your full potential, click HERE to take a free Scheduling Assessment.Next week, 5 ways to set your Scheduling Coordinator up for success.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Real Cost of Excluding your Business Staff from Continuing Education
“My employer is a CE junky” remarked JC, a Dental Office Manager. “He comes back with new ideas but we know he will go back to normal in about a week.” JC can’t remember the last time her employer took her to a continuing education course. “It isn’t that important because I don’t need the CE units anyway,” said JC. What JC doesn’t understand is that the profession of dentistry is her career, and it is a personal responsibility to continue developing professionally for some of the following reasons:
• She may not keep pace with the current standards of others in the same field.
• She won’t have the relevant knowledge to stay up-to-date and aware of the changing trends and direction in her profession. Change is inevitable and the pace is faster than it has ever been. If you stand still you will get left behind and your skills and knowledge become outdated.
• She may not make a meaningful contribution to your team and become more effective in the workplace. She won’t be able to coach or mentor if she isn’t current on what is happening in dentistry.
• She won’t be able to network with other professionals who also strive to grow and gain more knowledge.
• She may lose sight of the personal responsibility to keep her knowledge and skills current so she can deliver the high quality of service that meets the expectations of patients in the practice and the requirements of the profession.
When dentists ask why their treatment acceptance numbers are down, why insurance claims remain unpaid even after appeals, and why the accounts receivables are high and patients who need appointments are not contacted, I have to relate it to the following:
• Presenting treatment requires training in communication skills. These skills are developed after learning how different types of people process information and decide what they want and what they need.
• Insurance claim follow-up is time consuming and requires knowledge of the appeals process, excellent writing skills and understanding of the CDT codes and their usage.
• Managing the Accounts Receivables correctly means the difference between cash flow to pay bills and scrambling to make ends meet. Talking to people about paying for services and then collecting that money is often an area that many front office people are uncomfortable with until they are trained to “ask” for the payment and get commitment from the patient.
• Making outbound calls to patients to schedule treatment and recalls that are overdue takes verbal skills and focus on a goal objective. Being able to build rapport and empathy with the patient to secure the appointment takes finesse. Simply calling people from a list to tell them they are due is not enough to secure appointments.
Saving money on the cost of having your front office team attend continuing education courses should not be the reason it is not offered. The cost is small compared to the reward of having an educated, engaged Business Coordinator who takes pride in being knowledgeable. The job described as “Dental Receptionist” is so much more in today’s dental practice. The added plus is that you have a member of your team who can help implement positive change in your practice after attending a meaningful seminar with you and/or the team. It is much simpler when everyone is on board after seeing the positive changes that can come to the office.
All of the above are critical to the success of any practice, and continuing education classes are available in all of these subjects through McKenzie Management’s website where you will find information on webinars, our archive of articles covering every topic of practice management, plus other dental management products for your education.
Let’s not forget the 2-day Office Manager Training or the 2-day Front Office Training customized to your concerns and practice issues. Call today and invest in the success of your business team and your practice.
Productive Scheduling for 2015
Every shoe does not fit every person, and this is certainly true for scheduling techniques. In order to have a perfect day, you must have enough patients to fill the perfect day. Otherwise, you are thrilled just to have patients in the chair. Let’s look at a perfect world scenario:
1. A daily production goal for each provider in the practice, opposed to a practice goal. A practice goal gives no accountability to the Schedule or Hygiene Coordinator, as each one is hoping that the other will make up the short-fall for daily production.
2. Production blocks each day for high production appointments such as quadrant dentistry, crowns, implants, orthodontic banding and/or root canals, if that is productive for you and doesn’t take two appointments of one-hour each, etc.
3. Emergency blocks to allow time to see emergency patients during your day without disrupting the perfect schedule that you have.
4. New Patient blocks for those patients who are entering your practice for a comprehensive exam and professional cleaning with your hygienist.
Let’s take a look at each of these four items individually.
Daily Production Goals
Let’s say your gross production goal is $3,000/day, which means $375/hour if you work an 8-hr day or $62.50/increment if you work on 10-minute increments. To have a perfect day, determine how many “high production” blocks you need (let’s say two) which will be equal to $2,400 or more. The remaining $600 for the day is comprised of the fillings that need to be done. Since emergencies and new patient appointments are blocked, those times are not factored into the daily goal until the day those blocks are released, which is usually the day before for emergencies and no more than a week for new patients. If you only average about one high production type of appointment per day, then the remaining $1,800 is comprised of the lower production type of appointments.
You may be thinking that you don’t want to look at patient appointments as a dollar value. Think about the time that you spend with low production appointments compared to high production appointments. Have you ever spent a day seeing 15 patients and produced less than $2,000? Then the next day you see 10 patients and produced $5,000? Wonder why this happens? Because you are not scheduling to a daily goal!
Production blocks are treated like gold and never touched until needed. How many do you need? Run your Production Summary Report for the past 12 months and see how many “high production” appointments you average per day to give you an idea of where to start.
A good Schedule Coordinator understands that a full day of short filling appointments will probably not make goal and will work you and your assistants into the ground. A day that is mixed with long appointments and short appointments is much easier to manage and usually makes goal. But if this is not blocked, “holes will be filled” and the day will end up with all short appointments.
These blocks are held up until 1-2 days prior to the block, and then released to patients who are waiting for an earlier appointment (the reason for a healthy “priority list”) or often an emergency patient needing treatment can be offered these appointments. Obviously, at some point they must be filled with a patient.
Create a list of what YOU consider to be a true emergency and make sure your Schedule Coordinator follows the guidelines: kept awake last night, obvious swelling, pain meds aren’t helping, woke up with the pain this morning, etc. “Emergency” patients can play havoc with a perfect schedule if the calls are not triaged properly.
New Patient Blocks
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