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10 quotes about dental office scheduling

Oct. 27, 2014
The quotes below, which are pulled from 10 separate articles, would seem to imply at least someone is terribly stressed out, not necessarily the doctor.

The quotes below, which are pulled from 10 separate articles, would seem to imply at least someone is terribly stressed out, not necessarily the doctor. Since these collected quotes all contain a reference to scheduling practices, it’s easy to guess what is causing the stress.

Tardy patients. Too many patients. Too few patients. Too many no-shows. The schedule seems downright worthless at times, doesn’t it? The authors, though, universally agree some sort of scheduling policy must be in place. You can’t have everyone showing up at 8 a.m., can you?

Each article, though, contained a quote that we liked, and that’s what are listed below — 10 quotes about dental office scheduling.

A link within each quote can direct you to the entire article, if you desire to read it.

All 10 of the articles below have been published since May 2014.

1) If we don't have warm bodies in chairs, production stops. Too much open time in the schedule can lead to reduction of hours, a lack of raises, and even job loss. Open time in the schedule should set off flashing red lights and sirens!
2) A more effective question than “How often should we contact patients?” might be “How soon should we contact patients?” The best way to capture the notion of how soon is the old adage, “strike while the iron is hot.”
3) I’m talking about another, special type of patient. Every once in a while we encounter mega entitled human beings who think it is just fine to walk into the office more than 30 minutes late and still expect to be seen immediately. These patients need to be fired as soon as possible.
4) A recent client's report showed 3,400 active patients with about 1,500 not currently on the schedule! The doctor was shocked to find such a large number of people with no appointment, but the good news was that we had a large pool of patients from which to work.
5) The monkey wrench in any schedule is the emergency patient. I recommend that at each morning huddle, the assistant(s) specify a morning and afternoon time where the admin team can put a 30-minute emergency appointment. This takes the question out of equation. If a patient isn’t able to make the time allotted for emergency appointments, there is always tomorrow. If it’s a true emergency, the patient will be there.
6) Another strategy that I recommend is that the last 20 minutes before lunch and the last 20 minutes at the end of the day should be blocked as flex time. This will help you to get out in a timelier manner at lunch and day's end. You might have to tighten things up earlier in the day to make flex time a reality, but it is very helpful.
7) One of the most effective things you can do to manage your task is to set aside somewhere between a half-hour and an hour each day as quiet time for you to approach the nonclinical task you must accomplish each day. Many dentists find it difficult to give up this much time of their productive schedule. ... It's important to remember that you must take time each day to work on your business in addition to working in your business.
8) But as we all know, rarely does a schedule end up exactly as it starts out ... Some patients are going to reschedule and some are going to unexpectedly call in. Let's discuss the latter. You look up at your schedule, and there's a new patient (broken tooth) that's just been added. Your team takes all the necessary radiographs, and you diagnose a root canal, buildup, and crown. It's decision time. You could write the patient some prescriptions and hope he or she comes back for the follow-up appointment. Or you could take care of it right now. I know that sounds very simple, but for some reason, we are programmed to reschedule the patient.
9) The business assistant is caught in the middle between a patient who has arrived late through no fault of his own and a hygienist who is unwilling to seat him because he is late. What a terrible place to find oneself! So the only thing she can do is to say to the patient, "I'm sorry, but we will need to reschedule you." The patient is visibly upset, but I'm satisfied. Who is the real winner here?
10) In far too many practices, “busy” means frantic, but far from financially sound. Why? Because team members are doing precisely what the doctor has told them to do – keep him or herself, well, busy.
About the Author

Mark Hartley

Mark Hartley is the editor of RDH magazine and collaborates with Kristine Hodsdon on many of the articles for RDH eVillage, which also appear on