By Dayna Johnson
OK, hygiene coordinator, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your office is in a terrible pickle. There is a hole in your hygiene schedule this afternoon and another big opening tomorrow. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out not only how to fill those holes, but to use key lists and reports in your practice management system to ensure that the next time you find yourself with unwanted schedule gaps (and you know you will), your team members will work together like the band of sleek, high-tech, problem-solving experts in those Mission Impossible movies.
The goal here is to have a step-by-step process that you go through to fill these inevitable openings in your hygiene rooms. Have them written in your office manual so that the next time this happens, anyone on your team can pull out this info sheet and follow your instructions. Now, since I am a loyal Dentrix user, some of the terminology within this article may be slightly different if your office is using Eaglesoft, PracticeWorks, or some other software. However, I am confident that you can fulfill the process with whatever software program you are using.
Your first tool – the unscheduled list, quick fill list, or ASAP list
First things first – let’s get today’s opening filled before we think about tomorrow’s issues. To fill the opening in this afternoon’s schedule, I would definitely start with your quick call list. This list is a great tool for filling those short notice openings that come up because it is usually populated by patients who have either broken an appointment, missed an appointment, or you just stuck their appointment there for quick access. My recommendation is to keep this list very current and set a goal to work your quick call list frequently so it continues to stay a manageable resource to help you fill those annoying short notice cancellations.
To maintain a short, useful list, you’ll need to take regular action to move names off of it. In other words, once a patient’s appointment has been moved to the unscheduled list, don’t just leave it there! Call the patient and get them reappointed. Working the quick call list is just another part of your office management responsibilities and you should make room for it in your daily routine just as you do for collection calls or past due insurance.
Remember, any time you are talking to a patient or parent of a patient, it is important to document your phone conversations so that if the patient needs to call you back or you get a voicemail, you or someone else in your office can refer back to your conversation and see what was discussed. Check in your software where this place to write notes is; sometimes just writing a note on the appointment screen is a great spot, but make sure it is consistent and everyone in the office knows where these notes are being made.
The continuing care list or recall list
With all that good work on your quick call list, you easily filled that hole in today’s schedule. Bravo! But there’s no time to sip a well-earned margarita just yet. You still have that gap in tomorrow’s schedule that demands your attention. For this, you’ll want to pull out your handy continuing care list or recall report.
You should be able to filter your continuing care list to generate a report of patients that meet a particular set of criteria. For example, if you’re trying to fill the opening in your hygiene room for tomorrow, create a list of patients due up through tomorrow.
Now that you have created a list to work from, start calling! As I said before, when you are making these calls, it is important to document your phone conversations with your patients. My favorite place in the Dentrix software for documenting phone calls is in the office journal – and it works out beautifully because when you generate a continuing care report, the tab for the office journal is right at the top of the report. How easy is that?
The continuing care system is the lifeblood of any dental practice. Your goal is to make sure your patients are being reminded that they are due and follow up on those past due patients. If you have worked in dentistry as long as I have, you know that patients are very forgetful. It is important to create a routine so you are working to get these patients reappointed. Below is a sample of the lists I typically suggest for a general practice. If there is a way you can create templates in your continuing care setup, that would be even better. This way, any team member could open a list from any computer in the office and help fill that opening for tomorrow.
• 1 year past due prophy
• 1 year past due perio
• 3 month past due prophy
• 3 month past due perio
• current prophy (due this month)
• current perio (due this month)
• patients with no prophy or perio (patients that have slipped through the cracks)
Treatment manager report or unscheduled treatment report
So, you used your continuing care list to find a 3-month past due prophy patient who could probably come in tomorrow and fill that open spot. All done, right? Well, not so fast. The opening in your hygiene room tomorrow is a 90-minute slot and that 60-minute prophy appointment just won’t fill it.
Never fear though. Because I know you want to fill every precious minute for the hygienist so she/he can be as productive as possible, I have another great tool for you! In addition to working the unscheduled list (quick call list) and the continuing care report (recall report) on a regular basis, you can also follow up on patients who have unscheduled scaling and root planing treatment to complete. For this, I suggest using the unscheduled treatment report.
Now, what would be perfect for that 90-minute opening? Two quads of perio therapy, of course. If you are treatment planning your perio therapy treatments through the Dentrix patient chart, it will be a piece of cake for you to pull a list of patients that have the D4341 procedure code in their treatment plan to fill that opening in your hygiene chair. If your software does not have this capability, you might need to create a spreadsheet for tracking procedures that are unscheduled.
Do a quick benefits check first
Once you’ve run a treatment manager report and have generated a list of patients to call, I recommend you do a little research before you pick up the phone. Remember, you are not calling about a regular recall visit that is usually covered by insurance at 100%. So, before you pick up the phone, you’ll want to check your patient’s insurance benefits and current account balance and review any previous notes about his/her treatment plan. That way, you can be sure you are calling only the most appropriate patients and you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips if they have questions.
As the hygiene coordinator, your mission to keep that hygiene chair full and productive is vital, and – not unlike Tom Cruise’s missions to save the world from imminent annihilation – it is never-ending. (Just think, it’s not another year on the job; it’s a sequel!) With the three great tools we’ve reviewed here – the unscheduled list (quick call list), the continuing care list (recall report), and the treatment manager report (unscheduled treatment report) – you can make your job easier, while keeping the hygiene room booked and the hygienists happy.
So, do yourself a favor and give these tools and resources a chance to support you in fulfilling your mission and managing your hygiene in a more efficient and productive way. Get your team together and put them to work for you today. And yes, you can have that margarita now.
Dayna Johnson, founder and principal consultant of Rae Dental Management, helps dental offices improve patient care, increase collections, and reduce staff headaches by implementing efficient management systems. With 18 years’ experience in the business and technical side of dental offices, Dayna’s passion for efficient systems is grounded in both personal understanding and professional expertise. She can be reached at [email protected] or visit her website at www.raedentalmanagement.com. If you’re a Dentrix user, you can also check out her blog with front office tips and ideas at http://thedentrixofficemanager.blogspot.com/.
By Dayna Johnson