Like it or not, we’re more than halfway through 2019. Right now, your hygiene appointments should, in theory, be booking out to 2020. Depending on what ratio of recall to new patients you have for your scheduling goals, you should be peeking into November and December to see if your practice goals are on track.
While you may not be able to convince deactivated patients to come back for a prophylactic appointment, you can start improving your methods to fill openings in the schedule a few months out. After all, marketing doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to create brand awareness and attract new patients.
But it does start now.
What’s the worst that could happen? The worst is that you expand your office hours on some evenings and weekends. (Your team doesn’t have to stress. You can bring in some trusted temps.) You will exceed your financial goals in the process. Now, that’s not so bad, is it?
(Side note—your team will probably want to take time off during the holidays. So, if you don’t have temp personnel you feel comfortable bringing into your practice, now is the time to start looking for them.)
Look back at last year
How did last year’s numbers work out? What did the schedule look like? Now is the time to make modifications to your winter appointments to account for anything that needs to change during 2019.
If you’re not able to add new appointments or expand your hours, it may be appropriate to conduct a time study for the dentists, hygienists, and assistants to figure out where a few minutes can be crunched during the week in order to make everyone’s time more productive.
What do you want to change? What needs to change? You’ll have to answer both of these questions before you can set things into motion.
What if your goals are not financial?
It’s OK to have goals that don’t have to do with patient numbers or collection totals. In fact, it’s great to have non-financial goals that promote a balanced work–life atmosphere where everyone feels appreciated.
Some office staff want to have extra time during the holidays so they can leave work early, fit in a few holiday parties, and shop while the sun is still up. If you’re hoping to adjust your office schedule so that everyone can have a couple of Fridays off during December, or you have staff who need to use up vacation days, then it’s time to start adjusting the appointment book to add an hour onto the other days, or to work in the temps.
Evaluate your reviews and employee goals
Your team should be consistently working toward the goals set at their last evaluations. Now is the time to check and make sure that people are taking the steps necessary to make those goals a reality. When the team achieves them, it will help them feel more capable of meeting next year’s milestones.
Listen to your consultant
It can take weeks or even months for changes to show up in your practice. For end-of-the-year goals, that means making changes now.
If you’ve worked with a consultant in the past, now is the time to make sure you’re incorporating his or her advice. Even if your team keeps asking “why” or believes they have a better way of doing things, there’s a reason why consultants are good at what they do—they help the team reach goals and establish results.
For offices that have never worked with a consultant, now may be a good time to test the waters. Even if you’re not convinced about locking into a long-term contract, investing in introductory services can pay for themselves by the end of 2019.
Get your team on board
It’s hard to integrate change when people don’t understand the reasons behind it. Talk to your team collectively, and then remind them one-on-one about why these changes must happen. If your office incorporates a bonus system, don’t be shy about mentioning how a few adjustments will help ensure that the end-of-the-year goals won’t come down to a series of “what ifs” and time crunches.
Prevent end-of-the-year burnout now with proper time management techniques and a plan for your schedule. Work smarter, not harder, and in a few months, you’ll be thanking yourself! Finishing the year with completed goals and deadlines will give you just the push you need to hit the ground running after the holidays. It’s now or never.
And relax! The year is far from over. Adjust your rearview mirror to see where you’ve been in the immediate past so that you can meet your goals in the near future!
HEATHER COLICCHIO is the founder and president of the nation’s largest professional organization for dental office managers and practice administrators: AADOM | The American Association of Dental Office Management. AADOM also produces the Annual Dental Management Conference.