The holidays are here! How can dental front office keep your schedule on track?

The holidays are a hectic time for everyone, and the last thing your patients are thinking about is their dental appointment. Cancellations and no shows tend to rise during the holidays. How can you prevent that and keep your bottom line solid?

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The holidays are a hectic time for everyone, and the last thing your patients are thinking about is their dental appointment. Cancellations and no shows tend to rise during the holidays. How can you prevent that and keep your bottom line solid?

The leaves are turning, pumpkins are carved, and before we know it, Santa will be riding into town. Every year, the holidays come and go in a flash. Get-togethers and gift-giving leave people's wallets empty and their minds thinking about anything but their dentist's appointment.

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Dental practices have to work twice as hard to keep their schedules full during the hectic holiday season. Because people are super busy buying gifts, visiting friends, and attending Christmas parties, front office staff will have their hands full communicating with clients and keeping track of appointments.

Here are my top four tips on how to use a scheduling application to help your front office staff be more efficient during the holidays. With a boost to your productivity, you'll surely finish the year off with a bang!

1. Automate appointment reminders and confirmations
During such a busy time of the year, you can’t afford unforeseen cancellations or scheduling mishaps. Calling patients one-by-one to confirm their appointments is extremely time consuming, and leaving messages on voicemail can be a regular occurrence.

With most owning a smartphone, emails and text messages are becoming the preferred method of communication. Automated reminders reach patients instantly, which allows them to confirm or cancel their appointment in real-time with the simple click of a button. This gives the front office staff more time to complete their other important tasks.

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2. Put your waiting list into turbo drive
Waiting list management is a great way to keep track of patients with outstanding treatments, dental emergencies, and preferred appointment dates. While many practices still use pen and paper to manage this process, automated waiting lists increase administrative efficiency and the number of appointments booked.

Scheduling software applications keep track of requested appointments, including the type of treatment, patients' preferred appointment dates and times, the dental professional to be booked, and other key information. When a cancellation occurs, patients on the waiting list receive an email inviting them to book the spot. Your front office staff must no longer manually do this by calling patients one-by-one. This helps ensure your schedules stay filled at all times during the holiday season, when cancellations can be quite high.

3. Sync up your data
Many dental offices work with multiple tools. This is common given the difficulty of finding one application that does everything you need it to. That said, this can also lead to duplication of data, most commonly having client contact information scattered across multiple databases.

With the end of the year fast approaching, you might consider sending a holiday ecard. Syncing your scheduling application to your newsletter application ensures you're using the most recent contact information. If a live sync is not available, your scheduling application should still provide a way to export email addresses into a standardized format. This enables you to upload the email addresses to your newsletter application as required without maintaining a separate database. Some scheduling applications also allow you to manage opt-ins, making it even more convenient to use the same database for newsletters.

4. Go paperless
Someone's attachment to pen and paper is often the biggest obstacle to migrating to a scheduling application. Some receptionists might also fear the learning curve associated with new technology. With tablets becoming more popular, software developers are making their interfaces simpler than ever. Just think how much easier it would be to find an appointment with the touch of a finger instead of sifting through a book. That’s just the beginning of it!

Web-based calendars offer the added bonus of allowing you to work better as a team. Your dental clinic’s schedule is accessible securely from any computer, tablet, or mobile device with internet access so all your team members can access important client and appointment information as needed. Adopting tools that enable team collaboration increases productivity and helps you save time.

Put these tips into action and there's no reason for your dental practice not to have a fully booked schedule, even during the chaotic holiday season. You'll also have a much happier front office team!


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Dominic Iafigliola is the founder and CEO of CalendarSpots.com, an online scheduling application for small- to medium-sized businesses. Since the launch of CalendarSpots.com in 2009, Dominic has worked with business owners across various industries to help their practices collaboratively manage appointments and simplify the appointment-taking process.

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