Editor's note: Sally McKenzie was a powerful voice in the dental industry until her passing in 2020. We're sharing this article in the spirit of having her high-quality and insightful work live on and continue inspiring readers. Read more about her legacy in the dental profession from Chris Salierno, DDS.
It’s time to take back control of your schedule.
Instead of guiding you toward meeting daily production goals, your schedule is nothing more than a source of chaos. Some days you’re running from patient to patient at breakneck speed just trying to keep up, while other days those last minute cancellations and no-shows leave you with gaping holes in your schedule.
Yes, it’s time to make some changes. But if you’re like most dentists, you likely have no idea where to begin. That’s where I come in. Here are five tips to help you fix your schedule, improve your production numbers, and grow your bottom line.
1. Stop relying solely on pre-appointing
I know you’ve scheduled patients six months out for years, but this outdated practice might be costing you thousands of dollars in lost revenue, and that means it’s time to consider a new approach.
Think about it. How many of your patients actually know what they’re doing six months from now at 2 p.m.? Not many. So if they schedule an appointment with you today, chances are they’ll either forget or something more important will come along between now and then. That leaves you with last minute holes to fill and lost revenue if you can’t fill those holes.
If that isn’t bad enough, this isn’t the only problem that pre-appointing can cause. Pre-appointing gives the illusion your schedule is full, so new patients who want to schedule an appointment can’t get in for four, five, or even six weeks, even though many of the patients already on the schedule will likely cancel or not show up. These potential new patients don’t want to wait that long, so they’ll call other practices until they find someone who can see them sooner. And that, of course, costs you money.
Now I understand you might not be ready to give up pre-appointing entirely. I suggest you start by developing a hybrid method. This will leave room in your schedule for new patients and patients ready to go forward with treatment, which will reduce broken appointments and grow practice production.
2. Consider hiring a scheduling coordinator
Many doctors depend on multiple team members to manage the schedule. The result? Chaotic days filled with inaccurate procedure times, broken appointments, and double bookings. Not only does this cost you money, it leads to stress, frustration, and a lot of wasted time.
I recommend hiring a scheduling coordinator to manage your schedule. This important team member should understand the importance of scheduling your days to meet production goals, not just to keep you busy. Give him or her the tools and training needed to succeed, including a job description and clear direction from you, the practice CEO. Trust me, when you empower one person to manage your schedule, your days will become more streamlined and stress-free.
3. Confirm every appointment
Once you hire a scheduling coordinator, train the person to confirm every appointment two days in advance. Ask patients for their preferred method of communication, whether it be text, email, or phone call. Another tip? Have your scheduling coordinator develop a plan to handle broken appointments. This will make no-shows much less stressful and give you a better chance to fill last-minute openings.
4. Resist the temptation to schedule dream days
While you might love performing crown and bridge work, it’s not a good idea to tell your scheduling coordinator to block out a certain number of those appointments each day. Why? If you don’t have enough patients to fill those slots, you set yourself up for a lot of down time as well as lost revenue.
It’s important to determine patient demand before you block out sections of your schedule for specific procedures. Be realistic, and base that number on historical data, not the number you wish your practice could reach.
To come up with this number, calculate how many crown and bridge procedures you’ve completed in the last six months. Divide that number by the number of days worked to determine how many slots you can reserve.
5. Remember to communicate procedure times
Tell your scheduling coordinator exactly how much time you and your assistant need for every procedure. Don’t let him or her play the guessing game or you’ll end up with random 60-minute appointments here and random 90-minute appointments there.
Once your coordinator knows the proper times, he or she should use different identifiers to mark the procedure in the schedule for you and your assistant. This will help ensure you’re never double booked and that you have enough time to complete every procedure.
Properly managing your schedule takes commitment, but it’s well worth the effort. If you follow these tips you’ll soon have a more streamlined schedule, which leads to increased production and a healthy bottom line.
Originally posted in 2016 and updated regularly