Any business needs proper structure and organization to run optimally. Your dental practice is no exception. Use the following tips to help one of the most crucial facets of your office run smoothly — your scheduling.
Why Efficient Dental Scheduling Is so Important
You might be tempted to discount the importance of scheduling, categorizing it as merely a logistical or organizational issue, something that doesn't require much thought or focus.
To do so would be a mistake as scheduling may be an important part of creating an efficient and profitable dental practice for the following reasons:
It directly impacts how many patients you can see in a day. This in turn, has a great deal of effect on the amount of revenue you earn yearly.
If your staff overbooks your schedule, this will inevitably mean you are late for appointments. While being late on rare occasions is understandable, unexpected things come up in life, if it becomes routine, patients may leave your practice. After all, patients want you to value their time just as you value your own.
Underbooking can be just as problematic, leaving you sitting around with too much downtime and not enough patients. It may eventually lead to lost revenue as well.
Seeking to Efficiently Schedule Dental Patient Visits
Here are some actionable tips on ways to make changes in your own practice to seek to assist you with scheduling your patients:
Learn What You Can Delegate
Do you need to oversee X-rays, flossing, and brushings? These are some tasks you can delegate to other members of your staff. Delegating what you can will reduce the amount of time you need to spend with each patient and give you more freedom in your schedule.
What are the tasks you need to do yourself? Once you ask yourself what you can delegate, it’s important to have some hard and fast rules in place regarding tasks you absolutely must do yourself. These are non-negotiable responsibilities that will remain in your hands, so you need to schedule accordingly.
Evaluate How Long Procedures Take
One of the biggest steps you need to take when creating an efficient schedule is timing how long various regular procedures take you and your staff to perform.
For example, consider how long each of the following takes you from the minute a patient walks in the door to when they leave:
- Wisdom teeth extractions
- Cavity fillings
- Regular checkups
- Teeth whitening services
Having a standard time allotment for each procedure is wise. When timing these for scheduling purposes, don’t rush. Go at your standard pace, factoring in conversation with patients and time for patients to get numb for a filling or other procedure.
This should give you a baseline estimation to use when scheduling patients for these specific procedures or regular dental visits.
Take Patients’ Individual Needs Into Consideration
Obviously, each patient will vary slightly from every other patient. While the information you gathered for your baseline time allotted will cover the vast majority of cases, some patients will need you to alter their personal time.
For example, consider the following factors about a patient when evaluating how long you estimate a visit will take for them individually:
- How old is the patient you’re seeing?
- Do you have any records available if the patient is a new patient?
- How long did it take for local anesthesia to work on this patient during previous procedures?
- Is the patient scared of the dentist or will you need to go slower due to anxiety?
- Has the patient had any major changes in medical conditions, such as pregnancy, which would warrant additional concerns, precautions or conversations?
- Does the patient prefer to talk before their cleaning or procedure, or would they rather get right to business?
Once you answer the above questions about the patient being scheduled, combine it with the information you obtained about how long a procedure should take. Then, you will have a good estimation of how long to schedule each patient individually.
You will likely notice that the same procedure will take longer on some patients, simply because of personal issues or preferences.
Others will be faster than the average time. Therefore, treating each patient as an individual is important when scheduling efficiently.
Maintain Focus on the Purpose of the Appointment
You have probably already experienced patients coming in to see you for one purpose, only to have them ask for additional services.
While it can be tempting to go ahead and perform said service, keep in mind in doing so, you will be throwing your entire schedule off. One good way to handle this is to schedule subsequent follow-up visits for additional procedures, instead of working them in.
For example, consider a patient who comes in for a cleaning and then learns of your whitening services. They ask if, after their cleaning, they request to just go ahead and have their teeth whitened.
While that request might seem small, it can push the entire day’s schedule off-kilter. Of course, if the situation is urgent, or if a time is available in your schedule, that is an entirely different situation.
Emergencies should be addressed as soon as possible, but in general, stick to your schedule as closely as you can.
When You Start Scheduling Efficiently You May Earn New Patients
As a healthy, thriving dental practice, you want to continue to reach out to new patients. One great way to seek to have patients come back to you, again and again, is efficient scheduling along with these tips for growing your patient list.
Obviously, keeping an efficient schedule doesn’t mean you race a patient through your office, without any time spent in conversation. It simply means you have gone through the steps above and any other useful steps.
You know what you can delegate to your staff. You have considered how long various procedures should take and you have altered that time for individual patients’ needs. When you do all this, you can seek to create an efficient schedule that all your patients both old and new may greatly appreciate.
Treloar & Heisel and Treloar & Heisel Property and Casualty are divisions of Treloar & Heisel, Inc.
Insurance products are offered through Treloar & Heisel, Inc.
This content is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as advice. Treloar & Heisel, Inc. does not offer practice management advice.