Is Your Schedule Strategic or Just Filling Lines?
Belle DuCharme, CDPMA, Dental Training Consultant/CE PACE
Scheduling is one of the biggest challenges a general practice faces. The complexities can be overwhelming to the person in charge of this task. To bring resolve and function to this system it is recommended that we examine the basics of what a dental practice schedule represents and the factors that must be present to make a great scheduled day.
- Does the business/scheduling coordinator have a daily/monthly production goal to schedule or a desired service mix directed by the doctor(s)? A service mix is usually 50% in major procedure, 30% in Basic and 20% in NP evaluations, periodic evaluations and adjunct services Without having a service mix or production goal the scheduler will be motivated to fill every slot of open time because she/he doesn’t know if goal is met for the day or not. This can be stressful for the clinical team and making goal is accidental not planned. If a planned goal is met, open time can be held for opportunities that will present themselves such as emergency patients that need endodontic care or crowns, new patients that want to be seen that week and hygiene patients that have work to be done and would rather stay than come back.
- Does the business/scheduling coordinator share the dentist’s vision for the practice? In order for the person in charge of scheduling to do their job well it would be desirable to be able to visualize or see in writing what the doctor’s goals are as far as production. If the doctor would like quadrant major dentistry scheduled from 8:00-11:00 and a new patient exam at 11:00 and a seat at 11:30 and the same again starting after lunch it would be of benefit to communicate this to anyone scheduling appointments. Block scheduling has been popular in the past to train new people how to schedule not only for production goal but for a less stressful day in the clinical arena. Scheduling lunch and breaks for everyone is also necessary to keep the team in good spirits.
As an exercise, take a blank schedule and draw it out as you see the desired day. Indicate who will be helping, when and where with marks showing doctor time and assistant time. Having this kind of template is very helpful to the scheduler.
- Does the practice hold morning meetings and are the past and future schedules examined for ways to improve? At the end of the day, if it was a perfect day, analyzing why would be a great training experience for the entire team.
It is not only the business/scheduling coordinator that makes or breaks the schedule. The entire team must be onboard to make the schedule work. During the morning meeting the following can be discussed:
-Where to put emergency patients
-If there are patients that need FMX or panorex not indicated on the schedule
-Open ended appointments, or patients that have other work to do and could stay if there was a cancellation at the same time.
-Patients on hygiene that have incomplete treatment plans where an exam may be of benefit.
-Patients in hygiene that may have minor treatment and can stay to complete today.
-What worked on yesterday’s schedule and what did not and why?
-Patients that have balances on their account that must pay prior to being seated.
-If there is going to be a traffic jam at the front desk at a certain time perhaps appointments can be scheduled at the hygiene chair.
-Family members who are due and have not scheduled yet.
-Patients with special needs such as the elderly who want blankets and neck pillows to children who are phobic and nervous.
-Someone to answer the phone if the business coordinator is presenting treatment and making financial arrangements.
A planned strategic schedule is a key to the success of the practice for the above reasons and for excellent patient care. No patient enjoys a chaotic practice that is late in seating them and is perceived as unorganized.
Dental Billing Tips and News for Pros; Edition #129