In my years as a dental consultant, I’ve seen practices struggle for many reasons. Lackluster recall efforts, subpar customer service and weak case presentation skills are among the various factors that contribute to revenue woes, but there’s another pain point that many dentists don’t usually consider – and that’s the schedule.
That’s right, the schedule. Not only can a chaotic schedule lead to stressful days, it can also cost you money. Just because your schedule keeps you busy (too busy most days, in fact) doesn’t mean you’re meeting production goals. And let’s not forget about the days when broken appointments leave gaping holes in your schedule. You arrive in the morning thinking you’ll barely have time for a break, only to find yourself with plenty of free time on your hands.
A poorly managed, hodge-podge schedule eats into your bottom line and ultimately damages your practice. Think I’m exaggerating? Here are three ways your out-of-control schedule is costing you money.
1. You’re losing patients. You might think most patients expect to wait a little for their appointment, but that attitude will send patients looking for a new dental home. Your patients are busy with work and family commitments, and really don’t have time to sit in your waiting area for 30 or 40 minutes while you get caught up. This will get old really quick, and if it happens enough it will prompt even the most loyal patients to schedule their next visit at the practice down the street.
And if you’re constantly running behind, you don’t have much time to spend with patients once they’re finally in the chair. They can tell you’re in a hurry, so they don’t bother to ask any questions. Instead, they just don’t schedule the treatment you recommend (at least not with your practice), and likely won’t be recommending your services to family and friends any time soon.
Most patients will understand if you run behind every now and then, but if it becomes a common occurrence, they’re going to start looking at other practice options. What can you do if your office is known for long wait times? Have a conversation with your Scheduling Coordinator. Make sure this team member has a system in place to avoid double-booking you, and make it a policy for you and your dental assistant to always communicate procedure times. If your coordinator only blocks out 60 minutes for a 90 minute procedure, for example, it’s going to put you behind for the rest of the day. Communication will help streamline your schedule and keep patients from spending too much time in your reception area.
2. You’re not meeting production goals. This is a common problem I see in many dental practices. Scheduling Coordinators simply schedule to keep the dentist busy, not to meet daily production goals. The dentist spends the day running from patient to patient, yet revenues aren’t anywhere near where they should be.
If you haven’t already, sit down with your team members and establish production goals. Determine how much money you need to bring in each day to meet your financial obligations as well as your personal goals. From there, provide your Scheduling Coordinator with the training and tools necessary to schedule you to meet those goals. Your days will be less stressful and your bottom line more robust.
3. There’s no room for new patients. New patients are critical to your practice’s success, yet when they call to schedule that first appointment, many are told they’ll have to wait weeks to see you. Even if they go ahead and schedule, many of these patients will keep looking until they find a practice that can see them sooner – and they may or may not let you know they won’t be coming in after all.
If this is a common scenario in your practice, it’s costing you thousands of dollars in undiagnosed treatment, as well as any referrals these patients might have sent your way. To make room for these important patients, sit down with your Scheduling Coordinator and determine, on average, how many new patients you see each month. Reserve that amount of time in your schedule and, if demand increases, make the necessary adjustments.
Doing away with pre-appointing also will help open up your schedule for new patients, not to mention current patients who are ready to go forward with treatment. If you pre-appoint six months out, it gives the illusion your schedule is full. Many patients who schedule that far in advance have no idea what they’ll be doing when it’s time for the appointment, and end up canceling at the last minute or not showing up at all – leaving you with open slots that could have been filled by new patients.
If you’ve pre-appointed for years, the thought of giving it up altogether might seem overwhelming. Consider implementing a hybrid system instead, and only schedule reliable patients six months in advance. When your schedule is out of control, it’s not only stressful, it can be pretty costly. If you’re ready to streamline your schedule, start by taking my free assessment and then contact me. I’ll help you take your schedule back, increase production and grow your bottom line.
Read the original article at http://www.mckenziemgmt.com/managementtips/tips813.html . For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side. Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.