Contributed by Susan Kulakowski, Director of Practice Enhancement
When I went into dentistry years ago we didn’t have intentional scheduling techniques. Rather, it was throw 30 names on a page and pray we make it through the day. We have come a long way with modern scheduling techniques. To provide better access to patient care, there are four types of flex time in the schedule each practice must have for enhanced efficiency, increased productivity and reduced stress.
Emergency Flex Time Dental Scheduling
Emergency patients can be great practice builders if handled properly, or they can totally undermine practice success. Every practice must have at least two half-hour emergency flex times held in each day’s schedule that are not given away more than 24 hours before. Save a half hour in the mid-morning and a half hour in the mid-afternoon. Most practices like to see emergencies the last thing before lunch and at the end of the day. I do not recommend this, because when team members are late going to lunch and late going home at the end of the day, morale goes down. When morale goes down, production goes right along with it.
New Dental Patient Flex Time Scheduling
There are two primary reasons a new patient calls a practice and goes elsewhere. Either they were mishandled on the phone, or the practice had difficulty working them into the schedule in a timely manner. New patients are the lifeblood of the practice. New Patient Flex time pre-blocked and held insures the practice’s ability to get new patients in without waiting.
Dental Hygiene Flex Time Scheduling
Time must be blocked and held for New Patient prophy appointments and Periodontal Procedures. The practice should never keep a new patient in need of a cleaning waiting. And, the practice certainly does not want to tell patients with periodontal issues they have a disease but can’t be treated for a month or more.
Large Dental Case Flex Time Scheduling
Many practices don’t have large cases because they don’t hold time for them. Rather than condensing the schedule, many doctors take four days of schedule and spread it out over two weeks out of fear that if they “do it all today” there will be nothing to do tomorrow. The reality is that the busier the practice is today the busier it will be tomorrow. Two-hour or longer appointments should be pre-blocked and held each week or at the very least every other week. Time is a precious commodity for all of us, when you are the patient, which of these do you prefer? “You have a choice. We can see you for four shorter appointments, or we can reserve a half day of the doctor’s time in which we can complete 80% of your treatment needs.”