Why Scheduling Is (Almost) Everything
There’s no argument that diagnosing, presenting, and then treating elective/restorative treatment is one of the most important aspects of a dental practice’s success. But we often overlook another critical aspect in the practice: Scheduling patients for treatment. Without question, consistently scheduling your patient visits is near or at the top of the list of activities that can have the greatest impact on the growth of your practice.
Think about this for a moment. Obviously, without dentistry being performed on your patients there would be no production, but just as critical, without patient visits, there wouldn’t be any production either. This being true, do your team members responsible for scheduling know how many patient visits are needed to achieve your production goals? Do you know how many are needed?
It’s a common misconception that scheduling is a simple job—so simple, that in most cases when a new team member is hired, especially one with no dental experience, this is the first responsibility they’re given in your practice. But with little or no understanding of how important a scheduler’s role is in the overall success of the practice—is it any wonder why your practice might be under-performing?
Not only is it important for schedulers to understand the effect they have on how full the schedule is, but they also need to understand what effect they have on the overall production, what the production goals are, and at any given moment where the practice is in relationship to the goals you’ve set.
Knowledge Is Power
When a scheduler knows what your production goals are along with what your average production per visit is, they will know exactly how many visits you need for the practice to reach its production goals for the period. As the saying goes, “knowledge is power.” The more your scheduler knows and understands the impact of their role and what your production goals are, the more effective they will be.
Have you already scheduled next week’s visits to ensure that you are going to reach your production goal for the week, month, quarter, and year? Have you looked at it? Do you know where you are at? Equally important, do the team members who manage the schedule know where you are in comparison to where you want to be?
Truthfully, most practices do not take a proactive approach to scheduling. This isn’t the fault of the schedulers, since team members will generally work to reach whatever expectations are set for them and so long as these expectations are obtainable, measurable, and consistently reported.
Being a scheduler is a difficult job—but an individual who knows where they are in relationship to where they ought to be has a much better chance of reaching a goal than those who don’t know.
With all this to think about, there are some simple things you can do starting today to experience greater success in your appointment scheduling efforts. Here are two suggestions:
Two Ways to Schedule for Success
- Decide on an annual production goal for the practice and what that means for each provider and then break this down by week. Identify what each provider’s current average production per patient visit is. Take their weekly production goal and divide this by their average production per patient visit. Now your schedulers know exactly how many patients your providers need in order for them to reach their production goals. Keep track of this daily and schedule around reaching these goals, not just to fill holes in the schedule.
- Measure, measure, measure! It’s crucial that once you’ve identified the number of patients your practice needs to see in order to reach your production goals that you measure and monitor the scheduler’s progression towards reaching these goals. When performance is measured, performance improves and when performance is measured and reported back to the team, the rate of improvement accelerates. It happens every time. Make it part of your daily huddles and celebrate success!
- (BONUS!) Use Planned Appointments in Open Dental. Grouping needed treatment into prioritized planned appointments takes the guesswork out of it for the scheduler, allowing them to quickly put the planned appointment on the schedule to take care of the patient, and help meet those production goals.
At first glance, clinical procedures would seem to be the most important aspect of the overall success in a dental practice, and without question, they are critical. But administrative procedures are also important and make it possible for those procedures to happen. With this reminder, don’t just try and fill your schedule with whomever happens to answer the phone. Identify your goals, develop plans to reach them, and schedule intentionally. That is scheduling for success.
Our purpose at Dental Intelligence is to help your practice achieve real, lasting growth. We’d love to show you what’s happening right now in your practice – for free. Just visit us here to request your no-cost, no-commitment practice analysis.