As practices open back up from pandemic shutdowns, scheduling patients is becoming more of a challenge. We have to consider that we want to practice social distancing inside of our practices. We have production targets and financial obligations. And, of course, we need to safely care for patients.
As you begin to have more demand on your schedule, these challenges will become tougher to overcome. But tough doesn’t mean impossible. And with the right scheduling strategies, your team can take care of all the details. Here are four ways your team can schedule patients to remain productive and safe.
Utilize time blocks.
Just because we can’t have as many patients in the office at once, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be as productive. As we're looking at our post-COVID schedule, we want to have in our mind how we can see fewer patients while having higher production. You can have more production and collections in your business going forward because you’ll be focusing on getting more patients to do higher value procedures and to have fewer patients in the practice through time blocks.
The idea is to schedule out the procedures that typically take the longest first and work backwards in order to fit everything within your schedule. Be very strategic. For example, if you're using a third-party tool such as Dental Intel, create a filtered list of all patients below the age of 60 who have been seen within the last year and have unscheduled perio scaling and root planing. These patients are behind in getting care and need to get back in because they are the least healthy in terms of oral health. We want to give them priority as we essentially have a clean slate.
You can even color code your time blocks so that is easiest to read. In my practice, red is most urgent and so as we're filling our hygiene, we want to fill our red blocks first, and then we want to fill our yellow blocks, and then we want to fill our green blocks. Your longest procedures will be more urgent and therefore in the “red” and your quicker procedures will be either yellow or green.
Get help from your dental assistants.
Make sure you utilize your dental assistant anywhere you can. Have them help out in areas where they can so that your dental hygienists can focus on the tasks the assistant can't do.
Having dental assistants for our hygienists allows our hygienists to focus on what no one else can do, such as the scaling, and root planing. The assistants are typically doing things like taking x-rays, taking internal photos, showing videos if we want to show an educational video, having those discussions, finding out their chief concern, and then they transfer the information over to the hygienist.
Dental assistants are very important to your practice, especially if you use them to their full potential. In fact, without their help, it would be nearly impossible to recover from the pandemic. Make sure your dental assistants are aware of how much their help means to you and the whole team.
Make an overflow room.
Having an overflow room will benefit your practice beyond recovering financially. This is an efficient system that should be utilized in every practice.
Here’s how it works in my practice. We have an overflow room and so patient number one will be in one room. When the next patient comes in, the assistant will get them started in another room. This allows the dental hygienist to be able to go straight to that next patient and a team member can properly clean the first room to get it ready for our next patient.
The other thing to take note of here as well is the stagger between blocks, between our two hygienists. This prevents having a bottleneck at the front desk and waiting area. Make sure time blocks do not start and end at the same time. There's a staggered approach there.
With staggered schedules and an overflow room, you can better manage the flow of patients in your practice. You also ensure every room is cleaned properly before a patient goes in.
Communicate well with patients.
Communicating well with patients is a skill your dental team members should practice daily. Especially during times like today where we can’t schedule as many patients as we used to, it is important our patients understand this and understand why.
Make sure you’re honest with patients. Let them know you want to be able to give them first priority but you are doing the best you can. Tell them you have a new system and your practice is prioritizing the longer procedures so you can have fewer people in the office and keep everyone safe. Be honest with your patients and they’ll most likely understand.
Are you ready to help your team succeed in scheduling patients?
Once you implement these easy tips, your practice will be as efficient as ever. You and your practice will have adapted to the new changes and positioned to succeed. Even better, your team will be leading the charge to building a safe, productive, efficient practice.
If you want help, join our free Facebook group for dental bosses. In of that group, you will be able to mastermind and share with dentists and team members. And if you’re looking for training or coaching for your team to accelerate your growth, click here to learn more.