Archive for the ‘Scheduling’ Category

A Smart Start to Practice Growth

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Guest post by Dawn Christodoulou, President/Owner of XLDent

As the owner of a practice starting out or a stagnant one trying to grow, you are faced with figuring out what impacts practice growth the most. When properly planned, three areas can help to maximize growth from day one.

  1. Systems

You’re likely not thinking about efficiency or productivity during your first days or weeks in business. With a handful of patients each day, you’re not faced with bottlenecks, communication gaps, or duplication of processes. Alas, you soon will be. Systems minimize gaps or overlaps in your daily processes. They are needed for productive workflows and profitability.

Create standard operating procedures (SOPs) early on. Doing so sets the stage for staff expectations, accountability measures, and helps you measure areas of success or needs for improvement. Early on, you are likely running your practice without a full team. You have an assistant also taking on the front desk role, because you’re simply not busy enough yet to hire a full-time admin team member. As you bring on new staff, a written set of SOPs will ensure each team member is prepared and knows their responsibilities. Systems should be created knowing they will evolve as your practice grows and staff roles change. XLDent provides each practice, whether just starting out or transitioning from another PMS, a core set of SOPs to start with. They are a fantastic starting point for those new to establishing systems, and are customized by each practice as needed.

  1. XLDent blog photo Mockup-12-19-16Reviews and Referrals

I doubt there’s a practice starting out today that doesn’t have an online presence from day one. From the day you open your doors, focus on creating a process for reviews and referrals. Nothing attracts new patients more than a healthy online rating and patients who aren’t afraid to tell others about their great experience. After a visit, ask your patient if they were happy with their experience and funnel them right over to do that 5-star review. Lighthouse 360 helps you automate this. Emails. are automatically sent post-visit, and good reviews are posted right to your website and social media pages.

  1.  Patient Experience

It’s no surprise that convenience and consumer experience are priorities when a new patient chooses a dentist. They are especially significant in gaining one who is loyal. Don’t discount the importance of electronic reminders, online access, and paperless forms, to a patient. A busy mom doesn’t want to be faced with a stack of forms to complete that you’re going to scan and shred anyway. Consider a system that embraces all aspects of a streamlined paperless system, so you’re not left with the task of finding disconnected solutions that leave you with clumsy systems.

To connect with someone from XLDent, call 800-328-2925 or email xldentinfo@xldent.com

DawnDawn Christodoulou is the President/Owner of XLDent. She has more than 25 years of experience computerizing dental offices and helping both new and established practices streamline electronic workflows for increased efficiency, improve patient engagement, and achieve maximum profitability. Dawn is also a member of ADA SCDI Working Groups 11.1 Standard Clinical Architecture and 11.9 Core Reference Data Set.

 

5 Steps for Patient Referral Success

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Guest post by Dr. Lindsay Goss, DMD, MPH

As a general dentist I work with specialists every day in order to provide exceptional comprehensive patient care. I used to think that when I referred a patient to a dental specialist that they would take over from there with the patient’s care. They would diagnose the patient, treat the patient and the patient would return to my office only when they have improvement. But what I soon realized is that I would wonder what was happening? When is the patient returning to my office? What was their diagnosis? What is the prognosis? Once I referred the patient out of my office, I felt that I could no longer be in control of my patient care. However, with a few changes to our office protocol on how we make a referral, I remain a part of my patient’s continuation of care with the specialist.

Here is my office protocol:

1. Determine the patient needs a referral to a specialist.

2. Define what specialist can provide a Diagnosis, Prognosis and Treatment recommendations (DPT).
   a. What type of specialist should the patient see?
      Does gender of the doctor or the location matter?
      Does insurance coverage make a difference for this patient?

3. Offer patient a pre-scheduled appointment with the specialist prior to leaving your office.
   a. This step is important because it commits the patient to the care they need.
   b. Our patient coordinator gives insurance information to the referring office.

4. Write the pre-scheduled appointment day/time on the referral slip.
   a. Make a copy of the referral slip for your patient records.
   b. Inform patient their records will be sent over and ready for their consult appt.

5. Compliment the specialist and inform the patient that we will look forward to hearing the results from the consult appointment.
   a. Ask your specialist for a pre-treatment letter which states the DPT.
   b. I always review the DPT from the specialist prior to treatment with the patient.

I would encourage any New Dentist to get to know their specialists and develop a clear relationship on how you want to manage patient care. Call and invite your specialists to meet over lunch! When I work with a specialist I am inviting the specialist into a relationship of trust I have built with my patients. The patient knows that I am going to follow their case and I expect the patient to follow through with the recommended treatment/care. For these reasons it is important to make working with specialists an easy and routine process.

LindsayMGossDMDMPH

Dr. Lindsay Goss is an esteemed member of The New Dentist Magazine Advisory Board. She graduated from the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health and AT Still School of Health Management.  Dr. Goss also completed an Advanced Education in General Dentistry program through the Lutheran Medical Center before she worked with four different types of practice settings, and prior to starting up a solo “space share” in Chandler, AZ.

 

4 Reasons Patients No Show

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Broken appointments cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year. While you’re never going to completely eliminate cancellations and no-shows in your practice, you can significantly reduce them. How? First you have to understand why patients don’t show up.  Here are four reasons patients don’t make dental appointments a priority, and what you can do to change that at your practice:

1. They Don’t See the Value of Dentistry – When patients don’t understand the importance of maintaining their oral health, they’re much more likely to skip out on their appointment times. That’s why education is so important, and should be part of every patient interaction.

 

2. You Don’t Create a Sense of Urgency – When you recommend treatment to patients, you have to stress the importance of going forward with that treatment. Make sure patients understand the possible consequences of ignoring the problem, and the benefits of maintaining their oral health. Never leave them with the impression that there’s no hurry to pursue the treatment you’re recommending. After all, if you aren’t worried about it, why should they be?

 

3. You Don’t Always Confirm Appointments – Your patients are busy people with many responsibilities, so they might not remember making an appointment with your office. This is especially true if they made that appointment six months ago. That’s why you have to make sure your Scheduling Coordinator and/or your patient communication system confirms every appointment with every patient two days in advance (via their preferred method of contact).

 

4. You Don’t Have a Cancellation Policy –  When you have a cancellation policy and communicate that policy with patients, it helps them to see the importance of showing up for their appointment. If you don’t have a cancellation policy, develop one now and make sure you let both new and current patients know it exists. Remind patients about the policy when they schedule their appointments. Ask them to give your office at least two days’ notice if they can’t make their appointment so another patient can see the doctor.

 

Broken appointments wreak havoc on your day and cost you time and money. If you follow these tips, you’ll see a huge reduction in the number of cancellations and no-shows your practice has to deal with each week, and that, doctor, will do wonders for reducing stress levels while also growing your productivity numbers and your bottom line.

To read this article in it’s entirety CLICK HERE

Hygiene Schedule during Spring Break

Friday, March 20th, 2015

It’s Spring Break season and while some students and families are off vacationing at Disney others are busy making plans to do things they cannot normally fit into their busy schedules; such as taking that much needed overdue trip to the dentist. Having a plan in place to manage last minute cancellations and spur of the moment appointment requests will go a long way for your team to be ready to remain productive and keep your patients and staff happy during the holiday.

First, to be ready for cancellations you will need a list of patients with unscheduled treatment. To get started, run a report showing patient treatment identified but not yet completed. Then assign a staff member to look into each instance. Compose a letter (with empty spacing that can be filled in with personal information and needed treatment) and you as the dentist signs it personally. Follow up with a phone call asking that the patient set up an appointment.

Sample:

Dear Mrs. June Smith,

I hope that you are well and looking forward to a healthy 2015. As your dentist, I am sending you this letter to let you know that you still need to have (a crown on your top left molar) completed. This was treatment that we identified for you last year, but did not accomplish. I don’t want to let a manageable problem become a large, difficult problem for you. In addition, your insurance coverage starts over at the beginning of a year. You and/or your employer are already paying for a good share of your needed treatment!

Call our office at your earliest convenience and we will be glad to set up a time so we can get started on what you need.

I appreciate being your dentist, and look forward to seeing you soon.

Sincerely,

Dr. Mike Jones

It is best if the section where the personal treatment is listed does not look like a mass produced “fill-in-the-blank”. That can negate the effect of a “personal” letter! Also, if the patient needs quite a bit of care, don’t try to put it all in. Instead, choose the most pressing issue. These letters do not have to be a “clerical only” duty. Your hygienist or dental assistant can work on them as well.

Regardless of the method used, it is essential to be prepared to address and fill last minute cancellations especially during the holidays when more changes are expected to occur.
Wishing you a wonderful Spring Break and a productive month ahead!
__________

Need more help with your Hygiene Dept? Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com

Common Scheduling Mistakes ( 1 of 3)

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Maintaining a productive schedule isn’t easy. It takes commitment and the willingness to implement measurable systems that will bring about real change in your practice. The person in charge of your schedule must be properly trained and have a clear understanding of the difference between scheduling to keep the team busy, and scheduling to keep the team productive.

When you finally start scheduling to meet productivity objectives rather than just to fill the day, you’ll notice a huge difference in your practice, as will your patients. Stress levels will go down, patients won’t wait as long to see you, and instead of just reacting to what’s thrown your direction, you will be prepared for every appointment. All this, plus you’ll start meeting your practice’s financial goals.

Yes, managing the schedule can be tricky business, but it’s vital to your practice’s success. You may be overwhelmed by the thought of nixing your old system and designing one that actually works, but I’m here to help you through it. I’m about to share with you three of the most common scheduling mistakes dental practices make, along with tips on how you can avoid them. Read on, then start making the necessary changes.

Mistake #1:
You’re Not Communicating with your Scheduling Coordinator
You expect your coordinator to fill in procedure times but are you communicating how long the procedures take? Instead of making your coordinator play the guessing game, let him or her know exactly how long it will take you to perform a scheduled procedure, as well as how long it will take the assistant. The coordinator should then mark the times in different colors on the schedule. Just like that, you’ve saved yourself and your team some unnecessary frustration and aggravation, and you’ve ensured you’re not double-booked.

Whether it comes directly from you or from a hygienist after you’ve provided the time break down, I can’t stress enough how important it is to clearly communicate procedure times with your scheduling coordinator.

Controlling the schedule is vital to your practice’s success. The schedule determines the level of care you provide, how stressful your day is and how much money you bring in. Avoiding these common pitfalls and making a commitment to properly manage the schedule will help ensure that you meet daily production objectives, allowing you and your team to focus on what’s most important—providing the best patient care possible.

Are You Really Accepting New Patients?

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

 

If your schedule is so booked that it is “impossible” to schedule a new patient within the next week, you likely have one or more of the following situations occurring: The office books patients six months in advance for hygiene. No one is tracking appointment failures and cancellations; consequently, the schedule looks artificially overloaded. No one is monitoring the numbers of new patient calls to ensure that the practice allocates a specific number of openings in the schedule during prime appointment times to accommodate new patients.

 

Determine how much time you need to allocate in the schedule to accommodate new patients. Remember, new patient slots should be reserved during prime time. Those are the hours in which your practice experiences the greatest demand for appointments, and, typically, they are in the late afternoons, evenings, and on Saturdays. If you make it easy for the patient to keep the appointment, they will feel confident in their decision to choose your practice.

 

Additionally, review new patient activity in your practice over the last six months. If you saw 60 new patients, that would be 10 per month and 2.5 per week. Reserve at least that much time in your schedule to handle immediate new patient demand. If you are planning to actively market your practice, you may need to make adjustments to ensure that your practice can meet demand. Nothing destroys your credibility quicker than an advertisement that claims your practice is accepting new patients only to have a business employee tell eager callers that they will have to wait for weeks to get in.

 

Crack the No-Show Code

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

The clock on the wall says 2:10. The patient was scheduled for a 2 p.m. appointment. It’s “dead time” in the dental office. Mid-afternoon for many practices sees production slow to a trickle. These tend to be some of the most difficult times to fill and the most likely to generate no-shows and cancellations.

 

Take steps to keep the schedule full and patients in the chair. Educate patients about the impact on the practice of last minute cancellations and no-shows. Many are completely oblivious to the fact that the appointment time has been set aside specifically for them, or that the doctor and/or the hygienist have prepared specifically for this patient’s procedure, and that someone else also in need of dental care could have taken advantage of that appointment, if they had been given the opportunity.

 

In addition, politely remind patients of the practice’s cancellation policy on a regular basis. It should be printed on appointment cards, mentioned in conversations, as well as included in text messages and emails. And patients who are 10 minutes late for their scheduled appointment should be called promptly to confirm that they are on their way.

 

You might say for example: “Hello Mr. Frank. This is Abigail from Dr. Adams’ office. We were expecting you for your appointment at 2:00, and I was concerned because you had not arrived yet.” Listen carefully to the patient’s response. He may be on the way and stuck in traffic. He might have had a legitimate emergency arise. Life does happen, and it’s important for staff to be sensitive to that when contacting patients. However, it’s also critical to document all no-shows and last minute cancellations into the patient’s record to track if situations such as this are occasional or common.

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HEY! Have you had some really crazy excuses from late patients? Have you forgotten to call your patients? Feel free to share your experience right here on our blog! We do have hundreds of visitors who may want to hear from you too!

Do New Patients Want You?

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

It’s likely that in your community there are multiple dentists that could expertly address the oral health needs of any and every new patient. There are a host of reasons why one practice scores low and another scores high on new patient appeal. For example, convenient hours and/or practice location, reputation for excellence, offering a variety of services and treatment options, affordable payment plans, friendly staff are just a few of the essentials on the prospective new patient score card. 
 
If your goal is to increase numbers of new patients, consider the work and lifestyle habits of the patient population you want to attract. If you practice in a bedroom community where most people commute into the city and work 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., providing appointments in the evenings or on Saturdays may be necessary. If you are in a major metropolitan area, staggering the lunch hour or adjusting the workday, so that your practice is fully staffed and prepared to offer more lunchtime appointments as well as early morning appointments may be essential to attracting new patients. 
 
In addition to considering whether your hours encourage or discourage new patients, evaluate how accommodating your current scheduling structure is. When prospective new patients call, is there room in your schedule to appointment them within the next week? New patients are calling because they want your services now, not next month.