Simply filling the majority of your open dental appointment slots doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re achieving your full production and revenue potential. Like so many of our clients, you will likely be amazed by the impact effective scheduling strategies can have on your dental clinic’s bottom line. Even more surprising is that some of these practices can actually reduce stress and overtime, while simultaneously boosting collections. Following are some of the strategies we recommend to our dental practice clients.
Establish revenue goals. The first step is to establish a monthly or yearly revenue target for your dental clinic. Be sure to factor in revenue generated by hygiene services as well. Then determine how much revenue you need to bring in each day or week to meet your overall goal.
Format your scheduling software optimally. Are you currently scheduling dental appointments in 15-minute increments? If so, you’re likely not maximizing productivity. Instead, try scheduling in 10-minute increments. This allows you to get more granular and precise. You may only gain 10 or 15 minutes of productivity with this change, but that time will add up, believe me! Also, you should be sure to set up a column for every treatment room in your clinic to monitor productivity for each operatory.
Document procedure times for each provider. If you’ve actually tracked the amount of time it takes each to complete different procedure, you should make this a priority. Be sure to document the time it takes each clinical staff member to finish his/her part of a procedure. Document about a dozen procedures in this way and calculate the average time. This has some obvious advantages. First of all, you can reserve the right amount of time for different procedures, which ensures that your schedule runs on-time, while at the same time avoiding “dead” time in the schedule. It also helps you to project staffing needs.
Sequence appointments effectively. Sync up dental assistant and hygienist time with the doctor’s time. For example, if the dental assistant completes her work on a patient at 8:30, schedule the dentist’s part of the procedure to start at 8:30.
Schedule emergency appointments at times that are least disruptive to the daily schedule. Squeeze in dental emergency appointments just before or after lunch or at the very end of the day.
I’ve seen many clients focus on “filling the schedule” as their primary goal, in an effort to increase collections. However, all appointments are not equal. Shifting a focus to ensuring that there is time available in the schedule for more lucrative procedures is far more effective in achieving revenue goals
Adopt a block scheduling system. The central idea with block scheduling is that you “block out” times in your daily or weekly schedule that are reserved for higher revenue-generating dental procedures.
Classify procedures: Group procedures into high, moderate, and low (or 0) revenue-generating categories.
Determine how many slots to reserve for each type of procedure. We won’t go into great detail here, but using worksheets and formulas, you can determine, based on historical data plus revenue goals, how much time to reserve in your daily or weekly schedule for more lucrative procedures.
Assign scheduling responsibility to one staff member. Block scheduling is definitely more complicated than conventional scheduling. To ensure that it’s done correctly and runs smoothly, we recommend that one person on your team handle all scheduling.
Train dental clinic staff in block scheduling. Getting staff buy-in on the block scheduling system is crucial for successful implementation.
If you’re not yet ready to make the leap to block scheduling, start by implementing the other strategies and monitor the impact on your bottom line. If you’d like to learn more about production scheduling or you’d like your staff to get a better understanding of optimal scheduling practices, please see our practical, interactive online courses :
- Scheduling to Your Practice’s Goal to Minimize Stress and Maximize Productivity
- Block Scheduling to Maximize Revenue