Scheduling, Part 1

April 1, 2003
As I continue this series on "How to Elevate Your Practice to the Next Level," I must include several articles on scheduling issues.

Cathy Jameson, PhD

As I continue this series on "How to Elevate Your Practice to the Next Level," I must include several articles on scheduling issues. Your appointment book may be working against you and getting in the way of your ideal practice. That doesn't have to happen! You can orchestrate and manage this very complex "system" — scheduling — so that it supports your journey to the ideal practice. However, you must first make a decision to get in control of your appointment book, rather than letting it control you.

Scheduling needs and deserves attention. Just putting names into the appointment book or filling every line does not necessarily mean that you are productive. And, in most cases, it certainly does not mean you are scheduling in a profitable manner. A hectic, cram-packed schedule can lead to extraordinarily stressful days.

Every member of the team has responsibilities related to scheduling. However, one person on your team must have the ultimate responsibility for engineering the appointment book. That person must have the ability, the training, the time, and the desire to organize each and every day — and to schedule wisely.

Let's look at a few of the key elements of effective scheduling:

1) Schedule for production — Determine what you want and need to produce on a monthly basis. Determine how many days you will be practicing per month. Then, divide the number of days into the monthly production goal. This will determine how much you need to produce per day to reach your monthly goal. Establish a goal of having equitably-scheduled days throughout the month. This can happen no matter what kind of dentistry you are providing.

2) Schedule doctor and assistant time — Being an effective leader and being as productive as possible means you need to delegate whenever possible. You must also research all that is legally possible for a clinical assistant or a hygienist to do in your state. Provide the necessary training so that your team members will be competent and comfortable with their responsibilities. Ultimately, the doctor should be doing the things that only a doctor can do.

3) Analyze your procedures — Once you have determined what can be delegated and you have provided the necessary training, take the time to analyze each of your major procedures. Define the following:

(a) Who does what — Determine both the doctor and assistant time. Or, you can define the hygienist and assistant time.
(b) How long does each aspect of treatment require?
(c) Are you scheduling enough time?
(d) Are you scheduling too much time?
(e) Can you refine the efficiency of the procedure?

Once you have analyzed each procedure, take this information to the appointment coordinator so that she can begin engineering the appointment book with precision.

4) Schedule a variety of procedures every day — This may be the greatest stress-controlling step of all. By scheduling a variety of procedures, you will reduce boredom and burnout. You will smooth out the energy output and the cash flow.

The variety of treatment needs to be a mixture of primary, secondary, and tertiary procedures. Primary procedures are the procedures that have a higher dollar value attached to them, secondary procedures are those with a smaller financial value, and tertiary procedures have no dollar value attached, such as seating crowns or suture removals.

Being productive does not mean seeing more patients, nor does it mean rushing through your days. By following these strategies, you will not only be more productive, but more profitable as well. Working smarter, not harder, can become more than just a saying — it can become a reality.

Cathy Jameson, PhD, is president of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental lecture and consulting firm. She has been a featured speaker for the major dental meetings throughout the world and is an adjunct faculty member of the Oklahoma University School of Dentistry and an associate professor at the NYU College of Dentistry. Her books, Great Communication = Great Production and Collect What You Produce are top sellers for PennWell Books. Contact Dr. Jameson at (580) 369-5555, or email cathy@jamesonmanage

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