Scheduling, Part 2

May 1, 2003
The following recommendations are a continuation of my last column. Consider these additional steps for effective scheduling:

Cathy Jameson, PhD

The following recommendations are a continuation of my last column. Consider these additional steps for effective scheduling:

5) Preblock. This is the key to great scheduling. My consulting team has taught thousands of people how to schedule efficiently and effectively. We have seen effective scheduling make a significant financial difference. However, until you realize the value of preblocking and commit to it, excellence will not be accomplished.

Preblocking means that you reserve specific times every day for primary procedures. The type of procedure doesn't matter; just make sure that your "reservations" are for primaries. Preblock for approximately half of your production goal. Then nestle secondary and tertiary procedures around those preblocks.

6) Hygiene evaluations. Provide hygiene evaluations at your convenience, rather than at the end of the appointment. This can save you five to 10 minutes per hour — 40 to 80 minutes per day — which can keep you on schedule so you can go to lunch and go home on time. The time savings may even give you time to use your intraoral camera, provide further patient education, or perform proper sterilization.

7) Emergencies. If you are seeing an average of three or more emergencies a day, reserve time in your schedule for that. Make sure your team employs excellent verbal skills to help patients understand that you want to see them that day at a specific time to make sure they are comfortable.

As a team, determine what is considered a true emergency. Define which patients you believe must be seen on the day they call and which ones can be seen at a later time. When an emergency arises, see the patient that same day, diagnose the situation, prescribe appropriate treatment, make the patient comfortable, and schedule a follow-up appointment.

If you and your patient have a financial agreement and the time, proceed with treatment. However, do not provide treatment on an emergency patient and do not do more dentistry than is scheduled unless 1you have time to do it without it negatively affecting your regularly scheduled patients, and 2 the patient understands and is comfortable with the financial responsibility.

If you are not reserving time for emergencies or if your emergency time is filled, during your morning meeting ask your clinical assistants to determine times throughout the day when emergencies can be accommodated. They would know this better than anyone. Plus, if they identify the emergency time slots, they are less likely to become disgruntled if the scheduling coordinator appoints patients at those times. This can eliminate unnecessary stress and potential conflicts.

8) Make financial arrangements prior to rendering treatment. Apply this principle to every patient and every appointment. Do not spend your patients' money without their permission. Always inform them of their financial responsibility prior to scheduling an appointment.

The majority of situations where patients are disgruntled can be traced back to a misunderstanding about money. Carefully discuss the fee and come to an agreement about it and the payment method.

Study and implement

The strategies outlined in this column and the last will provide you with tried and true methods for refining your scheduling system. I recommend that you implement all eight strategies to achieve the best results. Go through these strategies at a team meeting and integrate each step. Then ask yourself, How can we do this better? This critical question is the one that will take you to the next level.

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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