The truth about scheduling

June 1, 2000
Scheduling is the single most important system in any dental practice. Your practice should already have a complete step-by-step manual with full documentation of how your scheduling system operates. Unfortunat-ely, most practices have not taken this step, nor do they understand the fundamental principles behind scheduling.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA

Scheduling is the single most important system in any dental practice. Your practice should already have a complete step-by-step manual with full documentation of how your scheduling system operates. Unfortunat-ely, most practices have not taken this step, nor do they understand the fundamental principles behind scheduling.

Communication

Effective communication with your clients, and within the practice, is the fundamental basis for scheduling. Poor communication can result in missed appointments or late arrivals. If the client has only one hour for a procedure that requires two, the result can be missed treatments or delays that can affect their condition. Stress levels increase exponentially for the staff as they try to mitigate the damage wrought by poor communication.

If you or your staff`s verbal skills need honing, invest in the training to sharpen them. Create a system that not only teaches new staff members, but addresses the needs of existing staff as well. Incorporate scripts as part of your communication effectiveness plan, which will ensure your message is conveyed consistently to patients and staff alike.

Scheduling is time management

Scheduling is simply the effective use of time to achieve control over your day. The success of the practice depends on the scheduling system, because you cannot produce what you do not schedule. Practices that constantly experience emergencies, overdue patients, and run continually late while treating patients do not have an effective scheduling system in place.

The first step in any practice management enhancement is to gain control of your schedule. The schedule is based on a combination of factors: understanding your financial goals, speed, skills, and desired services. It is further affected by the skill level and training of the dental team, demographics of the community, number of new patients, patient mix, and treatment presentation appointments.

Underlying all of that is the amount and quality of equipment and technology used by the practice. Scheduling software is a wise investment for any practitioner wishing to gain control over the number and type of patients seen.

In analyzing your schedule, address the areas below:

What are your goals as a doctor?

What services do you like to provide?

How much time do you need for each service?

Are these services sufficiently profitable for you to achieve financial goals?

The next step is to design a schedule that helps you achieve the answers to these questions. You will only get what you want out of dental practice if you schedule it accordingly.

Controlling your schedule means don`t let the schedule control you!

Many practices easily handle emergencies. Others produce 66 percent of their revenue in the morning, and enjoy afternoons without fatigue. Many practices easily see the desired amount of new patients each month, and are able to present treatment plans within 7 to 10 days of the new patient appointment. These practices typically have much higher than average production and profitability. The common denominator is control.

Approach scheduling mathematically. Use a systematic and calculated approach. The variables will depend on your unique goals. Determine your desired outcome and apply a series of formulas to achieve your goals. If you are failing, take a serious look at your schedule, and make the corrections to help you regain control of your practice.

This is the solution for successful scheduling.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, president and CEO of The Levin Group and the Levin Advanced Learning Institute, provides worldwide leadership in dental management for general dentists and specialists. Contact The Levin Group at (410) 654-1234.

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