Schedule your way to your ideal

Oct. 1, 2003
By investing in the patient, you increase patient satisfaction. As satisfaction increases, so does the quantity of work your patients want you to do over time.

Richard A. Green, DDS, MBA

By investing in the patient, you increase patient satisfaction. As satisfaction increases, so does the quantity of work your patients want you to do over time. Doing your best work requires you to see fewer patients because your best work requires more of your time.

The way you schedule and organize your treatment plans can take your practice to another level. In this article, we will explore a process for refining your schedule every six months. Repeat this process and your practice will not look or feel the same in two years. You will have made significant quality time to know your patients and do your best work.

The Pankey Institute's Value Based Scheduling Exercise leads you through a strategic planning process to clarify the things you do well and want to spend more time doing. Next, you analyze how you have been spending your time and set goals for how you want to spend your time six months from now. Finally, you outline your schedule to reflect your goals so you start living today as if you have already arrived at your desired schedule.

An instructional document and forms for this exercise can be found at the Institute's Web site — Click on the For Dental Professionals button of the site. Click on Educational Program, and then, Business Systems. On the Scheduling Development drop-down menu, click on Value Based Scheduling. There, you will:

• List, categorize, and rank the procedures you do in the order of the most enjoyable to the least enjoyable, asking yourself guiding questions such as, "If I could sit a patient down and do a quadrant of operative, would I prefer that over a single-tooth operative? If I could, would I prefer [this] over [that]? What is unique about my practice? Which of the procedures are important enough to increase the time I make available for doing them? Which procedures put a smile on my face?" (We tend to do well what we like to do most.)

• Analyze your schedule for the past one to three months. Identify hours spent in each of your listed categories. What percentage of your time did you spend on each category?

• Decide what percentage of your time you want to spend on each major category six months from now. If category "A" represented 30 percent of last month's total and you choose 36 percent as a target for six months from now, you will increase the percentage of time you spend on category "A" by 20 percent. Ask yourself if this is an attainable goal. If you set attainable goals, you will meet them.

Outline your schedule to reflect your desired percentages and the individual uniqueness of your practice. We have found the following rules to be helpful:

1) In both the doctor's and hygienist's schedules, hold open every sixth week to allow flexibility in your schedule. You can begin to fill it as you enter the first week of the six-week period.

2) In the doctor's schedule, save a half day each week and fill it in one week or less ahead; save emergency time each day that only can be filled that day; book "A" work as far ahead as necessary as long as you observe the sixth week rule; book "B" work three to four weeks ahead; book "C" work one to two weeks ahead; and book "D" and "E" work one week ahead, or refer the work to someone else.

3) In the hygienist's schedule, in addition to the sixth week rule, reflect the following items depending on the type of re-care appointment system you and your patients prefer. Hold time in the schedule for new patients, root planing, and curettage (RPC), and those folks who like to schedule only one month in advance.

By analyzing the number of new patients you see weekly and RPC done weekly for a six-month period, you can determine the percentage of patients who make appointments six months in advance and the percentage who prefer to schedule one month in advance. You can then hold appropriate time for those who schedule one month in advance.

By doing all of the above, you are proactively creating your desired practice — your preferred future!

Richard A. Green, DDS, FAGD, MBA, is the director of business systems development of The Pankey Institute and is responsible for developing the business systems and financial-management portion of the Institute's curriculum. You may contact Dr. Green by phone at (305) 428-5547 or by email at [email protected].

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