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Patient scheduling: It can make or break your practice

April 1, 2012
Many dentists today face financial challenges that were generally absent in the past.

by Shelly Mendoza

Many dentists today face financial challenges that were generally absent in the past. A staff’s ability to schedule productive days that increase overall collections is more important than ever.

There is a concept that many doctors are not familiar with called “scheduling by production.” With this concept, staff members use the features of a software appointment book to optimize what is produced and collected each day. This can produce immediate financial results for a practice.

A practice’s financial success starts with the schedule. A staff can maximize a schedule by doing the following — schedule patients by type of procedure, create simple graphs in which they can visually measure scheduled and actual dollars, and create goals to see how close they are to making the practice’s numbers.

A practice's financial success all starts with the schedule.

These software tools provide an easy guide for the front desk to schedule an “ideal” day that increases production and collection. Perhaps more importantly, this will help prevent the crazy and overscheduled day that is often followed by a day so unproductive that it does not even cover the cost to pay staff!

Running a productive day, every day, without complication, should be second nature to a staff. This can be achieved by following these simple “schedule by production” steps:

First, determine how much money it really takes to cover the cost of staff, pay bills, and pay yourself. Second, based on patient treatment plans, determine how many high production and other procedures should be scheduled daily.

Finally, make sure that staff uses the software appointment template feature to set a schedule that allows staff to “drop in” the appropriate appointments and tally up the practice’s goal as they schedule and collect. Following these steps will help take the guesswork out of daily scheduling.

Another essential component needed to create an ideal schedule is simple and easy-to-read graphs. These graphs should show whether the daily scheduling goal has been achieved, and have the ability to schedule goals for an entire month.

Unfortunately, too many practice-management software systems only offer advanced tools for tracking various items, and lose sight of the reality of a busy dental office’s need to track daily financial progress.

Simply put, most systems are just way too complicated.

Fortunately, there are systems available that offer simple graphs to help a staff make the right scheduling decisions. The system I recommend that seems to have the right scheduling tools is DentiMax.

In dealing with today’s financial challenges, a dentist may find that he or she has taken on more of the burden to ensure that patients are properly scheduled than should be the case. There is a better way.

Create the expectation that your front desk staff will properly schedule every patient, and then provide the tools needed to do it. With the right software and guidance, “scheduling by production” can give a practice financial well-being.

Shelly Mendoza has 17 years of clinical and administrative experience working with large and small dental offices. She has developed and implemented effective strategies to help practices with treatment acceptance, production, and collections. Contact her via email at [email protected].

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