“What does the schedule look like today?” is the first question asked in the dental office each morning, and if you have no idea what the day holds, it may be time to take a closer look at how you’re being scheduled. All team members should be trained in the art of scheduling, but it’s usually the responsibility of the front desk. With a little practice and patience, your office can run like a well-oiled machine maximizing production while minimizing inconvenience to the patients and the team. Which schedule below looks familiar?
- Pandemonium- There’s absolutely no organization to the schedule, no one’s in charge, and no regard is given to the doctor’s or patient’s time. Guidelines for scheduling probably don’t exist and the amount of time necessary to perform treatment is disregarded. The entire team runs behind and never recovers. Most times, there is no lunch break, and everyone works past closing only to come in the next day and repeat the entire process. This schedule is absolute chaos, and it’s very stressful. Patients may not receive the standard of care because everyone’s always in a hurry.
- Somewhat Organized- There’s a bit more management, but patients are placed in openings without any thought as to how they should be scheduled. The base schedule (patients who have an appointment for a planned procedure) is properly set, but emergencies are added Emergencies happen every day, and they must be handled correctly to prevent a schedule breakdown. There either isn’t a scheduling guideline, or it isn’t followed. This type of schedule can be very stressful as well, and the team can’t operate at the optimal level.
- Organized- An appointment coordinator or office manager is in control of the schedule allowing everyone to perform their duties more efficiently. In this case, fewer patients are scheduled, and there’s more time available for all team members to spend with the patients. Emergencies are planned for, and interruptions of the schedule are minimized. All employees have an understanding of how to book patients by maximizing production while providing excellent care.
The key to an organized schedule is having a designated coordinator and guidelines based on how you want the day to be constructed. While doctor’s can be designated leaders, most offices find that having an appointment coordinator or office manager is the perfect way to keep things going smoothly. Besides, the doctors time is better spent focused on clinical tasks.
Another important element of successful scheduling is a morning huddle. A morning huddle sets the tone for the day and allows the team to discuss each procedure and any anomalies in the schedule. Furthermore, meeting first thing ensures that everyone has an idea of what is going on in each room thus allowing them to plan accordingly. It also highlights any opportunities to fill open appointments with patients who are already coming in for treatment.
Having an understanding of how to book patients and a coordinator to keep things flowing will have everyone ready to tackle the day with confidence and a smile.