In case you aren’t aware, your patients don’t enjoy spending time in the dentist’s chair. They come because they must or because they know they should. But while they are getting their teeth cleaned or trying to remain still while you fill a cavity, they are anxious for you to finish. And they will notice every little thing that gets in the way of efficiency in your dental practice. After all, an inefficient office will keep them in that chair longer.
The fact is—you are most likely already dealing with patients who don’t want to be there. It is, therefore, critical that you optimize their visit to help nudge them toward a positive experience.
Dental practice efficiency also helps your bottom line. Efficient dental practices see more patients and perform more procedures than inefficient practices.
My name is Jennifer Pearce. I am the founder, CEO, and lead executive coach at Prosperity Dental Solutions. With twenty-five years of dentistry experience, I have seen it all. And today, I am going to share some secrets with you about making your dental practice more efficient. Because the truth is, the efficiency of your dental practice impacts the satisfaction of your patients. This, in turn, impacts all other aspects of your practice.
Secret #1 to Improve Dental Practice Efficiency: Start the Day Prepared
If you don’t start each day with a team huddle, why not? A team huddle allows everyone to get on the same page and know what to expect for the day. You can include whatever is important to your team, like daily goals, openings reserved for emergencies, cancellations, or a list of patients to call who have yet to respond to appointment reminders.
A couple of ground rules for a team huddle, however, are to start on time and keep it brief. You don’t want to start the day off already behind schedule.
Secret #2 to Improve Dental Practice Efficiency: Accurate Estimates of Procedure Times
Who decides the amount of time to book patients for on your schedule? When estimated times are off, things can get out of hand quickly. Do patients who need 45 minutes get stuck in 15 or 30-minute timeslots? If this happens for even one appointment, the entire day can run behind.
Or maybe you are on the opposite end—left with large timeslots with nothing to do.
Depending on how things work in your dental practice, you may need to consider more than your chair time.
It’s important to keep the whole picture in mind. For instance, you may know how much time you spend with a patient needing a root canal, but what about the time they are in the chair while you aren’t present? And how long did it take the assistant to prepare the operatory? You need to consider how much time each patient spends with hygienists, dental assistants, and other team members before they see you, as well as how long it takes to set up the operatory and clean it up when you’re done.
Make a list of treatments and procedures and assign an estimated booking time for each one. Then, perform a “checkup” every few months or so to see if the estimates are accurate.
Also, consider that some patients require extra time. Special needs, such as extremes of age, anxious patients, and those who haven’t seen a dentist for years, will most likely require more time.
Secret #3 to Improve Dental Practice Efficiency: Make Return Appointments at the End of Each Appointment
Yes, you will come across resistant patients. Have your staff encourage them to schedule an appointment anyway, even though they don’t know what they will be doing in six months. It is far easier to get a patient to change an existing appointment than it is to schedule a new one.
This also minimizes the work the front office has to do. After all, if every patient leaves with an appointment, that means far fewer follow-up calls or reminder texts trying to get patients on the schedule at a later date.
Secret #4 to Improve Dental Practice Efficiency: Reduce No-Shows and Late Arrivals
Make sure to send appointment reminders well ahead of time, so patients can change them if they need to.
Have a running list of patients who would be available to come in for a last-minute appointment. Each time a patient calls to schedule or change an appointment, have a team member ask if they would like to be added to the list. This is especially helpful for patients looking for an appointment sooner than you have available.
Then, send reminders two days before the appointment, so patients can cancel it if they have a schedule conflict. This gives your team time to call people on the list who may be interested in taking the appointment. With this reminder, add a statement about not forgetting to pre-medicate if they need to. You don’t have to worry about customizing this, as patients who require premedication know who they are. This prompts them to call your office if they need a prescription, and it keeps you from having to cancel a patient after they arrive if they need to pre-medicate and forgot to.
You may even want to send a final reminder on the morning of the appointment. This helps keep patients on time.
Secret #5 to Improve Dental Practice Efficiency: Train Your Front Team to Triage
Many patients think their dental emergency is more urgent than it really is. When a patient calls saying they need to get in right away, does your front team know what to ask them? Do they understand what is important and how to prioritize?
Make sure the team is properly trained so they know what questions to ask, how serious the problem is, and how much time the patient will need to be scheduled for.
Secret #6 to Improve Dental Practice Efficiency: Hire a Consultant
Running a dental practice can be complex and challenging. But when things in the office run more efficiently, they are also more effective and productive.
At Prosperity Dental Solutions, we have what it takes to help make your dental practice more efficient and profitable. Your patients will also like the changes because your improved efficacy will allow you to spend more time with them so you can give them the attention and care they deserve.
It may seem like a daunting task to get your practice running like a well-oiled machine, but we are here to help. And the result will be well worth your efforts.
Call (817) 975-4576 today to schedule a complimentary call with me. During this time, we can discuss your dental practice goals and desires and see if we have what it takes to get you there together.