Fill your schedule: Make it a system, not a reaction to holes

Do you know how to fill your dental practice schedule?

Appt Book with Time Blocks and Appts

Most dental front desk staff members say, “Yes, of course!” to answer this question. When the schedule falls apart, the team is quick to focus on the next emergency patient that calls in to fill that opening. They may have an ASAP list as well and call those patients when holes appear. This is good – but does your office have a system for filling the schedule?

How a system is different

The difference between filling the schedule and having a system to fill the schedule, is huge. The first is reactionary. “Omigosh! Someone cancelled their 2 hour appointment this afternoon – we’ve got to fill the schedule!”  The second is proactive. Every patient with diagnosed treatment that does not have an appointment, receives a follow up call. No matter whether the schedule is full or not.

A system suggests that an organized protocol is in place. Every week one person will be responsible for running the report and making sure all the contacts are made. This eliminates the drama-factor because the driver is not that you found a hole to fill, but that we run this report every Monday morning because every patient deserves to have the opportunity to have treatment completed here.

Use your Dentrix Unscheduled Treatment Plans Report

My favorite list for creating a system is the Unscheduled Treatment Plans Report. I like to have the office manager run this report on Monday mornings for the previous week  – that keeps the list short enough to be manageable and often, we still have the patient conversations in our head (hopefully, along with the matching clinical notes!). When this list is worked to completion each week and then the next Monday morning, we run the next report – we always have a nice list of patients that we are helping to schedule their appointments.

Then, when someone cancels or no shows, you can move a patient up into that slot  – especially if that person was scheduled out a few weeks simply because the schedules were full! Every dental office manager loves to quickly resolve open time in the schedule, and using a system for following up on unscheduled treatment makes it easier to be the hero & save the schedule! In fact, I also like to save each report after its been worked – this makes it easy for someone to go back through this list at a later time if needed.

Create your system today

You can set up this system in your practice right now. Office managers, you can sit down with your team (even if it’s just you and a part time helper) and make a plan for:


Who will make the patient calls to the unscheduled treatment plans list?


What list will we use?  (I like the Unscheduled treatment plans report)


When will we print the report? (Monday morning) and When will we call these patients? (End of days throughout the week) and When is the deadline  to finish this report? (by end of day Friday)


Where should these calls be made? (quiet office if possible)  Where should we document our calls? (clinical notes)


Why are we calling this list of patients every week? (To fill the schedules)

Systems for the Front Desk

For more ideas about turning tasks at the front desk into systems, you may be interested in this free set of instructions that guide you through how to turn a front desk task into a system. You can take this approach and use it for any task in your office.

Filling the schedule is just one way to run a successful dental practice. If you’re interested in new ideas on running a dental practice, please subscribe to my weekly blog. One of the biggest challenges to managing a dental practice is managing dental insurance. With dental insurance handled, then dental marketing for new patients becomes a primary focus. In today’s day of online reviews, handling patient complaints well is essential. As your practice grows, hiring dental staff becomes more important. With 16+ years of dental practice management experience, I’m open to your questions to help you run a successful dental office.

Feel free to email me.

AUTHOR: Jill Nesbitt
1 Comment
  • C. Smith dds

    Nice article! Nothing ruins a day more than holes in my schedule. My secretaries and I will try to put your ideas to work

    August 8, 2014