Prep for Fall | How to run a dental practice

Business Calendar & SchedulePrep for Fall | How to run a dental practice

We are weeks away from back to school.

You may be feeling worn out from the jam-packed summer schedule and looking forward to a break – or you may be dreading the inevitable open time and worried about how bad things will get. No matter how you’re feeling, time marches on and school starts soon. So, what will you do to prepare for fall?

Catch up on equipment maintenance / cleaning

Knowing that your clinical team will have some downtime, you may want to create a project list of cleaning and maintenance tasks. Ask your pickiest clinical team member to walk through each operatory and make a list of every thing that could be cleaned. Talk with your team to find out what instruments need sharpened, equipment needs fixed, drawers need organized, etc. Don’t worry about getting this work done – just write down the tasks. Once this project list exists, keep it in the sterilization area where everyone can grab it when they have open time. Encourage the team to add a date and initial each task as it’s completed.

Managers can bring this project list to huddle also – and when the schedule isn’t full, hand the list to the clinical team and ask them to pick the project that fits the open time. Then, follow up in the next morning huddle – what was accomplished? Keeping the office clean and the equipment running smoothly impact the staff’s impression of what it’s like to work with this doctor. By taking advantage of downtime to keep the clinical areas clean and well-functioning, you’re not just finding ways for clinical team to keep their hours in a slow period, you’re also improving the environment and reducing turnover.

Re-Evaluate your no show approach

When schedules are full, it’s easy to not worry about broken appointments. As open time in schedules increases, you may want to reconsider your follow up on no shows. With an honest eye, look at the patients that no showed last week – what documentation do you see that they were contacted? Dentrix Ascend allows you to automate the follow up on no shows and cancelled appointments. You can create an email in the Patient Communications Setup that automatically is delivered an hour (or whatever time you choose) after the appointment status changes to broken. You also can create a custom “We missed you” letter that can be merged and sent out daily or weekly. This is up to you as a manager to make sure there is a system for tracking that these letters are actually being created and sent out regularly.

Plan time off

Fall is a great time for doctors to schedule a CE course or take a long weekend since schedules are more open anyway. Even a couple days closed in these quieter months can help to give staff a day off and condense your schedule. Another way to spend open time is by training your team. Look out in your schedule for the first few weeks after school starts and block a 10am – noon time for your annual OSHA / HIPAA review and bring lunch into the office. You have to do this anyway, why not take advantage of the downtime?

Another idea, plan for some external marketing. Schedule some lunch and learns with referrers or put together an extra-long lunch where the doctor can go out and visit several offices. It’s probably a good guess that these doctors have some open time as well so they may have some time to chat. If you look at finishing your morning patients at 11am and then starting again at maybe 1 or 1:30pm – your team can be clocked out and just spend some time reconnecting while doctor and manager are out on referral visits.

Check your half year performance

Since so many schools start mid-August, another idea for taking advantage of the downtime is to schedule a meeting with your accountant during this quiet time. Bring the dental software reports from the half year to see how you are progressing on your production this year – compared to last year. How is your collection rate? How about patients seen? New patients? Looking at each report for the full 2015 and comparing how the first half of 2016 is going will help you plan for the rest of the year. If you’re doing well, then perhaps you can reduce your stress about the holes in the schedule this fall. If you’re not doing well, then you can look for ways to improve.

Again, for Dentrix Ascend users, I’d recommend running several reports to see how you’re doing. Run your day sheet for the time frames you want to compare – last year, first half of last year, first half of this year. Next, I’d run the Aged Receivables Report, then Outstanding Claims. Now, on the aged receivables – this is just a snapshot of today, you can’t run past dates. So, I encourage you to run this each month and just print the summary aging at the bottom – you could even just throw it into a file and then check it quarterly to make sure it’s being managed well. You also should run the Referral analysis and then compare it to the Custom Reports: Analysis – New Patients Seen. I also like the Analysis – Patients Seen report so again, you can compare last year and the first half of this year. Armed with all these reports from your dental software, your accountant should be able to provide you an updated set of financial statements for last year and this year and together you can talk about the practice with real numbers in front of you.


Whether you look forward to the Fall or dread it, you can make the most of the seasonality that affects nearly every dental practice. To make the most of this quieter time, you can catch up on deep cleaning the office and maintaining the equipment, re-evaluate your no show approach, plan some time off and step back to check your half year performance. By planning now and reserving time in your schedule, you will be able to be productive even in slower months.

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If you’re managing a dental practice and want organized systems for easier dental staff training, then check out my Collections System and how to Set Up a Recall System. Once these internal systems are in place, you may want to focus on marketing with a system for New Patient Referral Tracking and handling patient complaints.

And, if you’re interested in a comprehensive approach to run your dental practice and train your team, visit Dental Staff Training Levels.

AUTHOR: Jill Nesbitt
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