Every dental practice is the same in one respect – we all want a full schedule. When our schedule is full, we feel good. When there are holes, we feel stressed. As an office manager, our job is to fill the schedule – as the Ford ads used to say, this is our “Job #1”. However, even a beautiful schedule can change at a moment’s notice – and everyone who has worked in dentistry for more than 5 minutes has seen a perfectly planned day crumble into wreckage due to no shows and cancellations.
If you want to make sure your schedule stays nice and full, how do you do that? It starts with having clear guidelines and policies from the dentists. The office manager needs to know how much time and when to schedule new patients and emergencies that call in. She also needs to know how long to schedule each treatment planned procedure. Next, Dentrix needs to be set up so that it’s easy to see open time in the schedule.
To set up Dentrix to clearly identify open time, I am a big fan of using Dentrix’s block time for schedules. First, set up a schedule for each provider – if Dr. Smith works Monday – Friday 7:45am til 5pm then your provider schedule should reflect his exact hours. Next, set up the blocks for this provider. Let’s say your dentist has lunch noon – 1pm daily. You would set up a block for 7:45am – noon and a separate one for 1-5pm. Once this is established, you will see clear black lines outlining your dentist’s schedule. This makes it easy to see open time.
As the day goes by, the office manager’s job is to focus on filling the holes today, then tomorrow and then any in the future. We all know that we offer today and tomorrow’s openings first and every time to patients requesting appointments – always better to stay ahead of the curve than fall behind. There are a variety of tasks that help to fill schedules: from call lists for recall and unscheduled treatment to inviting family members of existing patients to come in at the same time to saving patient’s names that broke appointments so they can come back and ‘heal’ a schedule.
To manage your schedule, you need to measure your performance. I recommend printing a blank calendar (there are plenty on Google) and then writing the open time on the calendar each day. For example, let’s say we schedule in 15 minute units. If in your 8 hours & 15 minutes (this is 33 units) of total available time you ended up with 45 minutes (3 units) of open time for the dentist. Then on that day you would write 3 / 33. At the end of the week – add up the open time and separately, add up the total time the dentist was available to work. With a simple percentage you can see how you’re doing – using our example: 3 units divided by 33 units = 10%.
8% – 10% open time is a benchmark to measure against. How did your practice measure up? If you had less open time or are at the benchmark, congratulations! Your systems are working! If you had more than 10%, you may want to sit down with the dentist and the office manager to talk about ideas on why you’re getting so much open time and what you can do about it.