Here, we are going to learn a few steps to orthodontic practice scheduling.
Anyone who has ever taken on the job of scheduling for a practitioner – any practitioner, from a massage therapist to an acupuncturist to an orthodontist – knows it’s not as easy as those neat little spreadsheet grids makes it look.
While an administrator may see a blank slot, an orthodontist sees down time…prep time…lunch time?!
Every practitioner has different needs, and sloughing off the job to an inexperienced administrator is a recipe for a crazy schedule that does not meet the needs of the clinical team.
On the other hand, orthodontists who are trying to take a patient-centred approach find the scheduling job no easier than those who want to run things their way.
Patients can be overly demanding when it comes to their own schedules, and treatment protocols may demand using discretion to slip appointments in wherever necessary to avoid treatment delays.
At times, it’s clear that neither staff nor patients will be satisfied with the schedule!
Here are 4 basic steps you can take to keep the scheduling system running as smoothly as possible in our hectic world.
Don’t keep this a secret.
You know how much it costs to keep the lights on; determine how many patients you need to see to break even, and keep this as a basic minimum so that even in slow periods, you will be seeing sufficient patients.
Now, let your scheduler know so he or she can meet that goal on a weekly basis!
Track the numbers using your orthodontic practice management software so you know when you’re doing great and when you need to up the ante with the use of strategic advertising, signage, increased social media presence, etc.
You might want to tie administrative bonuses in to certain scheduling goals.
If there are hard-and-fast rules in the schedule (such as, one of your practice members doesn’t see patients after 12:00 on Fridays) block off the schedule in advance.
That way, if someone has to step in to answer a ringing phone while your scheduler is attending to other tasks, they won’t pencil someone in for an appointment at an impossible time…and your regular scheduler will know exactly how to make the most of the available time blocks without having to ask each time or guess what you’d like.
No one can work their ideal schedule all the time (unless your practice is already uber-successful) but your ideal day is a great place to start.
For example, if you prefer to do the most difficult procedures in the morning so your afternoons can be more relaxed, let your staff know so they’re not slamming you with appointments later in the day.
If you only give new patient consults on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, set up your week that way; the world tends to accommodate those who ask.
Of course, there are always going to be emergency appointments that throw off the schedule slightly; try to minimize the impact of these by identifying a set time or two each day to deal with emergency cases.
In the case of ordinary appointments, have your staff book those that fit well into the available time frames first and, rather than promising Mrs. Jones that she can have a 7:30 a.m. consultation when you already have a banding scheduled for 8:00, make sure the protocol is to ask you, the orthodontist, prior to booking appointments – no matter how adamant Mrs. Jones may be.
The key to remember is that your scheduler is part of the orthodontic team, not your enemy! Include him or her in your decisions and watch your whole practice become more efficient and productive.