Don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities

A full schedule translates into revenues and production only if the
patients come in. If a practice loses 1 to 2 appointments/day, either on
the hygienist‘s schedule or on the dentist’s schedule, the lost
production from this could be anywhere from $100 (minimally) to $900 per
day, depending upon the procedure. These are dollar figures for clients
and dental offices during the year 2009. Let’s assume you have 200
working days during the year, the annual lost production works out to
$20,000 at the low end to $180,000 at the high end. Take into account
that you lose even $20,000.00 over the next 5 years. This is $100,000.00
which can be used in many areas for a successful and profitable dental
practice. Think about your salary being reduced by this much. This can
really hurt a dental practice!

These figures are for a solo practitioner, with one full-time
hygienist. The figures multiply for a multi-doctor office, or for a solo
practitioner with more than one hygienist. Improving practice
performance in this one area alone could significantly improve the
financial status of many dental practices.

Cover of Covey's New Book The Leader in Me -- ...

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Practice success depends on the strength of a strategically planned
schedule. It is important to have a systematic method for scheduling
patients. On a daily basis, the entire dental team probably spends much
of their day discussing and dealing with the topic of appointments:
cancellations,broken appointments,and no-shows. This is a big source
of endless frustration. No-shows and cancellations are the biggest
single source of lost revenue.

Perfect Day single cover - 1997

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It is helpful to be proactive, have a strategic approach and design a
systematic schedule. Having a system in place will decrease the level
of stress and increase revenue in your dental practice.

Stephen Covey, author of many professional management and family
management planning books has said, “The key is not to prioritize what’s
on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”

Your first thought may be that is seems impossible to create the
ideal dental practice schedule. Every dentist and most auxiliaries
practice on different days, each professional may have different hours,
they will provide treatment at different speeds and they will offer
different services. All successful dental practices will take account
for all these scheduling variables. Having a scheduling system is what
creates success in all areas of the dental practice.

Effective Schedule Systems

When you have an effective scheduling system the doctor and team are
now in charge of managing the patient flow. The patient flow should not
manage the team.

Think of the schedule as the center of all dental practice systems.
This is one system that will significantly decrease stress. When the
team manages the schedule it will become efficient and predictable. This
is where productivity will create increased revenues quickly.

Six tips to help you manage your practice’s scheduling

1. Use 10-minute units
Using 15 minute increments on the schedule costs the practice
approximately seven days of treatment time every year. This means the
doctors are working that much harder and not smarter. When you change
the practice schedule to 10-minute units you are able to schedule
procedures with a higher degree of accuracy. When you utilize 10-minute
units of time the practice can schedule a 20-minute procedure with ease.
With 15-minute units, the procedure must be scheduled either with not
enough time (15 minutes) or too much (30 minutes). Ten-minute units will
now offer greater flexibility and result in increased productivity.

2. Create a template for each operatory
Every 10 minute unit needs to be put into the schedule in advance. A
schedule built on a 10-minute template outlines exactly how every
10-minute increment will be used for each operatory. Doctor and the
auxiliaries need to take a look at the 10 minute units first. This is
how they will know how each day is going to flow. This needs to be
reviewed even before the team huddle begins.

3. Schedule by production
Again this allows you to take control of the schedule and the schedule
will not control you. When setting up your annual schedule template
decide how much production you need to stay in the black. Decide what
procedure blocks will be added and at what times on the schedule. Many
practices make the mistake of scheduling by reactively filling empty
time slots.

3. Be proactive. First things, First
Most people during the day have more energy and as the day progresses
they tend to run out of steam. For many people the time after a lunch
break seems to create a decrease in energy. Try having longer, more
intensive treatment options in the morning. This is the time to fill the
schedule with longer procedures and high-production cases.

When you have a strong scheduling system in place you have increased
productivity and profitability. When you create a schedule with
production as a priority you create harmony, less stress and help the
practice meet all the daily goals; production and otherwise.

4. What is a “Perfect Day“?
It doesn’t need to be a calculus equation or statistics but there needs
to be a strategic mathematical formula to make certain the practice
meets their goals. It is best to schedule an average daily level of
production which will be equal to your annual production goal. For
example, if you want to produce 1.5 million in 200 days, you need to
schedule $7,500 per day. This will include the hygiene schedule and
doctor’s schedule. It is not realistic to produce this same number each
day. The important part is the daily average.
Having “Perfect Day” schedules and daily production goals also tend to
reduce practice stress because they allow doctors and their teams to
achieve a consistent day-in day-out workload.

5. Your “Perfect Day” Schedule
It will increase efficiency when you schedule the doctors, hygienists
and all auxiliaries separately. If you are utilizing an assisted hygiene
model the hygiene assistant should also be scheduled into the 10 minute

The doctor and assistant do not always need to be in the room
together. This follows true especially when using an assisted hygiene

It may take a few weeks and a process of time but it will
significantly increase the total office productivity, decrease stress,
improve patient flow and increase the annual revenue.

6. Communication is the Key to Reduced Cancellations
It is the nature of business and life in general that there will be
cancellations and no-shows. When scheduling tell patients that you are
“reserving” this time specifically for them. Educate all patients about
the importance and leave them feeling the urgency for reserving
appointments prior to leaving the office.

When the front office is speaking with patients they need to request
patients give 72 hours notice if they need to change an appointment. If
patients need to change their appointment on Monday it doesn’t do the
office any good to cancel an appointment on Saturday. This is why you
need to ask for at least 72 hours cancellation.

Take time to retrain your patients about this policy if you don’t
have this in place currently. Let patients know there will be a fee for a
missed appointment. The fee needs to be dependent upon the type of
procedure and should be written in all policies you publish to your
patients. These policies are included in the new patient package.
Appointment cards need to mention there is an appropriate fee charge for
cancellations outside of the 72 hours.

Quick Overview

  • Schedule in 10-minute units, with a template for each operatory
  • Schedule the most productive procedures first by creating ideal day
    schedules with ideal production goals
  • Schedule longer and high end production early in the day
  • Schedule doctors and assistants separately
  • Build patient value for appointments to reduce no-shows and

You will create a more efficient and effective system for scheduling
patients when you create your “Perfect Day” schedule. The bottom line is
harmony in the office, value to the patients, improved productivity,
increased revenues and reduced stress. It is a “win-win” that creates

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