by K. Ryan Alexander
A well-designed doctor time scheduling template is vital to the efficiency and bottom line of any orthodontic practice. However, your templates are only half of the solution. A well-organized, disciplined team is the glue that holds your scheduling system together. Here are three ideals that, if followed, will take your practice to a new level of efficiency regardless of what kind of template you currently have in place.
1. No regularly scheduled patient should be kept waiting because of a poor cooperator.
Most offices follow a formula that rewards their poor cooperators and punishes those who follow your practice policies. A patient who shows up 20 minutes late many times get seen right as another patient walks through the door, on time for his or her appointment. The result is the patient who shows up on time is left waiting because you are working on the patient who showed up late. Patients who are not brushed ahead of time are sent to the sink to brush, eating up valuable chair time, and patients with broken brackets are repaired while your best customers are left behind in the reception area. It’s important to get these patients treated, but be mindful that you don’t ask those who follow your rules to suffer because of a patient who is perpetually late or has not arrived in readiness for their appointment. Have your poor cooperators wait while staying on time with your good cooperators, and what you may find is that your poor cooperators turn into good cooperators because they are sick of waiting while those who cooperate are seen on time.
2. The shorter the appointment, the sooner they should be seen.
Imagine you come in for a 15 minute appointment and you are kept waiting 20 minutes, or even waiting that long for a 30 minute appointment. Neither is ideal, but the shorter the appointment the more frustrated patients become with the wait time. Now imagine that you can see all of your short appointments on time in a day, assuming they arrived on time. What would your schedule look like then, especially if your patients knew that they could count on you to get them in and out for the short procedures? Every office should have at least one more chair than they schedule available in their operatory so that when you start falling behind, the short appointment can be worked in and out before finishing a longer procedure.
We can see Yelp reviews that say, “We waited for an hour and the doctor saw us for 30 seconds.” As soon as you start to fall behind it is vital that you prioritize who is seen first, and stop doing first come, first served. There are a few exceptions to this ideal, as this has to be balanced with the goal that no patient should be kept waiting longer than 20 minutes. But working through your day with the Principle of the Short Appointment in mind will allow you to run more efficiently and stay on time with a largest number of patients each day.
3. Assign your assistants to a specific chair.
There are many reasons for this ideal, but a main one is each of your assistants should be able to see 14-20 patients per day, and be held accountable to stay on time with their chair. It’s still a team effort, though, which is why we teach that each assistant should be taught to work 100% of her chair and 10% of another assistant’s. This helps form a stable structure within your clinic for staying on time, and once you have a trained clinical coordinator with a team of focused assistants, true efficiency can be developed.
There are many factors that will affect how well you can stick to these three key ideals, but understanding the philosophy behind them will give you a good start towards running an efficient practice that ultimately delivers a higher level of customer service to every patient who walks through your door.