Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?

Does the patient run the scheduling of your practice, or do you?

Virtually every denturist practice that we have worked with so far (about 90 across Canada) improved their scheduling of the various tasks necessary to make the practice run. When they got in control of the scheduling, their patients experienced better service, more on-time delivery, and sometimes even better-quality work done by a less stressed denturist and staff.

If you made dentures one at a time, life would be very simple. Not terribly viable, but very simple. The necessity of more efficient scheduling becomes vital as the volume of the practice grows. Whether a practice grosses over a $1 million or $100,000 per year, all tasks must be scheduled. Constant interruptions, especially in lab work, extend task time.

Very few practitioners would allow their time with patients to be constantly interrupted yet will allow their lab time to be broken into fragments. This type of approach can drive stress levels out the roof. It also generally reduces productivity. Lab time in particular must be a blocked-out number of hours every day without interruption.

Let us say you have your day lined up with work already pre-sold. No problem. Then Mrs. Jones shows up asking for a reline. “Now, if possible,” she says. If you say “yes”, what is it going to do to your already-scheduled work for your existing patients? Chances are, it will put you or your lab tech behind an 8-ball and cause stress, and perhaps even result in overtime. So should you do it? No. The answer is you should have one or two days per week where the lab time is set aside specifically for relines, and she should be scheduled into those times. The point is that relines are not typically that urgent. (Note this is for same-day relines, as opposed to overnight or chairside relines.)

Then we have the urgent repairs. What do we do with these? Basically you must determine whether you can do it that day without disrupting your service to your already-scheduled patients. Even if fully staffed with lab technicians, this is still a consideration. That ‘little extra time’ to do the repair and make an extra $100, while making that patient happy, could turn off the patient waiting for the full set of dentures who then badmouths your service or, at best, does not refer anyone to you.

The last, often unpredictable item, is denture adjustments. Depending on the usual volume of adjustments, a certain amount of time should be blocked into the schedule during which adjustments can be done. Usually, we suggest blocking a time slot in the morning and a time slot in the afternoon for these.

When you are scheduling patients, you want prediction. The more you have, the smoother the practice will run, meaning better the service to patients and lower the stress levels.

Here is a sample schedule if you are your own lab tech or you do the set-ups for your lab tech:

9:00 -11:45 Patient appointments
11:45 -12:00 Adjustments
12:00 – 3:00 Lunch and lab
3:00 – 3:15 Adjustments
3:15 – 5:00 Patient appointments

NOTE: Tuesday’s and Thursday’s lab time could be set aside for same-day relines.

In summation, by you wagging the tail (patient scheduling), you will be able to deliver higher quality work and deliver on time. This makes your patients happier and reduces your stress, and your income should also go up.

Try it, you might like it!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to The Art of Management Inc. and a clickable link back to this page.

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