In this guest post, Trish Lewis-Clark of The Dental Detective shares five ways dental practices everywhere can eliminate the stress that may derail an entire day.
Ever have those days where everything feels all jumbled up at the office? All the patients show up late. The phones are going crazy up front. The hygiene department is running behind a good 15-20 minutes due to waiting on exams. A dental assistant tells you the patient seated in exam room two just decided they don't want the treatment you scheduled them for.
Why? Well, they have thought about it, and if insurance doesn’t cover it 100% then they will just wait. Wait for what you ask yourself. Many not so pleasant scenarios run through your head, right? You take a deep breath and realize that you have worked through lunch and definitely have not gone to the bathroom all morning.
Is there a better day ahead? Why yes there is. When you have a few simple steps in place, the day can — and will — flow flawlessly! Let’s start at the top.
For each department, have a plan in place for your time on the schedule. In other words, what buffer do you have so that you can still see a patient if they run late? This can vary from the doctor's schedule to the hygiene schedule. Do you have a policy in place if the patients show up past a certain point in their scheduled time?
Remember, you set the tone. When you speak with a patient, let them know that when their appointment is at 10:00 a.m. you'll be seating them promptly. Don't make them wait, and they won’t make you wait!
When your phone is ringing like crazy, make sure you have a backup to answer it. A good rule of thumb: everyone should be crossed trained properly on how to answer the practice's phone. This comes in handy when, for example, the front is checking out a patient and needs an extra hand. If no one is available then it may be time to hire another team member. When the phone rings, that's great news! Someone wants to speak with your practice. They could have called anyone, but they called you! Make sure someone is there to take that call and answer all their burning questions.
If your hygiene department consistently runs behind, start reevaluating a few areas. Are they given enough time? Are they scheduled correctly to flow with the doctor's schedule? When the domino effect of lagging behind starts, it never ends well. Be proactive and prevent it at all cost. If you have an overflow room, use that as a backup when needed. By doing so, you enable the team to keep moving forward.
Patients need to know what is expected of them for each appointment. This includes everything from cost for treatment and what their estimated copay would be, to how long the appointment will take. Make sure they do not have any questions prior to the big day of treatment. Signing a treatment plan and dating it can eliminate any questions regarding when you reviewed things with the patient. Scan this plan into the patient's records. You can use this as reference quickly if there are any questions later. This will keep the practice from an immediate derailed day.
Make sure you have a break, or breaks, throughout the day. This is for the bathroom. Take one for mental regrouping. Use a break to eat some food. It’s important to take care of yourself. Without you healthy there is no way to move the practice in the right direction. If this means setting reminders or blocks on the schedule that no one is allowed to remove — including yourself — then do it.
As with anything in life, there are variables. Just like an emergency evacuation or natural disaster plan, we need the same plans in place for the practice. A plan in place is better than the plan you wished you had in place. When you think about things in this way, how can you not have a perfect flowing day every day?!
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