We teach our patients to be preventive with their oral health so they don’t end up in an emergency situation with a toothache or broken tooth … but are you practicing what you are preaching? Are you practicing in a preventive way to avoid situations that feel like an emergency? I recently did a webinar for our Novonee members called “Be Proactive with your Schedule.” It was about changing your mindset about how you manage your schedule and being more proactive rather than reactive. Putting these systems in place will not only provide you with an abundant schedule but also change how you are talking to patients.
We train patient behavior every day with how we talk to them and how we schedule them into our appointment book. If patients are canceling on short notice and we offer them an opening tomorrow, we have just sent a message that they can cancel and get in very quickly. I realize that your ultimate goal is to fill your schedule, but you can do it in a way that does not put the patient in charge of your schedule.
Being proactive means that you are working your lists and reports on a regular basis. When I say “regular,” I mean this should be part of your weekly task list. Whether you are the only scheduling coordinator or you have a team of people to delegate to, this is one system that cannot get put on the back burner. Your continuing care is the lifeblood of your practice and keeping your doctor’s schedule full comes from your hygiene chair(s).
There are three reports that need your attention on a weekly basis. My recommendation is that you work these reports even when you do not have openings in your schedule because the goal is to follow up with patients who are unscheduled because you care, not because you have a hole in your doctor’s chair.
- ASAP List (as needed) – This is a list of patients who want to be called if you get a last minute change in your schedule. Make sure you are building on this list all the time by asking patients “If I get an opening sooner is it okay if I call you?”
- Unscheduled List (weekly) – What do you do with patients who miss their appointment or need to call you back to reschedule? Put them on the Unscheduled List so you have a way to follow up with them. You need to follow up with these patients in order to get them rescheduled because you know they won’t call you. You need to be pro-active and make the first move.
- Continuing Care List (weekly)– Use this list to find patients who are unscheduled for their recare visit. I realize that you may be using an automated system like eCentral, DemandForce or Lighthouse, but you also need to make time to call these patients because not everyone has email and text. It is important to combine your efforts between your automated system and your in-office manual system.
- Unscheduled Treatment Report (Treatment Manager) (weekly) – I call this “Mining for Gold” because it is finding patients who have treatment that is not currently scheduled. You can’t just sit back and expect people to follow through with the doctor’s recommendations. It is important that you check back in with all patients who walk out the door without scheduling recommended treatment.
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I have worked in the dental office for more than 20 years so I understand that you are busy at the front desk, so where are you going to carve out time in your schedule to make this happen? What I recommend is, during the morning huddle, find out where your teammates can cover the phones while you are making a few phone calls. You only need to be looking for two to three hours per week to work these reports.
When making calls, let’s instill the proactive mindset into our language skills instead of a reactive one. Here’s what I mean . . .
- Reactive – “Hello Jenny, this is Dayna from Sunshine Dentistry. We had a cancellation in our schedule tomorrow. Are you available to come in?”
- Proactive – “Hello Jenny, this is Dayna from Sunshine Dentistry. How are you? I was calling because we are just a little concerned that you are not scheduled for your hygiene visit. I was looking back in your chart from last visit and your hygienist indicated that she wanted to keep an eye on __________. Can we get you scheduled so we can get you back on track?”
- Reactive – “Hello Jenny, this is Dayna from Sunshine Dentistry. I am calling to get you scheduled for your crown on tooth #31. Are you available tomorrow?”
- Proactive – “Hello Jenny, this is Dayna at Sunshine Dentistry. Johnson asked me to give you a call to see if you have any questions about the treatment in the lower right that you talked about at your last visit.” Pause.
When you talk about their oral health and point out something that is of value for your patients to come back, you are now showing that you care about them and not your opening in the schedule. Start having your hygienists and dental assistants write one or two bullet points in the clinical note that you can pull from when talking to unscheduled patients.
Small tweaks in your verbal skills and systems will reap great rewards in your schedule and your communication with your patients.