Your practice appointment diary is a powerful tool at the heart of your business, with the power to make or break the day for yourself, the team and your patients.
Left to run itself, without thought and planning, you will at best experience “organised chaos”. You will certainly know who is due in, when and hopefully why – but you and the team are always at the mercy of whatever has been randomly booked in, from routine checks to complex root canal treatments.
Here are some of the scenarios often seen when visiting practices
- Queues in the waiting room as multiple patients arrive for short appointments – some arrive early, others arrive late – all seem to arrive at the same time
- Multiple routine dental health checks in multiple surgeries at the same time
- Patients leave the surgery without making payments or booking their next appointment due to a busy reception – more work to be done later
- Telephones go unanswered as patient queues and over-running appointments are managed
- Dental nurses making multiple journeys to the decontamination unit from multiple surgeries
- Shortage of exam kits due to a backlog of sterilisation – even more to be purchased
- No time to actively talk to patients as clocks and watches are checked by patients, receptionists and clinicians
- Clinical earnings and hourly rates are down down despite being very busy
- The next available appointment for a complex treatment is 5 weeks ahead
- Receptionists tasked to fill the diary with any appointment at any time.
- Plenty of white space in the diary but can I find a treatment slot for more than 30 minutes? Add this white space together and we have a surprising amount of downtime.
A realistic solution is to take control of your appointment diary and start by creating regular “Treatment Blocks” for more complex treatments.
- No recalls/routine appointments to be booked into the Treatment Blocks
- Zone out different Treatment Blocks for different surgeries sat different times o that when one surgery has low patient volumes another surgery has more recall appointments to smooth out patient volumes
- Create as “Clinics” or equivalent so that your practice software doesn’t offer the Treatment Blocks when searched for recall appointments
- Number and length of Treatment Blocks will be dependent on the split of work you have between routine recalls/health checks and treatment opportunities
- Minimum 2 hour blocks to ensure time for either one or two complex treatments
- Vary the days and use both morning and afternoon blocks to provide more choice to patients – maybe try a rolling 4 week rota of different days/sessions
- Patients requiring treatment are often more flexible with time than recall patients – treatment blocks can make good use of mid-morning and mid afternoons – leave peak times for recall patients
- The clinician has shared responsibility to fill treatment blocks by identifying patients for treatment and advising reception to utilise next available slot
- Reception can follow-up treatment plans and book patients into available treatment slots
- Release any unused treatment block time two days prior to the date to allow time for reception to call short-notice patients, book in urgent appointments
A few of the benefits you will soon start to see from implementing Treatment Blocks:
- Smoother flow of patient volumes across the week and working day
- Increased take-up of Treatment Plans
- Patients can be booked in quickly whilst discussions are still fresh in the mind
- Improved service for patients
- Patients feel more valued and appreciated
- Reduced chance of appointments being cancelled if available within a few days
- Reduced pressure on reception with less peaks and troughs of demand
- Reduced pressure on clinicians and dental nurses from a healthy mixture of checks and treatments
- Reduced pressure on decontamination facilities and availability of exam kits
- Improved patient journey
- Improved telephone-handling capacity across the working day and week
- More consistent cash-flow, hourly rate and clinical earnings from a steady mix of checks and treatments
- Incentive for clinicians to book patients in for treatment sooner rather than later
- Calmer practice environment
There is plenty of help and support out there to help you make a difference to your business, including Your Dental Manager, so please do get in touch to find out more: firstname.lastname@example.org or check our on-line calendar to book a complimentary chat.