Last updated on September 28th, 2018 at 02:24 pm
I want every day in your office to be a “good day” production wise—and there’s no reason that shouldn’t be the case! The unpredictable rollercoaster of great production one day followed by an empty schedule the next day can be prevented if you have the right procedures in place in your office. You CAN be in control of your schedule day in and day out—regardless of cancellations, no-shows, or new patient flow.
In this blog post, I’m going to cover six things you and your staff can do to turn around a poor day or week, and make it into a great day or week.
But first, let me define what a “good day” is:
A “good day” in a dental office—from a scheduling standpoint—contains a nice mix of production and opportunities to present treatment plans.
(Related: 5 Simple Ways to Boost Hygiene Production)
Both parts of this equation are vital.
A day filled with only new patients and hygiene appointments might backfire on you—because while you may have plenty of opportunities to present treatment, it could all be scheduled weeks out and you’ll end up with no valuable production for the day.
And conversely, a day filled only with doctor production (and no opportunities to present treatment) might seem great for a little while—until your afternoon appointments cancel and you have nothing to fill them in with. And then next week comes and you have no production (because you never presented any).
So a dental office schedule should never be happy if the schedule doesn’t contain plenty of valuable doctor production AND plenty of potential opportunities to present treatment. Most doctors focus primarily on production numbers, and don’t keep track of the dollar amount they are presenting and getting accepted—and this is why they end up with unpredictable production.
And one more quick point:
You need to set specific production targets for your scheduler. It’s hard to have consistent production every day if you’re scheduling blind, and don’t know how much production is on the schedule ahead of time.
If you give them a goal of, for example, $4,000 production and $4,000 sales a day, they can do the math and design the schedule so you can make that every single day.
The scheduler should know “Patient X is coming in for ___ procedure, which is $2,500, and Patient Y is coming in for ___ procedure for $1,500. That meets our quota of $4,000 production for the day.”
And this should actually be two targets: “Production” and “Case presentation opportunities” or “sales.”
(Related: 6 Steps to a Productive Hygiene Department)
As a quick note, case presentations from a strictly business perspective are: sales opportunities! And for many the term “Sales” strikes them the wrong way – especially in healthcare. But really, sales has nothing to do with being dishonest, unduly pressuring someone or anything of the sort. For that matter, the definition of sales (or selling according to Dictionary.com is:
“to transfer (goods) to or render (services) for another in exchange for money; dispose of to a purchaser for a price.”
Notice, it says nothing about: being sleazy, lying, or weird tricks. In dentistry, you’re transferring services to a patient in exchange for payment. And that’s that. Sales in healthcare consists of caring for your patient and communicating with them in such a way that they understand the importance of their treatment – after all – what we’re after is a healthier patient!
So, when I use the term “sales” in this post, that’s what I mean!
(Related: 3 Easy Steps to Boost Productivity)
So, with that said, you’re scheduler would also plan for “sales” in a similar way that they plan production. The scheduler might note, “Patient Z has outstanding treatment of $2,000, and we have two new patients coming in, and we average $1,000 per new patient.” (or something of this sort).
Keep in mind though, “the best laid plans of mice and men…” We all know they often go askew. A patient will cancel, or will get disapproved for financing, or some other complication will arise. So if the scheduler plans the day for exactly $5,000, you’re going to come up short much of the time. So if you actually want to produce and sell $5,000, the scheduler better get two or even three times that much on the schedule. We advise our clients to schedule triple their goal (meaning if they want to make $5,000, schedule $15,000) just to be safe.
(Related: Surviving Staff Turnover)
Now let’s get into the six ways to fill up the schedule in short order:
- New patients. In the long-term, your new patient flow is dependent on your marketing campaigns (both internal and external). This would include promotional mailings, online marketing, referral programs, etc. To improve this, I recommend doing the MGE New Patient Workshop. For an immediate boost to your new patients, (while you’re developing an effective marketing plan), Try three things:
a. Get more referrals: Schedule each patient’s friends and family as they check out. Make sure no patient leaves without having been asked about any family or close friends who aren’t already patients themselves.
b. Review How Your Receptionist handles the phone: You’d be surprised how many receptionists blow off potential new patients. Not out of malice though, usually due to improper procedure. We have a great post on the subject called “Getting New Patients in the Door” from one of our top clients Laura Hatch. We also get into this in depth at the MGE New Patient Workshop.
c. Check your availability: Cut out the amount of time it takes a new patient to get in: Not always a problem – but if a new patient has to wait more than 48 hours to get into your schedule – you have an issue. Sort this out, block out time, do whatever you have to do. Especially if you’re already marketing – if you’re trying to get people to call by marketing and they end up having to wait – you’re wasting money!
- Complimentary checkups/consultations. Call patients with outstanding treatment and have them come in for a complimentary exam and consult. Once the scheduler gets them on the phone, they would say something along the lines of, “Hi this is ___ from Dr. ___’s office. You came in 3 months ago and had some issues going on in your mouth. The doctor asked me to call you and ask you to come in for a complimentary checkup so he/she can review what’s happening currently. We would like to see you Wed at 3:00, does that work for you?”This gets a patient in the practice and gives the doctor another opportunity to get the patient to accept the treatment plan.
- Special offers for specific services. For example, an invisalign special offer for your patients. You can offer a special rate on invisalign and include a free consultation for anyone who’s interested. You can promote this via email, letters, or phone calls. Certainly anyone who has been diagnosed for invisalign over the last year would get a phone call telling them something along the lines of, “The office is running a special on invisalign till the end of the month (or whatever the offer is). Is that something you’d be interested in? Great! Let’s get you in for an appointment to talk with the doctor about it then. Does Wednesday at 3:30 work for you?”
- Book consultations for larger treatment presentations. In this article from Dr. Winteregg, he covers the importance of setting aside enough time to present a larger treatment plan without needing to rush through it and leave the patient’s questions or concerns unanswered. So if you already have plenty of empty space on your schedule that you’re trying to fill, schedule a patient’s consultation appointment separately instead of trying to rush through their treatment presentation during an exam or cleaning. Then you can use this extra time to really go over each point of the treatment plan, make sure the patient understands it, and answer any concerns or objections they have. It’ll make a big difference in your case acceptance rate.
- Get creative with the schedule. The scheduler should take a look at the schedule, and if there is too little sales opportunities one day and an overload on another day, see what can be moved around so that each day has a nice mix of production and sales opportunities. However, NEVER move people off the schedule to make room for a consultation. It’s not good. If you want to bring them in sooner – then fine – but that’s when you scheduled them. Similarly, don’t cancel non-productive patients to make room for productive appointments. Fix your scheduling procedure if this is a problem so you don’t end up with this issue. It’s just bad business to move people around – unless you have an earlier opening to get them in sooner. The scheduler could also think about these issues way in advance, even when scheduling hygiene appointments six months out. If a patient didn’t accept their treatment plan, schedule their next hygiene appointment on a day that you need more sales opportunities. Spread them out for a nice mix each day, so that when that six-months-later finally arrives, you don’t have a new problem.
- Patient reactivation. You should be running a reactivation program regularly to get your old inactive patients back in the chair. (At MGE, we have developed a step-by-step program to doing this effectively, and it’s been proven to work. Call us at (727)530-4277 or email email@example.com and ask for the Reactivation Program to receive it for free.)When you’re trying to boost production short-term, get more staff members on the phone to reactivate patients. Keep in mind, inactive patients are by definition harder to reach and schedule, so it can take some extra follow through. That sums up my six ways to boost production on the schedule.
The bottom line is: if you control your schedule well by making sure you have a proper mix of sales and production each day and the scheduler does the above actions and takes responsibility for making it happen, then you’ll always be creating new prod for yourself. As you can see, there’s always ways to fill the empty slots. You could literally walk out the door, promote to people and schedule them as new patients. There are so many people that need dentistry that there’s really no lack of people. The point is: don’t wait for the phone to ring. Go out and do these things to create a more productive schedule!
Best of luck!