This is a great question! You may or may not need to, depending on your situation.
Let me explain.
There are two advantages to blocking out time for new patients:
1. You want to make sure the staff’s attention is on scheduling a certain number of new patients each month, to make your monthly goal.
Here’s the thing: generally, in business, you get what you focus on. Something that’s made important tends to happen—whereas if it’s not made a priority, it can be forgotten about.
Having it on the schedule puts the staff’s attention on it, knowing that these slots need to be filled. Like this, the staff can proactively work on getting new patients, instead of relying only on your external marketing only to solve your new patients for you.
You have to remember, that the front desk can get quite hectic between answering the phones, checking patients in and out, the new COVID protocols, etc., so sometimes things like handing out referral cards or asking patients to schedule their family members is forgotten as they try to keep up.
2. The most important thing with a new patient is that you are able to fit them in your schedule within 24-48 hours of them calling.
When a new patient calls, they are motivated and normally want to get in as soon as possible. Especially with patients calling from your marketing (postcards, Google ads, etc.), they are looking to get in quickly. They don’t know you and really have no tie to your office yet. As such, they can just as easily call another office if you can’t see them in a timely manner.
That doesn’t mean EVERY new patient is going to schedule within 24-48 hours, maybe they don’t want to come in until next week. You should at least be able to do it.
So here’s an important question: Are you already able to easily fit new patients in within 24-48 hours?
Obviously, if your schedule currently accommodates that, there’s no reason to put blocks in your schedule from a speed perspective, because the openings are already there, and your staff are already trying to fill them.
Ideally, a schedule would never be fully booked more than three days out. I know there are a lot of different opinions on how far out you should be booked, and this is a whole other topic. But trust me, there’s a very good reason why you don’t want to be fully booked out weeks into the future.
But for the sake of this article let’s say that you are fully booked more than three days in advance—now it becomes important to have new patient blocks in the schedule.
So how do you do this?
Well, the first thing you would do is take a look at how many slots you need. This is very simple.
- Calculate the number of new patients you should see this month.
- Divide that number by the days that you’ll be working in the month.
- This is how many new patient slots you need on the schedule.
If you want to see 40 new patients this month, and you’re working 20 days—that’s two slots per day.
Next, do a survey to see the most requested appointment times for new patients. For example, you may discover that new patients tend to want 9:30am or 4:00pm—so now you would block those slots out for new patients.
Make sure you have a good new patient intake form so you can get a good idea of what to expect with that patient. This would include things like their age, recent dental history, insurance, etc. (At the MGE New Patient Workshop, we provide a comprehensive form you can use.)
Give your staff procedure on what to do if the new patient block doesn’t fill. For example, if you have new patients see your hygienist first, and there’s an open new patient slot tomorrow, you can fill it with a recall patient. You may have a “short call” list of overdue patients that you can get in for an appointment on short notice. (See our video on 7 Ways to Fill a Last-Minute Hygiene Opening).
If your new patient blocks are already full for the week, and a new patient calls and wants to schedule, you may need to schedule them with the doctor. But you want to make sure you have a good new patient intake form here, though. If you know that this patient hasn’t been a dentist in 10 years and there’s a good chance they’ll need some dentistry, this will be worth the effort. On the other hand, if the patient is 15 years old and probably doesn’t have anything to diagnose, you might just schedule them later on with hygiene.
And if your new patient blocks are booking up weeks in advance—then you probably don’t have enough hygienists or doctors. It’s a provider problem. So it may be time to look at hiring another hygienist or associate. (If you’d like help determining if you should hire more providers, click here to request a free practice evaluation or call us now at (800) 640-1140)
So in summary, should you block out new patient time?
New patient blocks aren’t always necessary for scheduling purposes unless you are currently having a hard time fitting new patients in within 24-48 hours.
Having said that, I personally do like having new patient blocks in most scenarios. I like them for motivating the staff to make monthly goals. If the front desk has their attention on filling new patient slots, they will work to make it happen, and you’ll end up with more new patient appointments filled.
This was kind of an “in a nutshell” explanation. There’s a lot more that goes into having good systems for attracting new patients, scheduling them, presenting treatment, getting good return-on-investment from marketing, and so on. So, I highly recommend attending the MGE New Patient Workshop.
At this live virtual workshop, we give you a system for acquiring fee-for-service new patients that 5,000 dentists have already used to generate $750 Million in additional revenue. The average attendee sees a 42% increase in new patients, and it comes with a money-back guarantee, so you’ve got nothing to lose. Learn more here.
I hope this helps!