COVID-19 has been a major game changer for most dental practices. The examination of patient volume and the daily office schedule can help determine how to develop an updated schedule to maximize patient volume. The dental practice’s success or failure depends on the number of patients visiting it. If new patients are being added on a consistent basis, then the practice is considered growing and gaining in popularity. On the other hand, if the frequency of new patients is low, that is an indication something in the plan must not be working.
The most valuable thing for sale in a dental office is time spent with patients. Therefore, a scheduling policy must be designed to allow for the effective use of this time. This scheduling policy should be written and displayed where the staff has daily access to it. Periodically consider whether the policy is still relevant or needs to be updated or replaced. There are many scheduling plans that exist in dental offices. Appointments must be scheduled in such a way that patients get excellent care and chairs remain full. This should meet the production goals which need to be met on a daily basis. The dentist as well as the staff must be committed to consistently apply the principles involved for the scheduling system to work.
Some dental practices base their scheduling on time slots. The procedures being performed are based on estimated time to complete the treatment and the disinfection and preparation time needed before each procedure. Dental professionals must decide if more complex treatments are taken care of early or later in the day.
Some dentists may rather attend to children first thing in the morning. This scheduling must be coordinated between clinical and office staff to maintain the smooth flow of the office. The dental practice must decide which is the best approach to scheduling for their dental practice.
Use Accelerated Scheduling
The term “accelerated scheduling” refers to the use of multiple dental rooms in the practice. Each room must have it’s own dental assistant as the doctor moves between rooms. When the dentist is not in the room, there is a dedicated assistant to carry out the duties for which they are qualified. This system maximizes the time management and efficiency of the dental office.
Some considerations to be made along with the procedure itself are staffing, absences, equipment availability, and the proficiency of the dentist or dental assistant completing the treatment. The tolerability to certain treatments by the patient must also be figured in as part of the equation. This can be simple or complex, due to the preferences of the dentists and patients. This particular type of orchestrating scheduling may or may not be for every dental practice.
Maximize Available Chair Time
In this uncommon era of the COVID pandemic, it is of the utmost importance to manage the flow of patients, scheduling, and no-shows to utilize available chair time to its greatest capacity. The time the dental chair is not filled due to a patient missing an appointment or not being scheduled can never be recovered. Systems must be implemented to ensure patients will keep appointments. This may include patient confirmations at two weeks, two days, and two hours by text message, for example. There must also be follow-up systems for patients who missed their appointments to get them back into the office as quickly as possible. This will assure no patient slips through the cracks and off your daily production schedule.
If it is noticed that the dentist or dental assistants are continually behind and patients are experiencing longer waits in the waiting room, it may be time to invite another dental assistant or dental partner to join the dental practice team. This will prevent patients from seeking their dental services at another dental office.
Investigate the Use of Teledentistry
“Teledentistry is the use of electronic information, imaging and communication technologies, including interactive audio, video, data communications as well as store and forward technologies, to provide and support dental care delivery, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, transfer of dental information and education.”
Teledentistry is evolving to be the way to enhance care and education. One of the ways it can be delivered is through the use of live two-way video interactions between a dental provider and a patient using audio/video technology (synchronous). Patient images may be stored and forwarded by a secure electronic communication to a practitioner who can then evaluate a patient’s condition or complete a service outside of a live interaction by a system referred to as remote patient monitoring (RPM). Mobile health (mHealth) is another teledentistry method being exercised for health care or education by cell phones, tablets, or personal digital assistants (PDA).
The ADA believes that examinations performed using teledentistry can be an effective way to extend the reach of dental professionals, increasing access to care by reducing the effect of distance barriers to care. This treatment must be properly documented, as well as include a summary of services to the patient. Insurance patient reimbursement must be at the same rate as in-person care to include the teledentistry codes as appropriate.
Schedules must be prioritized as to the size of the case or patient need. Production must be maximized to keep the practice healthy and strong from a financial standpoint. Due to low patient volume in this particular era, dental practices have to reconsider how they build and manage their schedules.
Want someone to help you increase your dental practice revenue by negotiating your highest fee schedules and claiming reimbursements on your behalf? Visit PPO Negotiation Solutions to get your complementary assessment or schedule a consultation for your dental practice.