Author: Andrea Kowalczyk, RDH, BS– – Dental Hygiene Performance Coach – Enhanced Hygiene
If ever there was a common lament of dental offices everywhere, it would be openings in the hygiene schedules. I am not sure any practice is totally immune from at least the occasional no show or last minute cancellation. The advantages of full hygiene schedules are obvious. A healthy revenue stream and patients getting the care they need are what we all strive for.
Some of the negative consequences of slow schedules are more subtle, but they affect our practices in big ways.
When hygienists and team members are left with too much downtime, it breeds a host of negative feelings and frustrations that permeates the practice, particularly if their salary is paid based on production numbers. Oftentimes, team member conflicts, staff turnover, and low morale can be traced directly back to slow schedules. When hygiene schedules are open, the doctor’s schedules will in turn be open, and then multiple providers are unproductive. To further compound the problem, a slow schedule today can mean a slow schedule tomorrow. When patients are not in the practice, they are not telling their friends and family about their great experience in our office. That means additional lost revenue that is impossible to measure.
Sometimes it seems we put great effort into getting the hygiene schedules full, only to have them “fall apart” at the last minute. In order to address that, we must first understand the primary reasons that patient’s no show in the first place, and here they are:
– Patients today lead tightly scheduled lives, and their plans often changing minute to minute.
– Patients may not see value in our services or they may not see their oral health as a priority
– Patients are reluctant to take time away from work, regardless of the economic climate
– Patients don’t know how much we appreciate their business
At first glance, it may seem as if there is not much we can do about any of these factors, but on the contrary, there is actually a lot we can control in these areas. We simply need to adapt to our patients, vs. assuming that they will adapt to us. In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, the days of patients bending to our policies are over.
Our first priority is to make it easy for our patients to do business with us. That includes being open during convenient, and sometimes extended hours. We need to reach our patients and allow them to reach us via text and email. We should immediately remedy any of their concerns with billing and fees, and provide solutions and options for payment.
We must keep a current short call list for those patients whose plans change at the last minute, or who prefer to come on short notice. We need to take emergencies, and get as much treatment done as possible in one visit.
Take the time to educate patients and personalize treatment recommendations to their very specific needs and wants. Use patient education videos, brochures, and websites. Help patients see how prevention can save them both time and money.
Finally, even in this age of technology, patients still need to feel an emotional connection to our practice, and know how much we value serving them. Patients who feel appreciated are much less likely to fail an appointment.
We can let our patients know they are appreciated by shaking their hands, using their names, and giving them our full attention. We should to listen to their concerns, and ask follow up questions.
Trying to fill holes in a hygiene schedule at the last minute is a reactive way to do business, and a practice cannot thrive that way. When we take thoughtful, proactive steps to meet our patients where they are, instead of the other way around, our efforts are rewarded with full schedules and happy patients. What could be better than that?