Many practices schedule up to 15 patients into each day (per dentist). But should they? Does your dental practice overschedule? We’re going to talk about it!
As professional pursuits go, dentistry presents a unique combination of passion and profit. Given the time, money, and mental aptitude required to become a dentist in the first place, it’s unlikely that any dentist doesn’t care about his or her patients’ oral health. There are easier ways to bring in the cash, after all. If you work as a dentist, you care about your patients.
But of course, it is a business. And that means that the balance of expenses (one of which is time) and profits must always be considered, which leads us to today’s blog topic.
Before we jump into that, though, let’s discuss why this happens in the first place.
The thought process that leads to overscheduling
Let's say the answer to the question, "Does your dental practice overschedule?" is yes. It might not even seem like a problem at first! It's obvious to everyone working at your practice—from the office manager to the marketing team to the hygienists and dental assistants—that the more patients you can see, the better for the bank account. On the flip side, most patients would like to be seen as soon as possible when they make their appointment.
Combined, these two factors can make it feel like squeezing as many patients into a day as you can manage is a great idea. It benefits everyone, right?
Ehhh, not so much. Here’s why:
Dentistry demands a quality-over-quantity approach
You are, after all, taking care of people’s teeth! And since oral health is so closely tied to whole-body wellness, it’s essential that each patient is receiving your best care.
Dentistry can also be a frightening thing for many people, so making them feel comfortable should be high on your priority list along with the actual dental work. Sure, patients will love it if you can schedule them quickly. But if they come into a rushed, hectic, unprofessional environment, and don’t feel they’ve had the opportunity to receive the best care and discuss their concerns, they probably won’t be coming back.
Of course, you won’t be happy that way either. Nor will your hygienists, who certainly also entered the profession out of genuine interest in dental work and concern for their patients.
Speaking of your hygienists, they may be the key to identifying the problem of overscheduling.
So, how do you know if you’re overscheduling?
To start, let’s return to the word “manage” for a moment. There is a difference between “managing” a workload and “thriving” in one. You want to make sure that your hygienists, in particular, are thriving—not managing. That is a key factor in knowing whether or not you would say yes when asked, "Does your dental practice overschedule?"
When you’re thinking about how many appointments you should schedule into each day, you want to aim for a sweet spot.
It should be the point at which you are utilizing everyone’s time efficiently, but still allowing them space to work attentively and take breaks. Does that mean six patients per day or 10? Ask your hygienists! They are the ones spending the most time working with each patient, so they will have the best idea of what feels like too much or too little.
When we humans are overworked and stressed out, we make mistakes. This is true for every one of us; even the very best of us. So a healthy workload for your hygienists is the heart of the quality over quantity discussion.
If you want to do some investigating and think it over before you involve your team, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I see my hygienists using their allotted break times?
- Has the office manager/front desk team mentioned an overbooked schedule more than twice in the past month?
- When I visit with a patient, do they seem to be satisfied with their care? If not, are they antsy, agitated, and full of questions and concerns?
- Is our patient turnover rate higher than we would expect/like it to be?
Once you have the answers to those, you should be well on your way to doing a scheduling audit of your practice.
We think it’s a great idea to do one every year or so, just to make sure you and your team are working toward what you believe in: optimal oral health for every patient.
To read up on more topics related to running your practice, visit our blog's main page.