Appointment Scheduling Tips for Dental Offices

January 12, 2017 Rieva Lesonsky

Striking the perfect balance in dental appointment scheduling is a challenging task. When appointments are overbooked, patients are kept waiting, wasting their time and leading to less satisfied patients. When appointments are underbooked, potential revenue is lost. How can you get it right? Here are some tips to help.

Consider both type of procedure and type of patient when scheduling appointments. Your office should have a standard amount of time that various procedures are allotted, but as we all know, things rarely go as planned. For one thing, certain types of procedures (a root canal) are more likely to run over time than others (a dental cleaning).

Certain types of patients are also likely to take longer than others. For example, a dental cleaning will take longer on someone with gum disease issues than on a patient with a healthy mouth. A lonely senior citizen who enjoys chatting with the dental hygienist will linger longer than a busy working mom who's eager to get out of your office. Maintaining notes about patients’ conditions, preferences and even personalities can help you allot enough time for each.

There’s also the dental professional to consider. Complicated procedures can be mentally and physically draining. Schedule these for times when the dentist is at his or her best. Also try to allow dentists and assistants some mental recovery time in between procedures by alternating simple and complex procedures.

Whether a visit requires a follow-up or you're simply scheduling the patient for their next preventive visit, try to schedule the next appointment at the end of the current one. You'll have the information on the procedure that was just done right in front of you, as well as details of what will be needed next time. This makes it easy to allot appropriate time for the next appointment.

If you're still using printed schedules, you have to enter appointments manually and appointments can accidentally get double booked. Using a cloud-based system helps ensure your appointment schedule is always up-to-date because the schedule syncs in real-time.

Of course, every dental office faces the headache of confirming appointments and dealing with cancellations. You can streamline both processes by automating repetitive scheduling tasks whenever possible. For example, calling patients to confirm appointments, then waiting for them to call back can lead to endless games of phone tag. To save time, look for a patient communication tool that sends patients automatic appointment reminders, or even creates a follow-up list of all patients who haven't replied to confirmations so you can call or text them right from the list.

Last, but not least, keep your schedule full by maintaining a running list of patients who are eager to be fit in ASAP if there’s a cancellation. But don’t do it on paper--choose a patient communication tool that lets you create the list and quickly send everyone on it a text or email about the open appointment. This instant communication greatly increases your chances of filling the slot.

Smart scheduling is key to an efficient and profitable dental practice — and to patient satisfaction.

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