On average, dental practices do pretty well at avoiding long wait times in the reception area. In fact, general dentistry has the shortest average reported wait time among medical specialties, according to Becker's Hospital Review. Just 3.8% of dentists keep their patients waiting one hour or longer, Dentistry Today reports. Reminder call services and other tech solutions make it easier to avoid missed appointments, speeding intake.
But wait time in the reception area isn't the only factor to consider when assessing how quickly your practice is serving patients. How far out do your new patients have to schedule their first appointment?
The need for speed with new patients
When a prospective patient contacts your practice, it's a golden opportunity to win their business. Getting that call is what you've been waiting for and the payoff of all your marketing efforts. So don't blow it by telling the patient you can see them in…uh, six weeks.
When people change dentists or seek a new dentist, there is typically a sense of urgency involved. Either they've just moved to the neighborhood, they aren't happy with their current dentist, or have a dental emergency.
A dental emergency, in particular, can't wait. If you can't see the patient, they'll hang up and call the next dentist on their list. Prompt treatment of an emergency situation like a broken tooth or an infection, on the other hand, will earn you the new patient’s undying gratitude.
Creating a schedule that welcomes new patients
How can you make time for new patients while still providing the convenient service that your existing patients deserve?
First, assess your records and figure out how long, on average, new patients are waiting for their first appointment. If you're able to see them within a few days, good work — keep it up! If not, here are some changes you can make.
- Track your dental production and time your average for common procedures. Be sure to allow time for the patient to check in, transition from the hygienist to the dentist, etc.
- Take a look at your schedule and build in some "wiggle room" each day. For instance, you may want to block out two appointments per day, or a certain percentage of your time, for new patients. Adding a little bit of buffer time in the practice’s schedule can make the difference between squeezing that new patient in — and losing them to the competition.
- The more efficient you are, the more time you'll have to welcome new patients. Lighthouse 360 helps boost productivity by using smart recommendations to automatically create daily task lists and email them to the front desk team very morning. You can also use Lighthouse 360’s reminder call services, text messaging and other tools to schedule patients more efficiently.
- Once those new patients arrive for their first appointment, save valuable time by streamlining their registration. With Lighthouse 360’s Patient FastTrack feature, new patients can register right on their smartphones — and even eSign forms directly on their screen. This not only saves time for your patients and your staff, but also provides a great first-time experience for the new patient.