According to Dentistry IQ, the average net production per hour dollar amount for dentists has been steadily increasing since 2012 — but is still way down from its previous high of $251.31 in 2010 to today's $216.24. Similarly, the average dental hygiene net production per hour has dropped from $77.40 in 2010 to $63.61 in 2016. How can your dental practice beat the odds and increase production? Here are six ways to make your dental practice more efficient.
- Be prepared. Start each day with a quick team meeting to review the day’s appointments. Lighthouse 360 creates task lists for your front desk team using smart recommendations so you and your employees are always ready to hit the ground running. Lighthouse 360 also gives your front desk team a follow-up list they can use to quickly text or call any patients who still haven't responded to their dental appointment reminders.
- Accurately estimate procedure times. You probably have a pretty good idea of how long each type of dental procedure takes on average. However, you should do "checkups" every six months or so to make sure that you're keeping to that pace. In addition, don't forget to account for individual patient factors that may affect the time needed. For example, a nervous patient may require additional time to calm their fears or give sedation. Seniors, young children, or patients who have gone a long time in between hygiene appointments may also need more time in the chair than your average patient.
- Take steps to reduce late arrivals and no-shows. Send dental appointment reminders to patients well ahead of time, so they can reschedule their appointment if necessary. It's also a good idea to send a dental appointment reminder the day before or even the morning of the appointment. Lighthouse 360 automates this process so your front desk team doesn't have to worry about forgetting. Your team can send the reminders via text, email or automated phone calls — however the individual patient prefers to be contacted. Of course, sometimes cancellations happen despite your best efforts. When that's the case, Lighthouse 360’s Cancellation Fill-in feature automatically detects last-minute cancellations and contacts patients with interest in taking that appointment.
- Speed up setup. Setting up treatment rooms and chairs with the necessary tools for exams and treatments quickly is essential to increasing your practice efficiency. Develop a system for how dental hygienists and dental assistants set up for each patient. Simple things, such as storing extra tools and supplies near each chair, can help speed things up.
- Go paperless whenever possible. Getting the required registration information from new dental patients is one area with a lot of room for improvement. Filling out paper forms is time-consuming for patients and means more time spent in the waiting room. Even if patients fill out forms ahead of time and bring them in, your front desk staff then has to take time to input the information. Instead, make the switch to a paperless new patient process. Look for a solution that allows patients to fill out their forms quickly and easily on a mobile device.
- Make return appointments immediately after each appointment. You'll save time if you don't have to reach out with a reminder call to a patient to get them to schedule their next appointment. Instead, make it a habit to have your front desk staff schedule the next hygiene appointment before the patient leaves.
As you work to improve your practice efficiency, be sure you don’t rush through time with patients. The more efficient you can with other office tasks, the more time you will have to spend giving patients the care and attention they deserve.