Time is money — and nowhere is that more true than in a dental office. Every minute your chairs are empty, every minute patients spend twiddling their thumbs in the waiting room, or every minute hygienists spend waiting for the dentist costs your practice money. Here are five things that could be wasting time in your dental practice and tips for handling them.
- Disorganization: While common, disorganization is also easy to remedy. Identify areas where disorganization is causing delays throughout your practice, including treatment, paperwork and scheduling. For example, if trays aren't ready when patients enter the treatment room, that's an avoidable time waster. If your front desk team doesn't have a clear understanding of their priorities, they'll waste time deciding what to work on. Lighthouse 360 can help by automatically generating a task list using "smart recommendations" for your front desk staff every morning.
- Excessive paperwork: The paperless dental office is coming closer and closer to reality, but for most dental practices, paperwork still consumes a lot of time that could be better spent on patients. According to one study, medical practitioners spend almost twice as much time dealing with paperwork as they do actually interfacing with patients. Other sources have estimated that the healthcare industry spends as much as $210 billion a year on processing paperwork. Implementing electronic record systems can help enormously. Another easy step to take: Email new patients their intake forms along with their appointment confirmation or let them know where they can find the forms on your website. Encourage new patients to either complete the forms ahead of time and bring them into the appointment, or arrive 15 – 20 minutes early to allow time for filling them out in the waiting room.
- Manual appointment confirmation: Calling patients to confirm upcoming appointments can be a massive time-waster, especially if it leads to endless games of phone tag. You can eliminate this headache completely with a tool such as Lighthouse 360. Lighthouse 360 can automatically send appointment reminders to patients by email, text or automated phone call — whichever method the patient chooses. When the patient replies, the confirmation goes straight into your PMS so the front desk team doesn't have to input manually. More time saved!
- Unexpected cancellations: There’s really no such thing as an "unexpected" dental cancellation. Emergencies happen, and every dental practice should learn to expect a certain number of cancellations per day. The key is to have a process in place to handle them. For example, if you use Lighthouse 360’s Fill-In feature, your front desk staff can automatically send notifications to people who've expressed interest in filling canceled appointments.
- Late patients: Patients who arrive late to their appointments can really throw your schedule off track. Reduce this time-waster by setting and communicating standards for how you will handle late arrivals. For example, the first time a patient arrives 15 or more minutes late, you might give them a warning that if it happens again, they will need to reschedule that appointment. Then stick to it. You can eliminate many late arrivals by ensuring that patients know the exact time of their appointment. Use a tool like Lighthouse 360 to automatically send appointment reminders and requesting patient confirmations. If patients don't reply to the reminders, Lighthouse 360 generates follow-up lists your staff can use to text or call these patients quickly.