Core Strategies for Keeping and Managing a Full Dental Schedule

Apr 03, 2023

Scarcity can create urgency. It might work until someone is interested in scheduling or a patient calls with a dental emergency…and your dental practice schedule is full! 

That reality and others around dental scheduling are worth exploring.

In search of the ideal dental schedule

An effective dental schedule is both art and strategy. Schedule management requires consistent eyes-on (preferably by one with a designated responsibility). 

An agreed upon structure and routine monitoring helps keep things in balance. Beyond organizational specifics, dental scheduling flow works smoothly as your team…

  • Anticipates changes
  • Adjusts for the often inevitable cancellation or no-show
  • Adapts to personnel availabilities

Communication flow also factors into the scheduling matrix. The ability to scale according to schedule openings, knowing who to prioritize, and being able to fill the gap(s) are keys to staying in an ideal dental scheduling zone.

Core strategies for keeping and managing a full dental schedule

Consider these strategic tips as an opportunity to stay in control of your dental patient schedule. It beats having your schedule control you!

Step-back on your scheduling goals

“Stepping-back” implies a momentary (and occasional) pause to assess the health of your scheduling strategy. 

  • Is your dental schedule supporting your patient care standards?
  • Does your schedule contribute to patient engagement or the feeling that they’re part of a dental care “assembly-line?”
  • Is your scheduling strategy causing your clinical and front-office staff consistent stress?
  • Does your schedule keep you on track with production goals?
  • Is your scheduling strategy designed for efficiency?

Use these step-back questions as a point of analysis and as an opportunity to get scheduling feedback from your team(s). 

Prioritize the daily schedule conversation with your team

This is important for a couple of reasons:

  • 1-Awareness of who you’re seeing/treating that day – their procedure, their emotion or motivation around the treatment (why current and detailed patient data is vital), and the potential opportunities available in their appointment.
  • 2-Awareness of blocks to fill and who is available to maximize the scheduling opportunities – including hygienists, dental assistants, providers, etc.

The daily schedule check-in also affirms the point-person tasked with keeping eyes-on your schedule. This reminder helps with communication flow from clinical to front-office.

Be time conscious

Think of time in terms “who,” “what,” and “when.”

“Who” = time relative to dentist or assistant

Determine if your practice management software allows for you to mark a 10 or 15 minute segment on the schedule. This could create availability margin for you (doctor) to be chair side or available in another op.

“What” = time in blocks or units

Consider what you/your clinical team can accomplish in 10 to 15 minute blocks of time. One benefit of unit-scheduling is awareness of where time is wasted and could be better used.

“When” = time for dentist with a hygienist

The synergy between you (doctor) and your hygienist requires intentionality. Your diagnosis, treatment planning, and case acceptance can suffer without strategic time management alongside your hygiene team.

Create opportunity out of a full schedule

Scheduling new and/or current patients is often at the mercy of your schedule availability. While having a full schedule (weeks or months out) is a good thing, it can create what appears to be lost opportunity when a someone contacts you.

But opportunity doesn’t have to be lost!

  • Discover why the person/patient is calling. A request for a cleaning or a question about a current dental issue gives you opportunity to evaluate their condition and how urgent scheduling is.
  • Give them a positive expectation about schedule changes. Communicating a “change” in your schedule rather than the possibility of a “cancellation” sends a more positive message about the value of your schedule.
  • Be realistic about appointment duration. Can you reduce the amount of time for a new patient or save time during routine hygiene appointments?

Realize that your dental schedule is more than blocks of time. It is a reflection of your patient awareness, your team synergy, and your opportunity to be more strategic.

Scheduling, like other patient connections, requires being intentional. The following resources provide insight into the patient experience – including scheduling:

Dental Patients Not Confirming? Refresh Your Appointment Confirmation Strategy

Strategic Insight and Action That Can Help You Prioritize Your Dental Hygiene Reappointments

Use data analytics for more strategic dental scheduling

The Jarvis Analytics platform helps assure that you’re tracking useful patient data, the important metrics, and staying on-track with your goals as your dental practice grows and expands. 

Experience Jarvis in action. Request a demo today!


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