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You Can Fix Your Dental Schedule in One Day by Taking Three Simple Steps

It’s the one thing we can all agree on: when we walk in the office in the morning and look at the schedule, there is zero possibility the day will run as planned.

How often does the schedule ever run the way it looked in the morning?

Various issues come up – patients run behind, we run behind, emergencies call to schedule, we work through lunch and leave work late – that feels like our normal.

What would you say if I claimed I could solve your scheduling problems in one day? I bet I would make everyone reading this very happy. Maybe, I should save the secret and somehow figure out how to turn this into a million-dollar idea or I could just share it with you now.

We can all agree the schedule in a dental office can make or break a day. It is also the most stressful topic of discussion between departments and between team members, because it affects everyone. Can it be fixed? What can you do about it?

There is one way, and only one way, that you can fix your schedule in your practice.

You and your team need to become proactive about the schedule and develop a plan.

What causes so many problems with the schedule is a reactive office. Things are handled on the fly as they come up instead of having a clear policy in place beforehand, in other words as issues arise, one person handles it without consulting the rest of the team.

The result is frustration from others on the team who were not able to give input about the situation and how it should be handled.

The way dental offices run is we all work in our little “worlds” within the office, so we don’t have the opportunity to call emergency staff meetings like some businesses do. When an issue comes up, the people in that little world (whether it be the operatory or the schedule) must decide about what to do.

If an instrument breaks, the clinical team in that procedure decides what needs to happen at the point. When a patient calls and says, they are running late, the front office team decides whether the patient can be seen or not. When the hygienist has a “talker” in his or her chair, a decision should be made on how to handle them because they are causing the schedule to run behind.

Throughout the day, decisions are being made in each part of the world. But, since the entire team is not in on that specific scenario and the final decision leads to differing opinions, upset, and drama.

Here is a 3-step plan to easily fix the daily schedule in your dental office:

Have a meeting. Schedule a meeting with the entire team, not during patient hours and include everyone.

Ensure that everyone knows the subject of the meeting and ask that each staff member brings scenarios to discuss. The agenda of the meeting is to list every specific situation that comes up during the day that can wreak havoc on the schedule.

Write a policy. Once everything is listed, discuss the options for how the issues could be handled.

It is important to have this meeting at a time when you can fully discuss the pros and cons of all the options and no one feels pressured to have to get back to patient care. It is also important that someone monitors the discussion and makes sure that nothing becomes personal or too heated. The intention is to come to a conclusion that the entire group can agree on for each item on the list.

Follow the policy. Once an agreement has been reached by the entire team how each situation will be handled going forward, type it up and post it. Put it somewhere that everyone can see it and follow it.

It is paramount that everyone (including the doctor) follows it. The Scheduling Policy becomes a written agreement among the entire team—no longer a cause for drama and stress but a way to bring the team together.

Why not just borrow someone else’s scheduling policy?

Because the process of looking at daily issues and developing a solution for each as a staff is the key to writing a successful policy with full office buy-in. If you use another office’s policy – it doesn’t apply to your situation, your needs or fit your culture.

Your team is more likely to comply with a schedule policy when they have had a hand in creating it. The process lends itself to a team environment by creating a common goal.

Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM is the founder and driving force behind Front Office Rocks, and the leading provider of on-demand virtual training and resources for dental practices.