A well-structured appointment book makes all the difference to your efficiency, patient experience, and workflow. It’s a common principle in dentistry, and there are many ways to approach the appointment book in search of optimal efficiency. Overall, these are the methods we have found most useful for prioritising your time and reaching profit goals.
An excellent way to think of it, is the rock, pebble, and sand metaphor. If you picture you day as a kind of empty vessel, for example an empty jar, our job is to fill it up as efficiently as possible.
You will fit the most in by making room for the big, important stuff – filling the jar up with rocks. You can then pour in some pebbles, which will fill the gaps between larger rocks. And finally, fill the rest of the jar with sand which trickles down and makes its way into any remaining space.
You’ll find that by prioritising the big chunks and then slipping in smaller tasks, you fit way more into your day. We can apply that metaphor to our appointment books and the way in which we schedule revenue-generating activities – and here’s exactly how to do it.
The biggest blocks of your day will be for clinical procedures, and account for around 80% of your daily revenue. Depending on whether you’re a general practice or specialist, this is your crowns, implants, root canals, wisdom, etc.
Think of it in terms of your bread and butter, the activities that contribute to the bulk of your revenue and patient base.
Welcoming and creating a great first impression with new patients is also extremely important, and needs to be a priority.
Often, it’s helpful to carve out time for new patients either first thing in the morning, or straight after lunch – because that way you’ll never be running late and leave them waiting. That would be a terrible first impression and is a step in the wrong direction for retention and referrals, so it’s a strategic placement for a reason.
As a practice owner, we reserve 30 minutes after lunch every day for admin time. It might be writing referrals, stocking up rooms and displays, paperwork, correspondence, preparing for team huddles and meetings.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was hesitant to schedule in a daily half-hour of admin time because that’s time that could be spent seeing patients and generating revenue. But the results speak for themselves. Not only did my productivity skyrocket, but it drastically improved the patient experience because every team member now had an opportunity to carry out those little things that make a difference.
The golden rule of admin time is that it’s not an extension of lunch, it’s not a time to make a cuppa or go to the bathroom or quickly eat because you were running errands during lunch – it is for work, to be productive, and to facilitate administrative duties.
This is more of a personal decision depending on how many emergencies you tend to get, and whether it’s worth having this time blocked out for you.
There are some dental practices that actually pull in a significant number of patients – and retain them as loyal, returning, referring patients. And, of course, throughout the COVID restrictions many practices were limited to emergency-only cases, so it could be very beneficial to develop a reputation as a great emergency practice.
But again, you ultimately have to make this call based on what works for you and your practice.
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