Ease Scheduling Stress
Posted by HJT Design
Appropriate schedule management keeps patients engaged and eases workplace stress. A busy afternoon, an unexpected delay, or miscommunication can easily derail schedules and throw patient support and administrative care for a loop. Avoid some common scheduling mishaps with the following fixes.
The Importance of Dental Care Scheduling
Proper dental scheduling supports practice flow. It enables physicians, hygienists, and assistants to plan their days. It gives administrators the ability to manage material supply and demand. It gives patients confidence in the practice’s ability to provide high-quality care within prearranged appointment times. Mistakes affect everyone in the patient care cycle. Here are some common schedule challenges in the dental industry:
Schedulers act as intermediaries between health care practitioners and patients. Each party bears a duty to provide accurate and current information to promote the scheduling process. Practitioners must provide schedulers with accurate information about in-office availability. Schedules must provide accurate information to patients and record scheduling information in a system. Sometimes there is a miscommunication – patients get double-booked or a scheduler forgets to cancel an appointment.
There are ways offices can reduce the number of communication errors. Online scheduling, appointment reminders, and a schedule change alert policy can minimize the number of scheduling problems that arise from miscommunication.
Poor Patient Engagement
One scheduling mishap does not involve an error in scheduling, but rather a patient-engagement problem. When patients do not understand the importance of routine hygiene or feel uncomfortable maintaining routine cleaning schedules, they avoid them.
Everyone who encounters patients can use that time to encourage treatment compliance. Patient retention plays a key role in the long-term success of any dental practice, and active patient engagement encourages scheduling adherence.
Lack of Information
Dental practitioners need patient information to provide prompt services, and patients need clear appointment information. Administrators must ensure patients and practitioners receive the information needed for an appointment.
Confirm the time, date, location, and information required from the patient at the time of the appointment. Confirm practitioners can access lab work, patient records, and new questionnaires prior to each appointment. Use appointment checklists and reminders to avoid information mismanagement challenges.
Imprudent Task Delegation
Many dental offices employ a team of front office administrators. Several practice representatives may handle patient scheduling on a given day.
Use clear task delegation practices to ensure each scheduler follows the same process for creating appointments, sending out reminders, and conducting patient follow-up calls. Collaborative record keeping via a patient management system ensures each patient and practitioner receives the same scheduling support.
Inadequate Enforcement of Late-Patient Policies
Late patients can throw off the scheduling for the entire day. Create and enforce a late-patient policy to combat scheduling delays. Provide every new patient with a copy of the policy and include a late-appointment reminder in all communications.
Policies typically include a list of expectations and consequences for failing to arrive at an appointment on time. For example, a practice may count patients who arrive 15 or 20 minutes late to an appointment as a no-show. Some no-show policies allow patients to wait to receive service or they can reschedule an appointment. Others require patients to pay a fee for the missed appointment.
Poor Reminder Practices
Reasonable reminder practices prevent late patients and no-shows from disrupting scheduling. Modern reminder practices often feature an opt-in program for text and/or email reminder messages a few days prior to the appointment. Many also include an automated or personal phone reminder 24 hours before a scheduled appointment. Give patients every opportunity to meet appointment expectations with a strong reminder process.
Scheduling System Glitches
An electronic scheduling system glitch can leave dental practices in the dark for days at a time. Backup scheduling files on a regular basis or use a cloud-based service that stores data both locally and in a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-compliant cloud for easy access, regardless of computer outages.
A standardized approach to scheduling gives patients, practitioners, and administrators the ability to maintain daily workflows and adjust to unexpected situations. Use these tips to overcome common scheduling challenges and minimize day-to-day stress. When you work with HJT Dental Office Consultants, we can take any of your specific considerations into account as we help you through the design process.