Holes in the dental hygiene schedule, why do we dread this so much? Because, unfilled appointments, canceled, or missed appointments all kill profitability.
So what do you do? You probably are desperate for a quick fix to fill the holes in the schedule. Right? Well, I’ll help you out by sharing some ideas to fill the hygiene schedule as a quick fix. However, I must say a quick fix is typically only a temporary fix. If holes in the schedule are becoming the norm around your office you need something more than a quick fix to figure out why this is happening and work to prevent your hygiene schedule from looking like Swiss cheese every week.
Doctors, if you’re struggling to reach your practice goals or want to enjoy healthier and more productive schedules – feel free to contact me for a complimentary, no-obligation 30-minute telephone consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if a coaching relationship is right for you.
Note, this isn’t the time to point fingers or start blaming someone for having holes in the schedule. Work together, as a team to fill these holes. Ideally, the hygienist should be involved in making these calls to patients, etc. Patients are more likely to respond when it’s their beloved hygienist calling them. Besides, the hygienist(s) are obviously the one(s) with the extra time. So the ideas I share are directed to the hygiene department with the goal of them becoming productive, happy, and profitable. (Again, you will want to at a later date, work together as a team to determine why this is happening and create solutions to repair the breakdown.) Here are some tips for creating healthier hygiene schedules: https://bettyhaydenconsulting.com/2020/09/01/ten-steps-to-create-healthy-and-productive-fall-dental-hygiene-schedules/
On to the ideas for a quick (temporary) fix:
- Priority List – Do you have any patients that would like to come in at an earlier date for their hygiene appointment? Call them and let them know you have an unexpected change in the schedule (Refrain from saying you had a cancelation) and can see them sooner.
- Cancellation/Missed Appt List – Do you have any patients on these lists that can be called? (BTW: If you’re not looking at this report each week, you should be!)
- Family Members – Check for other family members due for their hygiene appt. Is there someone coming in with hygiene that has family members that are also due in hygiene that may want to take one of those open slots?
- Doctors Schedule – Check the doctors’ schedule for any patients that may be due for their hygiene appt and are coming in around the time that needs to be filled in hygiene. Invite them to take care of their hygiene wellness appointment at the same time.
- Incentives – Offer an Incentive for accepting a last-minute appointment. For example, complimentary fluoride, teeth whitening, small gift, or gift card. Use your social media platforms to announce this awesome today (or tomorrow) only opportunity.
- Continuing care/past-due List – Get on the phone and with an enthusiastic and positive voice make some calls to your patients that are due or past due in hygiene. (Vary the times you make these calls. You’ll reach more patients this way.)
- Social Media – Engage with your patients, potential patients, and local businesses on Facebook, Instagram, etc. For ideas see: https://bettyhaydenconsulting.com/2020/11/05/dental-office-social-media-platform-tips-and-content-ideas/
- Spend more time with your patients. If you have open time that couldn’t be filled, take this opportunity to discuss better home care tools, update their information and medical history, do full perio charting, talk about cosmetic services, any recent continuing education courses, place sealants, apply desensitizing agent to any sensitive teeth, take impressions for whitening trays, review incomplete treatment with them, ask them if they’ll kindly leave a review on Google or Facebook, mention how dental gift certificates make great gifts, etc.
Just a reminder before making any calls, it would be a good idea to check your patient’s account balance, remaining insurance benefits/any frequency limitations, and review their clinical notes. Also, be sure to document all calls, conversations, and correspondence made to or with the patient.
Note: If at all possible, try to avoid moving patients’ appointments around to fill in gaps. It can aggravate the patient. It’s always best to keep their appointment as scheduled – they reserved that time for a reason.
If the holes in your schedule are a few weeks out you can try these ideas:
- Reactivate Patients – Send out “We Miss You” letters to your patients that haven’t been in for a year or more.
- Special Offers – Focus on a particular service or group of patients to target with special offers or prizes on a day that has a lot of holes. For example, Mouthguards / Teeth Whitening / Sealants / Desensitizing Agents / Back to School / Spring Cleaning / Kids day / Senior day.
- Fun Themed days – Superhero, Luau, BBQ, Western, Decades Day, Disney, Sports, etc.
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Despite your best efforts to fill the schedule, you may still end up with some holes that just couldn’t be filled. No worries, there is plenty to do to remain productive during this time.
- Get on the phone and make continuing care calls.
- Pull Incomplete hygiene treatment reports and call, send postcards, emails, texts, or letters to your patients.
- Make calls, send emails, postcards, letters, etc. to your patients that are due, past due, or almost due in hygiene.
- Create some fun and educational Videos – (how to brush, how to floss, what to do in a dental emergency? how much sugar is in your drink? What type of mouthwash should you use? Manual vs Electric Toothbrush, Healthy vs Unhealthy Snacks, Why wear a mouthguard, what type of toothpaste is best? etc.)
- Thoroughly clean and stock treatment rooms.
- Get out and visit area businesses. Introduce the office, take them a small gift and a “let’s get acquainted” special offer.
- Discuss some marketing (practice growth) ideas for the office.
- Continuing Education. Watch a webinar or video, read a manual, etc. Improve your clinical skills, knowledge of new technology and procedures, telephone scripting, office protocols, etc.
- Take a tour of the office and look for any areas that could use some improvements, cleaning, and changes.
I hope these ideas provide you with a quick fix to fill those holes in your schedule.
Here are some tips for reducing last-minute changes to the hygiene schedule: https://bettyhaydenconsulting.com/2021/03/31/dental-office-tips-and-ideas-to-reduce-same-day-broken-appointments/
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Yours for Greater Success!