5 tips for solving the most common orthodontic practice scheduling problems

There is nothing quite as costly and discouraging to an orthodontic practice as an empty chair. Keeping a systematic and reliable schedule within a busy orthodontic practice is difficult. Each day there are a number of factors that threaten to derail the best and most well intentioned schedule such as cancellations or internal delays. By utilizing a quality scheduling software like Visual Practice, the way an orthodontic practice operates will be exceptionally changed and improved. If you combine Visual Practice with some of the following strategies, you will be able to avoid the most common pitfalls that throw a wrench in the schedules of other orthodontic practices.

1. Start on time.

Staying on track throughout the day is difficult. The last thing you want to do is get a late start. If you consistently are prepared and start the day on time, you demonstrate to employees and patients that both their time and your time are to be valued. This is particularly true regarding lunch time. Many practices will rob from the lunch hour if they are behind schedule. This is a bad habit to get into and can impact employee morale. Staggering lunch breaks will ensure that everyone gets time to decompress while still keeping appointments flowing.

2. Not being prepared.

It is important to work preparedness into the schedule. Make sure that your room has been reset between patients and that all the necessary materials are in place. Too often, orthodontists and orthodontic assistants are running around trying to prepare when the patient is already in the seat. This results in delays that can impact the entire daily schedule. Allow time first thing in the morning to prepare everything necessary for the entire day. Likewise, allow time at the end of the day to clean up and service all of the equipment so that you are ready for the following day. Having everything prepared before the day starts allows time flexibility to handle emergencies as they arise.

3. Develop a consistent late patient or missed appointment protocol.

Late patients can really impact your schedule. No matter how hard you work to control the daily schedule, having several late patients will end up costing you time that cannot easily be recovered. Many patients fail to value your time. They will show up late or not show up at all. Developing a consistent strategy for handling these situations can help minimize or eliminate them all together. One strategy is to be very upfront with your policy notifying clients before they start treatment that if they are more than 10 minutes late for an appointment they will not be seen. This could also be combined with some sort of a fine that would discourage them from repeating the behavior again in the future. The key here is to be upfront and let them know in advance what your terms are. Make the patient sign a document indicating they understand the terms. Often, orthodontists don’t exercise these protocols but more often they don’t need to because they have established upfront that their time is valuable and to be respected.

4. Efficiency.

In practice, efficiency could be broken down into a number of topics. Is the doctor spending too long with a patient? Is staff disorganized or lacking proper training? Take an honest look at your bottlenecks. Are you over-communicating with patients and not delegating communication? How is time with patients best spent to maximize the flow? Can certain tasks be delegated with proper training? Work as a team to identify and remove any bottlenecks that are hindering your efficiency.

5. Unexpected procedures or changing procedures.

Changes are going to happen. You may need to modify procedures on the fly but if you find this happening too often, it is likely an indicator of deeper problems within the practice. Keep an eye on how often procedures need to be made. Address appropriate solutions to keep consistent procedures in place, such as training opportunities for staff.

Successfully managing those unexpected occurrences within your practice should be a primary goal. By investing time to optimize your schedule and patient experience, you will transform many aspects of how time is being used within your practice.

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Ryan Stemkoski

Ryan Stemkoski, MBA is the Chief Marketing Officer at Visual Practice, a leading Dental & Orthodontic Practice Management platform. As Visual Practice's Chief Marketing Officer, Ryan is responsible for the company’s global marketing, corporate communications, and design aesthetic. Ryan works to connect dentists and orthodontists with Visual Practice' solutions that will improve the efficiency and profitability of their practices.

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