School break is back. Many new and existing patients have already or will soon call to schedule regular and last-minute dental appointments.
Cleaning? Check. Wisdom tooth extractions? Check. Clear aligner treatments? Check.
To make matters worse, ‘tis the season when staff members also want more time off to spend time with their families. All this can put a lot of stress on your practice. So how do you do more with less, while still maintaining your high standard of care?
Well, there are 3 main ways to increase your practice’s throughput without giving up your standard of care:
The obvious choice: hire more people. Well, so is everybody else. When competing with others for holiday temp staffing, you will have to either:
a. Pay them more
b. Offer bonuses
c. Promise them a path toward a full-time job
d. .. and everything else practices do to attract talent
Not much under your control, unfortunately.
Improving your processes can significantly increase your patient throughput. There are many models and paradigms for how to do this, the most proven one being the Six Sigma paradigm:
(D) Define what you want to improve (Key Process Indicators) and targets for them.
(M) Measure where you are (take a baseline of your KPIs).
(A) Analyze your current processes to identify opportunities for improvement.
(I) Improve your processes to eliminate the main causes of underperformance.
(C) Control by continuously measuring your KPIs and applying corrections.
On this one, you have control – however, since it takes time, you should have started on this last summer. Or, you could have implemented tools that enforce industry best practices and control optimal processes right out of the box.
In this case, your Practice Management software – is it the right one? Can it help you do more with less, without sacrificing your standard of care – when you need it the most?
When you hire a temp, you must factor in the time to train them on your practice management system. With some legacy systems designed 40 years ago, this could take over two weeks for them to be fully trained – longer than the whole holiday season. With some of the latest platforms sporting a consistent, user-centric design, this can take as little as one or two days. Even more beneficial are systems that have e-learning (PDF manuals and training videos) built right into the platform so that the new staff can find the training materials they need right when they need them – without needing to worry about searching the Web for them, and always making sure that the training materials they find apply to their exact version of their software.
Standardization is crucial for maintaining a high level of clinical care and staff productivity. Take the time to define standardized procedures and protocols, then implement checklists and have your staff trained to follow them and fill them out for each patient and case.
The most advanced practice management systems allow you to implement these checklists electronically, right into your software – which automatically captures the proof that every step has been followed for every patient and case, and by what staff member.
Standardized pick lists from which your staff can assemble a comprehensive medical history are great for quickly accessing and updating patient records with just a few clicks. No more digging through files or searching high and low, physically or digitally. Additionally, with diagnosis wizards built into your checklists, your team can make accurate diagnoses and treatments on the fly, saving time and ensuring effective, standardized care.
No one has time to type or retype every detail over and over again. Smart paste features reduce errors and save you and your team valuable time by allowing you to assemble your clinical documentation quickly, from pre-defined snippets.
An integrated, secure patient portal that allows patients to schedule appointments, view treatment plans, and securely access their records can free up an immense amount of your staff’s time during the holidays.
A practice management system that automatically sends appointment reminder emails and SMS messages with which your patients can interact can save your staff a lot of time by eliminating all that manual work. Additionally, a practice management system with an integrated secure messaging portal ensures seamless communication between patients, referring dentists, labs, dental supply companies, and your dental practice.
With a patient portal, patients can access their information and request appointments, which enhances patient engagement and satisfaction by giving them convenience and control. The younger generations no longer want to make a phone call, just to be put on hold, and then eventually forwarded to an answering machine. Self-service for patients is the way of the future and can be a massive advantage during this holiday season.
Personalized email and SMS marketing campaigns keep your patients in the loop and excited about your holiday specials. Using practice management software with integrated bulk email and SMS campaign capabilities enables you to directly communicate with your selected patient groups while maintaining the one-on-one personal touch they all expect and appreciate.
These emails and SMS campaigns keep your practice top of mind and encourage patients to schedule appointments and take advantage of holiday specials.
Ready or not, the holiday season is here. From helping you with staffing shortages through a well-thought user interface and built-in training tools to streamlining workflows with customizable checklists and smart features, a well-chosen practice management platform can be your trusted sidekick throughout this holiday season. The secure patient portal, secure messaging portal, and personalized communications will make your patients feel valued and engaged, helping spread joy and the holiday spirit within your practice’s extended family.
With the right tools and a little holiday magic (or should we say technology), you can sleigh through the upcoming holiday season and keep your practice merry and bright!