Improving efficiency in your dental practice brings many benefits:
- It streamlines time for you and your staff.
- It increases revenue.
- It reduces stress.
Most importantly, it optimizes the patient experience. For your patients, the best dental experience is one that’s effective and painless and takes as little time as possible.
However, many dental practices operate unnecessarily in inefficient ways. From the way you schedule procedures to how your staff communicates with each other, there are numerous opportunities for you to improve your practice efficiency and your patient experience.
By integrating digital tools focusing on efficiency into your operations, you can increase revenue, reduce costs, and improve your patient and staff experience.
Use Scheduling to Your Advantage
Efficient scheduling is one of the simplest and most effective steps you can take to improve your operational efficiency. The first step is to offer online appointment scheduling for your patients. Online scheduling is more convenient for patients, and it drastically reduces administrative tasks for your front-office staff, especially when you combine online scheduling with automatic text appointment reminders.
Digital scheduling also enables you to improve patients’ overall efficiency by combining treatments into one visit. Scheduling software that integrates with your electronic health records (EHRs) and allows you to create a custom scheduling workflow means you can check for other recommended treatments a patient might need as part of the scheduling process.
Take your scheduling efficiency to the next level with block scheduling. Many dentists treat all scheduling times the same and schedule appointments around a patient’s availability. This can result in a very inefficient workflow for you and your auxiliary staff since you might have to switch between routine procedures (such as cleaning) to more invasive procedures and then back again several times a day.
You’ll work more efficiently if you block similar types of treatments together. Online scheduling software enables you to set availability times for specific types of appointments, preventing you from having to switch back and forth repeatedly throughout the day.
Finally, improve efficiency by reducing downtime with an automated waitlist for open appointment spots. By automatically texting patients who have asked to be notified about an earlier appointment time, you can instantly fill the spot for any canceled appointment.
Empower Your Staff’s Efficiency with Digital Tools
From front-office administrative staff to the back-office dental assistant, your team is the most critical factor in improving office efficiency. Empowering your staff with digital tools that streamline their tasks will enhance satisfaction and morale, dramatically improving the patient experience.
Inefficient practices often struggle with communication, especially between the front office and the back office. The simplest way to solve this is to use paperless forms and EHRs so that all patient information is instantly and automatically synced across all platforms. Digital documents enable your staff to access necessary data without any lag in communication.
Just as digital appointment scheduling is more convenient for patients, digital staff scheduling is more convenient for your team. Combined with block scheduling of treatments, online shift scheduling can enable you to prioritize employee schedule requests, reduce overtime, and improve staff efficiency.
You can also use digital tools to provide scripts for your staff to use when answering the phone or onboarding patients in the waiting room. Digital tools help improve the patient experience by standardizing conversations. They also help ensure that front office staff gathers all necessary information and data before a patient comes back to your chair.
Leverage Digital Tools to Manage Analog Tasks
Finally, use digital tools to streamline real-world tasks. For example, a digital inventory management system makes it easy for your administrative staff to keep all necessary supplies in stock. You can also use software to manage each room’s inventory and create a system for checking and updating inventory after each procedure.
As you’re working toward increased efficiency, perform an analog audit to determine the actual time required for each procedure you commonly perform. Measure the time needed to prepare the room and clean it afterward and the entire time the patient spends in the chair, not just the time when they’re undergoing treatment from the dentist.
Once you can calculate an accurate average for procedures, integrate this information into your block scheduling system. Integration will reduce downtime between procedures and reduce the need for staff to rush patients.
Digital tools can also help you solicit patient reviews and feedback about their experience. You automatically allow patients to provide feedback immediately after their visit, which enables you to get an accurate picture of your practice’s strengths and weaknesses. By regularly scheduling time to review patient feedback and identify ways to change your workflows to address concerns, you can improve the patient experience on an ongoing basis.
Digital tools are just one way to improve the efficiency of your practice. Constantly increasing efficiency requires a mindset shift for your entire team to seek ways to improve. Ultimately, however, the rewards are significant.
Increased efficiency enables everyone on your staff to spend less time on administration, creating new processes, and correcting errors. Instead, your entire practice can free up time to focus on what’s most important: quality of care and a best-in-class excellent patient experience.
Ms. Robinson is the manager of growth and product marketing at NexHealth. With more than 10 years of experience working in technical marketing, she helps NexHealth close the gap between patients, providers, and healthcare developers.