Scheduling may be the most important of all the key systems in practice success.
In most businesses, the time management system controls efficiency, flow, and output. This then leads to production, profit, and income.
Dentistry is no exception.
Mathematically analyzing the schedule on a regular basis is a critical step to maintaining strong practice performance. Over the last 38 years of helping clients improve their practices, Levin Group has continually found that the highest producing and most efficient practices have the right scheduling system in place.
Is there only one type of “right” schedule?
There is no one ideal schedule suitable for every practice. Each individual practice must create the correct scheduling system for them.
Here are some examples:
- A 100% fee-for-service practice is typically not a high-volume practice. (Unless it is in pediatric dentistry or orthodontics.) The schedule that fits most fee-for-service practices is one designed to see fewer patients but with appropriate time blocks for normal and larger cases.
- Most dental practices are hybrids of fee-for-service and insurance. This means that the volume of patient flow needs to be analyzed and fully understood based on a percentage of the patients having lower reimbursements. One way to make up for lower reimbursements is higher volume. However, many practices build schedules based on the 100% fee-for-service patient flow and do not factor in the impact of lower reimbursements on their insurance patients when building the schedule to meet production goals.
- Some practices are almost all insurance based. Believe it or not, there are many all-PPO practices that have outstanding production and profitability. They have figured out the mathematical realities of patient volume and patient flow as it relates to the level of reimbursement for most patients. Unfortunately, many all or mostly PPO practices have not truly analyzed the schedule from this perspective and are losing production and profitability based on scheduling constraints.
The first place to begin when building a schedule is to conduct procedural time studies for every treatment frequently performed by the dentists in the practice. We routinely find with new clients that the procedural time studies reveal opportunities to increase patient volume and doctor production without rushing or fatigue. Many practices have not updated their schedule in years, which is a mistake. Others simply do not understand how to create a blocked schedule that allows for a mixture of different types of appointments, production per hour, and volume.
Following the analysis of your procedural time studies, the practice schedule now needs to be rebuilt using that updated data. Establish an annual production goal, then design a scheduling template that will allow the goals to be met through the right combination of treatment appointments, knowing how long they take and what your average production per procedure is.
Once that has been established, you can mathematically drill all the way down to how each chair is handled on an hourly basis.
When these factors are all properly combined, a schedule is built that has a high likelihood of achieving the preset annual production goal.
Practices with well-designed schedules that update the schedule on a regular basis using mathematical analysis and basic scheduling principles will easily improve their overall efficiency and production. In an era where the average retirement age of a dentist is approximately 72 years of age and rising, this becomes a unique and large opportunity to have a great career, as well as financial benefits that are well deserved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Roger P. Levin, DDS is the CEO and Founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 clients to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written more than 60 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the U.S. and around the world.