Since the world shut down due to Covid 19, most schedules have been slammed with all the patients that had to get rescheduled from April and May. However, those patients who were scheduled or due for their appointments have been slid into your schedules for June, July and August. Since we work in a 6-month schedule, October and November are the months that will have the most drastic result from the shutdown for those offices that pre-appoint their hygiene patients. If you haven’t already, take a peek at those two months’ schedules. Do they look a bit bleak? Let’s talk about why this is important and how to be ultra-prepared for the last quarter of the year.
Recall is the heartbeat of the practice. It’s a phrase that is mentioned every day. Why?
There are 2 main reasons for this statement:
1- All businesses rely on returning business and that includes the dental office; you want your recall patients to continue coming in at least twice a year. This loyalty helps build referrals from family & friends.
2- The majority of treatment on the restorative side of the office is found in the hygiene chair.
We preach on this constantly and it is even more important than ever to heed this advice. Our recommendation to all offices is to keep those calls going out to remind patients that they are due for their hygiene appointment, even if your schedule is pretty booked. Right now, you’re probably looking at your schedule and thinking that you don’t have anywhere to put them for months. Call them anyway.
Your conversation may sound something like:
“Mrs. Jones, we need to schedule your hygiene appointment with Mary. Since our office was closed for a while, we are scheduling into October at this point. However, if something becomes available sooner, I will definitely give you a call.”
Then you will put her on the ASAP list for future use.
The dental schedule is very fluid during regular times and it is now more unstable than ever.
Think about your prescreening Covid questions:
Have you or anyone in your household been tested for COVID-19?
In the past 2 weeks (14 days) ) have you or anyone in your household had contact with any person suspected to have contracted coronavirus (COVID-19)?
In the past 2 weeks (14 days) have you or anyone in your household had contact with any person confirmed to have contracted coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Have you or anyone in your household traveled outside the state?
Do you experience coughing, sore throat, fever, or loss of smell/taste?
As more Americans are venturing outside their individual ‘bubbles’, Yes answers will outweigh the "No's" more and more. You will need to reschedule the patient, thus leaving an immediate opening. Having a robust ASAP list will truly save your last-minute efforts to fill those voids. You can now reach out to Mrs. Jones to move her appointment up.
“But wait a minute” – I’m often told – “with all extra steps we have to take in prescreening during confirmation and screening at the time of the appointment, insuring the PPE is intact and we are meeting all the CDC, OSHAA, HIPAA & ADA requirements, we barely have time to go to the bathroom during the day. When are we supposed to take time to make all these calls?”
I have one word – PROACTIVE. For those that know me, know that I always use this word. Now more than ever, it is the one way to be ultra-prepared for what lies ahead.
Here are my suggestions:
1- Lists – I’m not normally a proponent of paper lists, but these are not normal times. Run an individual report for all patients overdue for recall for each month of 2020. (At this point, you should have 8 lists; January - August) Put these lists out and let the entire team know where they are.
2- Calls – when there is a second of time, make a call – anyone and everyone. If the recall patient has to be rescheduled during the screening process, there may not be time to utilize the ASAP list. The hygienist or assistant with unexpected time on their hands can grab a list and make some calls.
3- Verbiage – give everyone the ‘company-line’ when leaving a message. “Hi this is Becky from Dr. Molar’s office calling Mr Smith about his appointment. Please give our office a call at ______________.”
4- Document – make sure that when a call is made to a patient, it is documented in the patient’s chart. This will save time from having to ask ‘who called Mr. Smith?’ and the office looks very organized.
5- Cross-reference – be sure to look at all the patients coming in today & tomorrow to see if the hygiene patient might want to take care of that crown; or the crown patient might appreciate saving a trip to the office by having her teeth cleaned also.
6- ASAP – is there anyone that can be moved up in the schedule to allow more time for a later appointment time?
All dental offices are working much harder than ever to have a productive schedule. I’m sorry for that. And I truly want to promise you that it will calm down. The truth is that we don’t know if this is our new normal or if it be even more different in the coming months. What I can tell you, is that if you use these proactive steps, it will help you to work smarter and hopefully less harder. It is to the benefit of everyone in the office to keep a productive, strong schedule. Make this a true team effort and your office will close out this crazy year ultra-prepared. Bring on 2021!!
Denise Ciardello, Consultant
Denise is co-founder of Global Team Solutions. A professional speaker and published author, her enthusiasm and knowledge about the dental profession has helped many dental teams. She brings experience, insight, and creativity into her management style, along with a sense of humor. In a profession that can cause anxiety in some dental employees, Denise’s consulting approach is to partner with doctors and team members to help them realize the dream of creating a thriving, successful practice.
Denise can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org