It is a great misconception that scheduling is the easiest administrative job in the practice. That’s why when a new person is hired, especially one with no dental experience, this is where they are placed. Then the clinical team complains because the schedule is crazy.

The truth is that this is a difficult job—especially when the phone rings and the patient is demanding that the scheduler find something that fits within her schedule. For example, Mrs. Smith wants to have her crown seated at 8 a.m. on Wednesday; however, Mary, the new office admin, was told that only high-production appointments should be scheduled during that time, so Mrs. Smith goes away unhappy.

Here are some suggestions to make this a bit more acceptable for the entire office:

  1. Declare a daily goal for each provider and/or for the office. There is a cost for opening your doors. Determine what that is, and set your production goal accordingly. If you don’t aim for a specific target, you will never hit it.
  2. Have the doctor(s) list out the ideal day. This is a fantastic team meeting agenda item. Some prefer to do major work first thing in the morning while others don’t really wake up until around 10:00. Your dentist may not be fully energized until the afternoon, so perhaps the best time to schedule appointments is later in the day. Decide what can and cannot be scheduled together. Typically, it doesn’t work well to schedule 2 crown preps at 8 a.m. Yet you could put a crown prep and a limited exam together. This would allow the doctor to numb the crown prep while the assistant takes an exam on the emergency.
  3. Put guiding blocks on the schedule. Once the ideal schedule is determined, put blocks on the schedule as a guide for whomever is answering the phone, and you take the guesswork out of where to schedule that crown seat.
  4. Emergency appointments are the hardest of all. Whatever time these appointments are scheduled, it seems the clinical team is never pleased. We have found that a reasonable solution is to ask the assistants at each morning huddle to identify two emergency times—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This allows the scheduler to tell Mr. Lee that he can come in at 10:30 or 3:15 with that toothache.

Of course, there will always be adjustments to the rules, but those should be the exceptions rather than the norm. Understanding the “rules” allows the entire team to work with the scheduler to create that ideal day.

By Denise Ciardello
Denise S. Ciardello is a professional speaker, published author, and co-founder of Global Team Solutions, a practice management-consulting firm.