“How full should my hygiene schedule be?” or “What’s an acceptable amount of open time?” are two frequently asked questions. The initial answer is “completely full, all the time,” but that may not be a realistic or healthy indicator for your business. Oftentimes, 100% hygiene schedule utilization is more a reflection of not having the appropriate space or time allocated to care for your patients than extremely efficient scheduling. With so much excess capacity that there is never an opening in hygiene, you could be leaving a lot of revenue and patient care on the table. While a completely full hygiene schedule may feel good, it may not be healthy for your business. As your patient base grows, so should your available hygiene hours.
Do you know how full your hygiene schedule really is? How is that number affecting your practice? A realistic goal would be 90%. This figure represents having enough capacity to see all of your preventative patients, accept new patients and still be realistic that there will be last-minute cancellations that simply cannot be filled on such short notice.
Open time in your restorative schedule can kill productivity and so can open time in your hygiene schedules. If there is open time in your hygiene schedules, this may mean your patients are not coming in. You don’t have the opportunity to diagnose – if you don’t diagnose you can’t present necessary dentistry. If you cannot present, your patients can’t accept treatment and if they can’t accept treatment, your restorative schedule will suffer. This is a double whammy – both financially (in hygiene and restorative) and emotionally (nothing wrecks a day like open time). How consistently you reach that ideal 90% can also be the determining factor for when you add hygiene hours or expand your hygiene department. Acting without knowing your percentage can be a costly venture.
Many practices go by “feel” or looking at the schedules and counting the openings in the schedule and deciding, “Well we only had two open appointments today.” Every practice has their “comfort zone.” But how does that comfort zone translate to your practice’s overall results each day, month or year? When only looking at the daily impact, you may lose sight of the aggregate impact over weeks and months. That time adds up.
Your office is a busy place, so it’s hard to keep track or even know what’s happening day to day until the end of the month when you have either achieved your goals or fallen short. Do you have a “go to” team member whose responsibility it is to keep the hygiene schedules full and productive? Are you building value for the hygiene appointment as a significant part of the patient’s overall health, or is it just “a cleaning”? Having a designated team member to “wrap their arms” around your hygiene department to ensure schedules are best utilized AND your patients feel taken care of is essential. You don’t want your practice to fall into the trap of ”we’re too busy” or the “everybody, somebody, nobody’s job” situation.
Assigning a team member will ensure a sense of ownership for openings – they will have access to resources to fill the hygiene schedule, like quick fill list, priority call lists and overdue reports. They can and should enlist the assistance of your hygiene team when there is downtime in the schedule.
Now track your open time in hygiene and compare that to the ideal ratio of 10% or less. If you’re not where you would like to be, assign that team member – it is truly one of the most important job roles you can have in your practice.
OnTrack offers resources that will help support this strategy and track your results. Go to www.myontrack.com for more information or speak to your Patterson representative about how to sign up to use OnTrack in your practice.