This article is part of our series about improving your dental operations. You can find the links to the other articles at the bottom of the page.

Is your dental practice struggling with efficient scheduling? Then using a block dental scheduling template and implementing automation solutions is an excellent route to consider.

Using effective processes to schedule patients is essential to running a successful dentistry business. To maximize your business profits, you need to fill your workload as precisely as possible and minimize downtime while still dedicating the necessary time to each individual.

Thankfully, implementing the right booking methods and automation solutions can help you streamline your process for scheduling appointments, quickly fill appointment gaps, improve patient retention, and more.

Read on to learn more about the most efficient ways to schedule patients.

Use Analytics Data Trends To Set Daily/ Monthly Production Goals

The first step in optimizing your booking processes is to examine your current productivity and patient load. Knowing how many patients you see each day, week, or month can allow you to set an appropriate production goal and shape your schedule around meeting this goal.

There are several ways to analyze data about your patients. If you currently keep information about patients in a database, you can start by extracting the data from this program. However, unless you have experience using programs like Excel for data analysis, you may have trouble gaining all of the insight possible from this extraction.

Instead, we recommend using an automation program like Weave that allows you to organize data about patients and view analytics with a few clicks of a button. The Weave platform can save you time by showing you valuable data instantly without needing any data analytics knowledge.

Weave Analytics can enable you to view proprietary data about how frequently patients schedule appointments, the number of calls patients place to your office, what patients have not scheduled in over a year, and other pertinent information. Most importantly, you can use Weave to view the average number of appointments your team takes each week or month.

Once you view this data, you can determine whether you need to increase your workload slightly by filling in gaps in the schedule or decrease your workload to allow for more efficient booking.

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Practice Staff Communication as Changes Occur for Smooth Scheduling

Communication is an essential aspect of running any business that employs multiple people. Without adequate communication, your team cannot work as efficiently as possible to schedule patients and fill gaps. Additionally, sometimes poor communication can lead to dissatisfaction among employees, increasing employee turnover.

Many dental practices attempt to foster communication among employees by creating group text messages. However, texting employees on their personal phones can hinder work/life barriers.

Instead, the best way to promote organized, professional communication between your team members is to use a business messaging platform like Weave.

Weave Team is a messaging platform that your employees can use on their mobile devices, work computers, tablets, or laptops. This platform allows for streamlined, unified communication through the following features:

  •  Team-wide announcements
  • Direct messaging with specific employees
  • Group messaging

Your team members can take this platform with them anywhere through their personal or employer-issued mobile devices, allowing them to communicate while on the go. However, if desired, your staff can turn off notifications in the evenings, ensuring that they keep their work lives and personal lives separate.

Having one unified location in which all of your team members communicate can ensure that important booking information does not become lost in the busyness of your daily workloads. As a result, your staff can communicate booking details more thoroughly, schedule more efficiently, and make room for more patients— all of which can lead to higher profitability.

Text Messaging – Auto Text Reminders and Smart Text Confirmations

One of the most prominent reasons dental businesses have trouble filling all available appointment times is no-shows. When patients neglect to show up for previously scheduled appointments, there isn’t much you can do to fill that gap. While you can charge patients a small no-show fee, you cannot fully gain back the money from the lost exam.

Taking steps to prevent no-shows is just as necessary as booking appointments efficiently. One step you can take to prevent patients from failing to show up for exams and procedures is implementing consequences for no-shows. For example, you can charge no-show patients half the cost of their appointments and move them to the bottom of the list for rescheduling.

However, the most effective way to prevent no-shows is to use a reliable confirmation process. By asking each person to confirm their dental appointment, you not only remind them about their exam, but also invite them to make a verbal or written commitment that they will show up on time.

If your staff currently confirms patients’ appointments over the phone, you know how time-consuming this process can be. Instead, using automation software to send automatic text message appointment reminders can save you time and make confirmations more effective overall.

Weave Scheduling is dental practice management software that can allow you to send automatic text messages to patients a specific amount of time before their exams. These text messages can use personalized information and language to make them sound as if they are coming from one of your staff. They can also come from your dental office phone number.

Even better, patients can respond to these auto texts as they see fit, and Weave can interpret their responses for you.

Quick Fill Gaps

Even with effective confirmation processes, some patients will still neglect to show up to their appointments. Implementing an efficient method to fill gaps in your schedule can allow these no-show incidents to remain profitable.

Some dental offices attempt to fill gaps by posting on social media that they have open time slots to fill, hoping patients will see these posts and reach out to schedule their procedures. However, this method of filling gaps is inefficient, indirect, and unprofessional.

Thankfully, Weave also makes it easy to fill broken appointments quickly and professionally. Weave’s Quick Fill feature allows you to create lists of emergency patients, or patients who need to be seen as soon as possible, then automatically send texts to them when gaps open in your schedule.

With this Quick Fill feature, you can send a mass text to all of the patients on your list and state that the first person to reply can receive the appointment time. This method creates a sense of urgency that may make patients more likely to fill the gap quickly, reducing downtime.

Quickly filling gaps in your schedule can also improve patients’ satisfaction with your office. If patients on your Quick Fill list must wait weeks to see a doctor, even though you have gaps opening in your schedule almost every day, they may simply decide to switch to another dental office.

However, showing patients that you prioritize their needs and do everything you can to fit them into a tight schedule can increase their loyalty to your office. As such, they may be more likely to choose your office in the future.

Scheduling Message Template or Script Samples

Creating a text message template that you send to patients to remind them of upcoming appointments or invite them to fill gaps in the schedule can save you even more time. Weave makes it easy to create personalized message templates that you can automatically send to specific types of patients.

For example, you could send a templated auto-text to patients who have an upcoming appointment in one week that reads:

“Hi, [Name]. This is [Staff Name] from [Dental Practice]. Are you still able to come to your [Exam Type] on [Date] at [Time]?”

Weave can fill in the bracketed details with information from patient records, creating a more personal texting experience.

Try Block Scheduling To Reduce Schedule Stress

Block scheduling is a method of booking patient appointments that reduces stress among staff members, balances day-to-day workloads, and maintains production. With this type of schedule, your practice could divide each day into blocks and dedicate each block to a specific task, such as fillings, exams, cleanings, and other procedures.

This method of creating schedules can allow your practice to prioritize high-revenue activities, fill your schedule efficiently, and optimize patient flow. Block booking also enables you to delegate each worker to specific tasks, sending the dentist to one exam type, the hygienist to another, and the dental assistant to another.

While block schedules are highly beneficial, they take some time to implement to their fullest potential. Your office may take a few months of trial and error before you have optimized your booking method. However, you can start implementing this schedule type by following these steps:

Study the Duration of Every Procedure

Your first step in creating an effective block schedule is to study the amount of time your staff typically dedicates to each procedure. The best way to understand the duration of appointments is to spend several weeks timing them.

Your administrative staff can time appointments by:

  • Writing down the time patients arrive
  • Marking down the time patients begin procedures
  • Writing down the time the procedures end

Once you have collected this data for a few weeks, you can calculate the average durations for each exam type. If different dental professionals in your clinic tend to spend different amounts of time on appointments, you can determine an average for each employee.

Knowing how long the following appointments typically take can allow you to book appointments efficiently and eliminate gaps:

  • New patient appointments
  • Routine exams
  • Oral health and hygiene appointments
  • Fillings
  • Restorative procedures
  • Root canal appointments
  • Treatment plan discussion appointments
  • Specialized treatment appointments

Offer Appointment Times to Patient

Now that you know how long procedures tend to take within your office, you can begin creating a tentative block schedule to dedicate specific periods during each day to specific procedures.

The best way to ensure that your administrative assistants can properly fit patients into these blocks is to offer booking times to patients—not the other way around. If patients call your office with specific times in mind, they could throw off the entire block schedule, leading you to shift around the remaining appointments to suit their needs.

Instead, if a client calls your office to schedule a hygiene exam and cleaning, and you typically offer cleanings every day from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., you should offer them one of these times.

Of course, if patients cannot adhere to these rigid time frames, you can occasionally be flexible. However, sticking to this block schedule as much as possible will improve your productivity and, therefore, your profits.

Set Up a Patient Scheduling Policy

Filling the block schedule in the correct order is also essential to optimizing this booking process. Using a block schedule that still has several gaps of unfilled appointments each day is no better than following a traditional booking method.

As a result, before you begin rolling out the block schedule method, you should create a booking policy that all of your administrative assistants adhere to as they schedule patients into these blocked times.

Here are a few tips you can use to shape your booking policy:

  • Schedule longer appointments at the beginning of the day, with the most critical appointments filling the first time slot.
  • Place minor appointments near the end of the day, as these appointments are more likely to result in no-shows than major ones.
  • Book appointments ten minutes before the previous exam ends to create efficient overlap.
  • Avoid placing minor appointments in between major ones.
  • When patients call to schedule appointments, offer them the next two available times closest to the day they are calling.
  • Create a sense of urgency to encourage patients to fill in gaps closer to the current date rather than wait several weeks for a time that better suits their schedule. For example, you can inform patients that the doctor recommends booking their filling as soon as possible for their hygiene and safety.

To ensure the smoothest possible booking process, we recommend placing one person in charge of the schedule who can provide guidance to any other schedulers on your team. Anyone who helps schedule appointments should know these blocking procedures well before placing patients into the block times.

Stick To 10-Minute Appointment Increments

Some dental offices schedule appointments on the fifteen-minute mark, such as at 9:00, 9:15, 9:30, and 9:45. However, if your office follows this process, we recommend switching to ten-minute increments instead, such as 9:10, 9:20, or 9:30.

Booking patients in ten-minute increments can produce the following benefits:

  • Encourage employees to work faster: Limiting blocks from fifteen to ten minutes or 30 to 20 minutes can encourage your team to work faster to finish procedures on time.
  • Allow room for more appointments each day: Sticking to ten-minute increments also necessitates that you shorten exam times to fit within these windows, thus allowing for more appointments each day— increasing production.
  • Reduce downtime: Tightening the schedule to ten-minute increments can reduce downtime between appointments, creating a more efficient workload.
  • Encourage granular thinking: Shortening exam increments can create more granular thinking amongst your team, allowing them to tighten their processes to fit within these increments.
  • Create more flexibility when adhering to patients’ schedules: Booking appointments in ten-minute increments can produce better flexibility for patients to arrive on time. For example, patients who work until 4:00 may not be able to arrive by 4:15, whereas they could get to your office by 4:20.

Note: This practice is different from shortening exam durations to ten minutes each. Instead, you should simply schedule appointments to begin and end on the ten-minute mark. For example, cleanings can begin at 9:00 and end at 9:20 rather than 9:30.

Even if you and your team provide the best patient care possible, not filling in your schedule with enough appointments can make it challenging to stay afloat as a dental provider. Prioritizing efficient, effective booking is essential to remaining profitable and following a continual pattern of growth.

Weave can make the process of booking appointments easy. However, not only can Weave assist your booking procedures, but this app can also streamline your digital marketing, helping you get new patients in the door and fill lingering gaps in your schedule.

Additionally, Weave can facilitate easier payment methods, ensuring that you receive the necessary payments, Medicare information, or insurance details from patients after each appointment.

Click here to request your free Weave demo and learn more about how Weave can help you with an automated appointment reminder system and more smart scheduling tools.

Check out the other articles in our “Improving Your Dental Operations ” series:

  1. 6 Impressive Dental Waiting Room Ideas
  2. How To Calculate Your Dental Practice Valuation
  3. Looking To Open A Dental Office? Here’s Our Dental Office Cost Breakdown
  4. 4 Dental KPIs That Every Practice Owner Should Know About Their Practice

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