Every dental practice has opportunities to increase production. COVID-19 has worked against practice production for several reasons, including the reduced volume of patients that can be seen, a percentage of patients that still haven’t returned to the practice and an increased number of no-shows that have a directly proportional effect on the use of available chair time. As we move beyond the COVID-19 era, and there is still a bit of inconsistency and uncertainty, practices will need to look at new methods of management and operations to maximize production, potential and efficiency.
Identifying new opportunities
There are many opportunities for practices to improve performance, but there are three that will immediately increase production, streamline management systems and improve practice performance.
1. Maximizing the volume of patients.
There will be a limit, at least for the foreseeable future, on the number of patients that can be seen compared to the pre-COVID-19 era. At the time that I am writing this article, the current percentage of patients that can be seen compared to the pre-COVID-19 era seems to be around 90%, according to data from the Levin Group. Fortunately, there are ways to immediately increase the percentage of patients that are seen.
First, practices need to develop new schedules using formulas and analysis that incorporate true accelerated scheduling. Accelerated scheduling, which many practices already believe they do (but may actually do improperly) will increase the volume of patients seen by doctors or hygienists by 10 to 12%, according to data from the Levin Group. In a true accelerated scheduling model, doctors work at least two rooms with two assistants and each room is scheduled to produce at the same level. Assistants will need to be trained at a higher level to increase the number of services that they can provide based on each state’s regulations. They also function to move the doctor back and forth between the rooms.
There is also a three-room doctor model where the first two rooms produce at an equal level and the third room produces at 50%, according to data from the Levin Group. To maximize effectiveness and productivity it is once again necessary to have an assistant working in the third room. A practice that uses the two-room doctor accelerated scheduling model can increase doctor production by 30%. A practice that uses a three-room accelerated scheduling model can increase doctor production by over 40%. These are very impressive improvements in practice productivity based on increasing the number of patients that can be seen from a volume standpoint.
2. Accelerated hygiene scheduling.
In an era where there may be challenges in hiring hygienists in some areas, one opportunity to immediately increase dental hygiene production, assuming the necessary patient flow is available, is to have a hygienist work two rooms with a hygiene assistant who alternates with the hygienist and handles all non-hygienist related services and administrative actions. The hygiene assistant should be trained to do everything that is legally allowed by state regulations, freeing the hygienist up to focus exclusively on his or her role in direct patient care. This allows dental hygienist to work at the height of productivity and efficiency and treat more patients daily in a calm and relaxed manner.
3. Handling no-shows.
No-shows have always been a challenge for dental practices. Levin Group recommends having a no-show rate that is under 1%. Unfortunately, we’ve noticed a trend of increased no-shows during the COVID-19 era, which may reflect some patients who decide at the last minute that they have safety or financial concerns. There are also patients who have lost jobs and dental benefits. No-shows represent unused chair time and from an economic standpoint unused chair time is a non-recoverable resource.
Another way to point out the devastating effect of no-shows over the course of a practice career is that every no-show represents minutes, hours, days, months or even years longer that a dentist will have to work to reach financial independence. To make matters worse, most dental appointments are single tooth appointments and when there is a no-show in a single tooth appointment it almost always results in a monetary loss to the practice. Strategies that can immediately reduce no-shows include:
- Increasing value in the mind of the patient for your commitment to their safety, well-being and oral health.
- Having a confirmation process that includes reminders at two weeks, two days and two hours.
- Implementing a follow-up system that lets patients know that after the first no-show a fee will be charged (regardless of whether the practice ever charges it or not).
These and other strategies will allow the practice to increase the volume of patients so that extremely valuable chair time will not go unused.
There are many ways to increase practice production as we move beyond COVID-19. Some of them will simply require better implementation of past recommended systems, but practices will also have to use important strategies such as accelerated scheduling, accelerated hygiene scheduling and reduction of no-shows. Implementing the three recommendations in this article can immediately help practices increase production and ensure a thriving practice in the future.
About the author
Dr. Levin is the CEO and Founder of Levin Group, a practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the U.S. and around the world. To contact Dr. Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit www.levingroup.com or email email@example.com.