Highlight your infection control processes

Whether they voice it specifically or not, patients are going to be much more aware of infection control processes, especially for health-care providers. Fortunately, most dental offices have robust infection control processes already in place, and now is the time to reassure your patients of this. 

Highlight your process online, via social media, or with signage in the waiting room. Or even better – bypass the waiting room! Some offices are having patients call or text when they arrive and then bringing them directly to the operatory to limit unnecessary contact.  

Communication is Key

Encourage patients to take the proper precautions, and if a patient has a question, make sure your staff is equipped with the right answers so the patient and your team all feel comfortable during an appointment. Communication is key so patients and staff alike are protected and comfortable with the appointment. A great example of communicating your precautions via social media is below from Ziegele Smile Studios, one of our Unique Dental offices:

View this post on Instagram

😷😷Worried about Coronavirus? You’re not alone! 😷😷 ❤️❤️We want you to know that we were ALREADY very concerned about your health & safety, but we’re taking that even further now, to ensure your time with us is just as safe as it can possibly be! ❤️❤️ 🤟🤟So, what are we doing? We will be starting a series of posts, letting you know what we are doing to keep you SAFE while in our CARE! 🤟🤟 7.🦠🦠Our disinfectant KILLS the virus in 30 seconds🦠🦠
6.😷😷We ALWAYS use fresh masks, gloves, clean glasses, have clean hands. (that’s not new)😷😷
5.👄💋For procedures that cause aerosols, we use an “isolite” – holds cheeks and tongue out of the way, keeps everything from going down your throat, and has high suction to keep the aerosols from leaving the immediate area, cutting down the risk to anyone else👄💋
4. 🍶🍶We use a pre-rinse that kills the virus and bacteria present in your mouth for 2 hours🍶🍶
3. 👋👋Hand sanitizer for everyone! 👋👋
2. 🌡🌡We check temperatures of each team member and patient 🌡🌡
1. ☎️☎️ We screen everyone before appointments to make sure that you are feeling well BEFORE you come in. ☎️☎️

A post shared by April Ziegele, DDS (@ziegelesmiles) on

If you do have questions, make sure to check out the CDC oral health guidance page

Use block scheduling to save time for new patient, emergency, and high value appointments

Once non-emergent procedures are available to be scheduled again, it is very likely the office will be busy due to the backlog of procedures. Putting together a productive schedule will become more important than ever.

If you are not already, now can be the perfect time to institute scheduling blocks to help guide staff in building a productive day. Block scheduling and approaches differ by office, but the concept behind them remains consistent – having a proper mix of patients and procedures creates synergy for the office and providers.

At Unique, we see the following blocks as most beneficial:

Major Case / High Production

You absolutely want to ensure you have time to see your major cases!  Creating these blocks specifically for this purpose will facilitate having a high production schedule. Saving these for when a Doctor is most comfortable and fresh also makes for a better patient experience and case success overall.

New Patients

Save time for New Patients! They are a major factor in practice viability and growth. If New Patients are normally scheduled with the Hygienist, but the Hygiene book is filled, consider making some time in the Doctor’s schedule for a New Patient Exam without cleaning – ideally, a new patient should be able to be seen within two weeks.

Emergency

While unexpected appointments are harder to plan for, you must make sure that you can also accommodate emergency appointments as they arise. This is important both to get patients out of immediate pain, but also to fix the underlying issues before they become a larger issue.

Add Additional Hours and ADVERTISE THEM Online

Any given provider can only be so productive. To make sure patients are able to be seen and revenue generated, you might need to consider adding additional open hours to your schedule. When considering open hours, make sure to keep the patient in mind, as they are likely going to be juggling their schedule as well.

To maximize any new hours, consider adding them outside the normal 9a-5p range, either opening early or staying later, to give patients maximum flexibility. Staggering or reducing off days could also provide flexibility. For example, by taking off Monday one week and Friday the next, you make yourself available to patients that possibly can only be seen on a Friday, in addition to making a 4-day weekend every other week. 

Any changes to hours should be clearly communicated online via your website, Google My Business Page, Yelp, and any social media pages. And being a Unique Dental Scheduling customer, you know your phone will be answered, allowing you to advertise longer and more flexible hours via all of these sources, creating additional value. 

Re-consider your appointment duration and double-booking strategies

Appointment Duration

How long does a given procedure actually take? When was the last time you reviewed your scheduling rules with respect to duration?

An efficient schedule will be more important than ever and finding 5-10 minutes across 4-5 appointments can be the difference of seeing another cleaning or emergency appointment each day. Track your time and see if there are efficiencies in appointment duration that can be leveraged into a more productive schedule.

Once you have the time tracking completed and ideal durations set, clearly communicate to your entire team with the updated schedule guidance and rules. This might involve switching your schedule from 15-minute increments to 10 or even 5-minute increments, but this is easily accomplished in virtually all practice management software systems.  

Double Booking Strategies

Many offices will double book emergencies vs. other procedures during down or non-active provider time. Using “provider time” based scheduling can be an ideal solution to create a productive schedule maximizing the active time for a doctor.

Scheduling by provider time typically involves some set-up to plan doctor vs. assistant time of any given appointment. Once the set-up is complete, you have the pieces and just need to complete the puzzle by creating a solid line of productive provider time.

Have a clear strategy for patients needing to be seeing without insurance

Many patients could be in the midst of changing insurance or without insurance completely during this time. Make sure your staff is getting updated and accurate information and is prepared to work with patients if and when this is the case. 

An in-office dental savings plan is a great starting point and might be a good fit for your office if you do not have one already. These plans provide both flexibility and assistance for patients along with consistent and predictable monthly revenue for the office. 

Other suggestions include free or no-risk consults for patients in pain or needing a second opinion. Try not to let price be the difference with a patient scheduling. Once they are in the chair at your practice, you will have the opportunity to personally help them in a setting more conducive to a discussion than on the phone. Plus, the treatment outlined might even be cheaper or less involved than what they are anticipating, either way making for a positive interaction and patient experience.

About Unique Dental Scheduling

After COVID, there will be a new normal across all of society, including dentistry. Getting patients back into the schedule will be more important than ever. Unique Dental Scheduling provides dental office scheduling support across ~85 hours per week, vastly expanding your own availability to schedule.

We offer dental-specific schedulers that complement your current phone answering process. Our ability to answer calls with our live, professionally-trained staff, and work seamlessly within your scheduling software ensures we’re working for you before you open and after you close, improving patient experience and maximizing your earning potential.

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