By Roger P. Levin, DDS

Even in the most efficient orthodontic practices, the scheduling system usually has some bottlenecks, missing protocols, or other problems that limit productivity. Given the central role scheduling plays, identifying and eliminating these shortcomings can have a surprisingly dramatic impact not only on production but also on customer service, office environment, profitability, and professional satisfaction.

Following are five steps orthodontic practices can take to upgrade their scheduling systems:

  1. Create an “Ideal Day” Template. The orthodontist and team should work together to define an ideal day at the practice. Factoring in personal preferences, the nature of the patient base, and other factors will come into play. The goal is to establish a structure and workflow that’s uniform, day after day. In most cases, this will mean scheduling larger cases in the morning, when energy levels are highest.
  2. Conduct Procedural Time Studies. Changes in technologies and personnel often alter how long it takes the doctor and clinical staff to perform common tasks. Practices should time each procedure 10 times, average the results, and use the averages to schedule “right-sized” appointments.
  3. Use 10-Minute Increments When Scheduling Appointments. Simple arithmetic makes it clear that a practice can allocate time more accurately when it uses 10-minute—rather than 15-minute—units. Practices can increase their capacity without working longer hours simply by shifting to 10-minute scheduling.
  4. Establish a Daily Production Target. Targets drive performance improvements. Ortho practices consistently produce more when they calculate an annual production goal, break it down to a daily production target, and track daily results against that target.
  5. Keep Slots Open for New Patients. Increased competition and ortho shopping make it imperative that practices schedule new patients within 7 days. Reserving specific blocks in the schedule will make this possible.

These and other scheduling improvements will enable orthodontic practices to grow with more efficiency rather than more effort. OP

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