Running late can be a virus that infects and destroys every system in your office. It can negate all the money you spent on marketing and the goodwill with patients that took years to put in place. Running late is a super-sized no-no. I will assume that you are not just sneaking away to speak on the phone, so here are a few reasons why offices run late.
o Poor treatment planning: Be aggressive about treatment planning to make sure that a root canal doesn’t sneak up on you or a filling becomes a crown. Build this into your case presentation and treatment plan. Be critical and plan on it being a little worse than you thought. Once that is built in you should not run late because of a missed procedure.
o Being a legend in your own mind: Give yourself the time to do a perfect job without rushing, but you need to be as efficient and effective as possible. Don’t let the job expand to fill the time available. Always look at the systems, set up, and procedure to see if you can improve on how you deliver the service without compromising your quality or final product.
o Altering the treatment plan: You should almost never ever change the treatment plan during the operative appointment. The non-assertive doctor downgrades the treatment and does less, which means you produce less, while the assertive doctor upgrades the filling to a crown and produces more but has a patient who thinks they are a crook. End this conundrum before it begins by making sure that during your case presentation and treatment planning you are rock solid as to what you intend to do or not do. This will impress the patient as well as improve the consistent scheduling of appointments. Sometimes the worst thing you can do is to do more on that patient just because for the first time in your career you finished early on the prior patient. Don’t do it.
o Talking too much: It’s hard to believe, but no one really wants to socialize in the dental office. It just postpones the inevitable treatment that people were not excited about in the first place. Get in and get out. Deliver something that does not hurt the patient, looks good, feels good, and lasts a long time. Allow your staff to become the people in your practice everyone is looking forward to seeing, not you. Non-assertive doctors talk too much to justify their fees, while the assertive doctor talks too much because they like to hear themselves talk. Neither reason benefits a patient who has a treatment plan, financial arrangements, and an appointment they would like to be finished with.
o You start late at the day’s first appointment: It’s called the “ripple” effect. If you are the last person to arrive in the morning there is nothing you can do to make the day stay on schedule. You need to show up early, ready to work, with a can do attitude. It’s show time all day long. You need to under-promise and over-deliver to inspire patients today.
o Hygiene checks: If done correctly, you should be in and out in just a few minutes. If done incorrectly, you will take thirty minutes or more. A hygiene check should never be done at the end of the appointment. You are not checking to see if the patient is cleaned well. It is done at the point when the hygienist has triaged the patient, discussed everything she has seen, answered all of the patient’s questions, and found out what they want and can afford. When you do go in to see the patient, be sure to partner with the hygienist to triage the patient, learn what they want, what their dental IQ is and what their budget is before you open your mouth and mess it all up. Allow the hygienist to summarize what she has seen and told the patient what you might recommend, while you patiently wait and listen. Once she is done, the patient will be impressed that she listened, and repeated word for word what they had discussed. Now it’s your turn: Pretend to look at the x-rays, photos, treatment plan, and the patients mouth while nodding yes and confirm that indeed, you guys had it correct. You then close by repeating what the hygienist said earlier: “It sounds like what you would like to do is the lower right crown and the two fillings, but wait on the other side for the next cleaning, it that correct?” YES will always be the answer, so you hand the patient off to the hygienist and close by telling the patient thank you, and turning to the hygienist and saying (while lightly touching the patients shoulder) “Hygienist, you make sure that you tell the front desk that even if you have to move someone, to get Mrs. Patient in within the next couple of days.”
o Emergency patient check: (REREAD HYGIENE CHECKS ABOVE) Start partnering with your staff in staging every contact with every patient to get them to show up, pay for their treatment, and refer everyone they know. If you are not growing, you are not meeting your patient’s needs.
o Same day dentistry: Awesome strategy for increased production when done right. Trouble is, most of us don’t do it right. Stamp this on your assistant’s forehead and don’t forget that if you do same day dentistry, it should never cause you to keep anyone else waiting, make you run behind, run over into lunch, or go past the end of the day. If it does, don’t do it.
o Not allowing the staff to do everything they can legally do in your state from a clinical standpoint: Don’t do what others can do for you and often times actually do better. Buy a head start by having the room set up and ready to go, the patient ready to go, and everything done that you can delegate. You are the main event, not the warm up band.
I have pointed out the obvious, but what you do about it is up to you. I think running behind could be added to our Energy Vampire list, because its effect on patients and staff can be devastating. Tackle this and you can count on a substantial increase in production, decrease in stress, and a lot more happy, referring patients.
This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS