DDS: Dad and Dental Surgeon
DDS: Dad and Dental Surgeon
A blog not just about dentistry, but about your other job as well, being a dad. I want to give you some advice in both areas because you can't just be good at one of these, you need to excel at both!
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Playing the Lottery with Your Patients

Playing the Lottery with Your Patients

6/4/2019 10:05:38 AM   |   Comments: 0   |   Views: 28

I was flipping through an ADA Newsletter when I came across this graph below:





In case you can't read the small text there, it states:


"The average wait time for new patients and patients of record for general practitioner appointment's decreased significantly from the early 2000's in part illustrating stagnating dental care utilization and lack of busyness among dentists.However, wait time have been rising steadily since 2012.






This chart shows in days the average wait time for a new patient (green) and an existing established patient (red) to get an appointment in a dental office.Back in 2001, wait times were at a peak.  New patients had to wait an average of 10.8 days to get seen by a dentist, and if you've been going to your dentist for years and have a toothache or issue, it took a whopping 9.6 days.In 2012, those numbers dropped to their lowest on the graph, with new patients only waiting 5.3 days for an appointment, and existing patients 4.5 days respectively.As of 2017, the most current year the data is from according to this chart, new patients now wait an average of 7 days to be seen with existing patients waiting 5.4 days to get in.




...And that is the first problem this chart brings to my attention....




Why are we discriminating here? Why do we not value a new patient just as much as an existing patient? Why do new patients have to wait longer to be seen?




A new patient is like a lottery ticket walking through your office doors. Let me explain. Some of them are not winners at all, wastes of your time, refuse x-rays and any kind of treatment plan for their dental needs, all they want is a cleaning, and to leave your office as soon as possible. Some patients win you the cost of your lottery ticket back and maybe a few extra bucks.The patient is nice, normal, and wants to establish routine care at your office every six months and may have the occasional minor procedure that needs to be done (filling, extraction, SRP, etc...).And then some lottery tickets are big winners.That patient who wants a full arch of cosmetic work, implants, or crowns. The kind of lottery ticket winnings that make you want to jump for joy and shout at the top of a mountain.




How can you tell who's going to be a winner and who's going to be a loser? Well...just like with a lottery don't know until you scratch it off.Why do we play the lottery? We know we have a good chance of losing.We know that the high high majority of the time, you aren't going to retire based off of one ticket.So why do we play?Because there is a chance that with every lottery ticket we hold, you could be holding the big one, the grand prize, the life changing money that will answer all of your prayers and meet all of your needs.It's the same mentality that makes gambling enjoyable and sometimes addictive.Deep down inside you know that the casinos build these luxurious grand buildings with your money that you lose in their casino.But when we walk into that casino with our gambling money, all that we think about is that one roll of the dice or a hot streak at the blackjack table can bring about life changing money.




So, if every individual lottery ticket (patient) brings about only a small chance of a win, wouldn't you want to have as many lottery tickets (patients) as possible coming into your office to better your chances at winning?




Why does it take us an average of 7 days to get a new patient (a lottery ticket) into our office???






Maybe the answer is that we are getting busier as dentists and we just don't have the time in our normal business hours to see any more patients, new or existing.Well..that would be the logical explanation to this if it were not for this chart that was in the SAME NEWSLETTER as the one above:







29% of solo practitioner dentists reported that they are "not busy enough" and 22% of employee dentists (non-owners) stated the same thing.That's a significant number and a significant amount of down time spent surfing Facebook or Fox News in your office.




I believe that there is one solution to both of these problems:




Get patients in your doors quicker!!!






You have the chairs available to see more patients who weren't on the schedule when you got to work that morning.If all of your chairs were full all day, every day, you wouldn't be reporting that you're not "busy enough".  If all of your chairs are full all day, every day, well then it's time to expand your office and add some more chairs.But that's a conversation for another day.




A lot of us have at least one or two cancellations in our schedule daily.  And we all have those patients that we know by name, that when they are on the schedule, you know there's a high chance, they aren't coming in.  Sometimes a big case that we were looking forward to all day long cancels or no shows, and it can really ruin our day....if you let it.




Here are a couple real simple things you can do immediately to not only make yourself busier, but also to decrease your average wait time to see new and existing patients.

  1. Double book yourself at slower times in the day
    • There are several types of appointments that don't require much of your time that you can squeeze in between another appointment or procedure that you are doing.  
      • New patient consults with exam and x-rays - you can easily fit a new patient appointment and consult in between a break during a root canal or crown.  It takes at least 10 minutes for the IA to get numb if you are working on a lower tooth, so instead of going to your office and surfing the internet, see a new patient instead!!
      • Re-evals - We have a specific type of appointment in our office called a re-eval.  This appointment is reserved for someone who has missed their six month recall and routine exam, cleaning appointment.  They typically range anywhere from one to three years since being seen last.  This type of patient is just as good as a NEW PATIENT!!!  Even if you were the last dentist they saw, if they haven't been keeping up with their routine check up and cleanings, they most likely will have a cavity or two or need a tooth pulled or a deep cleaning done.  Welcome them back to your office, diagnosis any new issues that need to be addressed, and get them in as soon as possible!!!
      • Emergencies - When one of your existing patients has a toothache or chips a front tooth, they don't want to wait to be seen for a week.  They are either in pain or can't smile because of their problem.  Get these patients in immediately.  Even if your schedule is absolutely full that day and you can't treat any more patients, you can at least take a quick x-ray, diagnose the issue, and bring them back for the procedure needed the next day or that same week when you do have an availability.  
  3. Multitask
    • I hinted at this in the last section, but if you don't have the ability to see multiple patients at the same time, you are limiting your success and potential as a dentist.  As long as the state you practice in allows for it, your assistants can make your temporary crowns (or do the scans on your CEREC machine if you do same day crowns).  EDDAs or EFDAs or whatever they are called in your state can place fillings for you after you prep the tooth, freeing you up to do another procedure.  Hygienists can do your scaling and root planing procedure.  The list goes on and on.  
    • Get quicker at the procedures you are doing
      • As you gain more and more experience and get better and better at your skill set, one of the things you should notice is that it should take you less time to do the same procedure than it did maybe 2 years ago (this applies ESPECIALLY to newer dentists).  Study after study suggests that the faster you are at a procedure, the higher quality the treatment is.  You block off 60-90 minutes in your schedule for a crown, how much of your time is actually spent in that room doing that procedure?  All I hear when I ask a dentist “how long does it take you to do a crown?” They all immediately without hesitating say anywhere from 5-10 minutes, almost as if they are bragging about how quick they can prep a crown.  If you can prep a crown in 5-10 minutes, why are you blocking off 60-90 minutes for that procedure?? Schedule the crown for 30-60 minutes respectively and then put another patient in that open time slot.  Schedule patients more closely to how much of the doctor’s time will be spent in the room, not how much time the patient may actually sit in that room (again, if you don’t have enough chairs in your office this can be an issue and cause a roadblock).  

Dentistry is just like a retail business or store.  The more customers that you get to walk through your doors, the more dentistry you will do which will increase collections and decrease overhead making your office more successful.  The more lottery tickets you accumulate, the higher the chance of getting that bigger payoff.  So keep scratching.  



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