Dos and don'ts for scheduling: Take emergencies in stride

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Emergencies are, by nature, unexpected. And yet every dental practice should expect that, from time to time, patients will present with emergency needs. These events will be disruptive to some extent, especially if they occur when you have a full schedule of planned patient care, but you can minimize the negative consequences.


Based on practice history, leave schedule openings for emergency cases. With experience, you and your staff will have learned what types of emergencies are likely to occur, how often, and how much time you'll need to cope with them. Reserve time for possible emergencies -- and be prepared to fill those slots with nonemergency patients who are on standby so the production time will not be lost.


Don't let patients decide what constitutes an emergency. Your front desk coordinator should be prepared to "triage" patients who call in with emergencies. Whereas you'll need to see a patient experiencing serious pain as soon as possible, someone whose cap just came off may (with reassurance from you) be able to wait until the next day for a repair.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the founder and CEO of Levin Group, the leading dental practice consulting firm in North America. For the complete list of dates and locations where you can attend his latest seminar, visit

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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