Fixing your fall schedule fallout: 4 proven ways to finish 2020 strong

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June, July, and August 2020 have been record production months in many dental practices. This isn't surprising, given that most, if not all, of those practices were shut down for the prior three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Analysis from Dental Intelligence shows that these practices are seeing more visits, have higher production per visit, are diagnosing more treatment, and are open for more hours than they were prior to March of this year. All of this is welcome news.

With all of this positive news, there is an important piece of data that everyone should be aware of. Many fourth-quarter hygiene schedules are full of holes, a direct consequence of that shutdown for much of the second quarter.

Curtis Marshall is the director of partner operations for Dental Intelligence.Curtis Marshall is the director of partner operations for Dental Intelligence.

Most practices would have around 80% or more of their fall schedule filled. In 2020, the opposite is true, as most practices are showing schedules less than half-filled, with some as low as 15%. Obviously, this is not what anyone would consider a healthy forecast, but there are still several reasons to be optimistic.

This is why tracking the present and forecasting the future are so important. If we don't know where we are, it's hard, if not impossible, to really be sure we're still moving in the right direction. Is your practice like this? Have you been so busy and so stretched by what's happening right now that you may have stopped thinking about what's ahead?

Even if you haven't been tracking and forecasting, there are still some proven, simple steps you can take to set your practice up for a fabulous fourth quarter. Because we at Dental Intelligence help thousands of dental practices around the U.S. in their efforts to grow, we have come up with four key performance indicators we think are critical to the health of any dental practice.

No one has time to call every active patient who may not have a scheduled appointment and hope that he or she wants to come in. The more effective strategy is to focus your efforts on specific patients in high-value categories who have the greatest need for care and will give the biggest return.

Here are those four key performance metrics you should be looking at on a regular basis:

  1. Unscheduled family members
  2. Unscheduled treatment
  3. Past-due accounts receivable (AR)
  4. Unscheduled hygiene

These four metrics are some of the most important numbers to measure in a dental practice. Each one tells an important story about the overall health and growth potential of your office and should be something you are regularly reviewing.

Unscheduled family members

This is a big one and also an easy one to overlook. When a patient is sitting in your chair, how much unscheduled treatment does he or she represent? The answer is not only what he or she personally hasn't yet scheduled, but also any treatment that any family members haven't yet scheduled. That can really add up.

One way to address this is by identifying unscheduled family members before a scheduled patient comes in for the appointment. This is a great opportunity to discuss the need to get those appointments on the books or even to suggest that one or more of those unscheduled family members come in with their scheduled family member, especially given that fewer times are currently available and require more preparation on your end.

Another approach would be to identify those family members with the patient and ask him or her for help in encouraging the spouse or child to schedule an appointment.

Unscheduled treatment

Most dental practices have hundreds of thousands of dollars of unscheduled treatment waiting in current treatment plans. How often is someone reviewing that information and reaching out to those patients? In a typical practice, not very often (if ever).

If this type of information isn't in front of you daily, it's easy to understand why it would be easy to neglect something so important. You obviously wouldn't call these patients each day, but knowing who they are and what their plans are for scheduling presented treatment is not something you can trust to a Post-it note or reminder you added three months ago to the patient file.

Past-due AR

Having a healthy cash flow is important for a dental practice during any given year, but especially during the current pandemic. You don't need to be reminded that not having any production for 10 to 12 weeks was not good for your bottom line. Does someone own this in your practice, meaning he or she knows exactly who owes what and what the current status is for every past-due balance? Make this a part of your regular review of the practice's performance and you may be surprised at how much of a difference doing so has on your revenue.

Like each of these suggestions, paying regular attention to past-due AR won't require hours and hours of your time. In just 15 to 20 minutes a day, you can significantly affect the health of the practice by staying on top of past-due AR balances.

Unscheduled hygiene

Hygiene is at the heart of any successful dental practice. This likely is not news to you. Your hygienists identify needed treatment that can either lead to hygiene production or restorative production for the dentist. They generally see many more patients each day than a doctor would, which, in turn, leads to more future scheduled production that affects the entire practice. All this (and much, much more) is why paying close attention to your unscheduled hygiene is so important to the success of your practice.

There are two simple action items here.

First, do all you can to schedule those next appointments before the patient leaves the practice. Obvious? Yes, but our data show this happens, on average, less than half the time after an appointment, so you likely have room for improvement.

Second, instead of trying to call every patient with unscheduled hygiene, prioritize your recall list by the criteria most important to you. This could be by type or value of treatment, insurance provider, date presented, or any of a number of other options.

Practices that follow these guidelines will be able to fill the holes in the fourth quarter and push toward forecasting for success in the future. Data-driven practices understand that by monitoring and acting based on their key performance metrics, they will thrive in any environment. Start by looking at each of these four measurements and determine where you are, then create and implement an action plan for your team to unite around. Brighter days are still to come.

If you would like to see where your practice is at right now and discover powerful, proven ways to use data to help you improve and grow, we'd love to help. Visit us at to learn more.

Curtis Marshall is the director of partner operations for Dental Intelligence.

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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