Is Your Dental Practice Busy but Not Productive? Tips for Improving Efficiency and Patient Care

March 02, 2021

By:  Erick Cutler CPA

Achieving greater efficiency in your dental practice will improve patient satisfaction, raise staff morale, and increase your profitability. But where do you start?

You can enhance productivity by focusing on office procedures and patient communications, using technology effectively and improving office layout and workflow. From booking appointments to dental procedures and billing, you can optimize each step of the patient experience to help make your dental practice run more efficiently and effectively. Even better, all staff members can participate and contribute to enriching the operations of your dental office.

Front Desk Procedures and Appointments

Many patients come to their dental appointments somewhat reluctantly, so it’s important to have a welcoming waiting room and efficient front desk. Technology can help speed desk processes and streamline check-in and appointment scheduling. Some tips to improve your front desk area include:

  • Greet and check in patients quickly to confirm appointments and update dental insurance coverage.
  • Consider using tablets for new patients to input their personal data and create electronic dental records. This protects patient privacy and effortlessly ties into your electronic records system.
  • Use electronic dental records to provide all staff members access to the overall picture of the patient’s health, dental concerns, and treatment. They improve efficiency and reduce errors in patient charts.
  • If the practice is behind due to an unforeseen situation with a patient, let those in the waiting room know that there is a delay and keep them posted regularly.
  • When patients check out, take payment electronically to incorporate insurance payments and provide a final bill.
  • With the patient’s permission, schedule text reminders for future appointments. Most people pick up text messages within 30 minutes of receiving them, so this is an efficient way to remind patients and reduce cancellations.

Procedures and Scheduling

It’s crucial to stay on schedule throughout a busy day, so it’s in your best interest to make sure you appropriately schedule procedures. If a patient needs a 45-minute appointment but is scheduled for a 20-minute slot, the rest of the day will be off for the staff and the patient may leave feeling stressed. Some ways to gain efficiency in scheduling include:

  • Review the past few months and highlight days where problems occurred. Research what happened to throw off the schedule and consider what you could have done differently.
  • Estimate the average length of time for procedures performed by dentists and for those performed by hygienists, assistants, and other staff members. Check this against the experience over the past few months to see if you are scheduling patients appropriately.
  • Work with both the front desk staff and the patient care team to share information on patient scheduling and set goals for improvement.
  • Use dental practice software to schedule patients according to the estimated time needed for their procedures.

Office Design and Layout

You should arrange the layout of a dental office so that service delivery is efficient for both the staff and patients. Although office layouts are as individual as each dental practice, there are some common themes for a successful design:

  • The waiting room should be open and inviting. The check-in desk should be separate from the checkout and billing area to improve workflow.
  • Dentists should have a private area to review patient records prior to seeing them.
  • Patient exam areas should be well-lit and equipped with all the tools and technology needed to perform a range of procedures. Exam areas should be easily accessible for dentists, staff, and patients.
  • Staff members may need a common area for breaks, team meetings, and training.

Taking steps to improve the productivity and efficiency of your dental practice goes a long way to making it more profitable, and making your patients’ experience more positive.

About Erick Cutler

Erick Cutler is a Partner in the Private Business Services Group, with nearly 25 years of public accounting experience including health care and the real estate industry.