The 3 Ps of Scheduling
Episode #364 with Christina Byrne
When you create the schedule you want, your life will be so much better. And to help you create that ideal schedule, Kirk Behrendt brings back one of ACT Dental’s superstar coaches, Christina Byrne, to share three key things to know about productive scheduling. Stop chasing patients who don't value what you do! Understand and implement the three Ps of scheduling and increase your number of “A” patients. To start creating the schedule you want, listen to Episode 364 of The Best Practices Show!
Profitability, predictability, and productivity are the three important Ps.
Create the schedule you want from the very beginning.
Scheduling needs to be strategic.
Identify the kinds of patients you're putting into your schedule.
Don't chase patients who don't want to be in your office.
Choose to see your “C” patients, but on your own terms.
“[Scheduling is] a huge problem because everybody has their own idea of what a good schedule should be. And it depends on where you are in your career, where you are in your ability to get patients in and see the right patients. And so, there's often this huge struggle between the front and the back with regards to the schedule, and then even tighter between the doctor and the assistants. And hygiene is usually tapping their foot too because they need the doctor’s time. So, it seems like it’s easy to just, a patient is in the schedule, and just do dentistry, and everything will work itself out. But it won't. And it has to be something that's done really strategically.” (2:19—3:02)
“From the very beginning, just create the schedule you want. Don't get sucked into thinking you have to throw everything into the schedule wherever it fits. Really create the schedule that you want.” (3:09—3:21)
“I've noticed in my years of coaching and also being in the dental practice, like I said, I was an assistant, I worked at the front desk, then I went to hygiene school. So, I know what the schedule means to every single role in the office. And the three things that I keep coming up with when I coach teams is that they want three things, and all of them start with “P.” They want profitability, they want predictability, and they want the schedule to be productive.” (6:08—6:36)
“If I had to pick one [of the three Ps] that is the most important one, I would have to say it’s predictable. Because from predictability, you will become profitable. You will have productivity in your schedule, and you're also going to have happy team members. So, I think predictability is probably the highest one.” (6:56—7:16)
“To me, [predictability] means that we know when we start, we know when we break for lunch, we know when we end for the day. It means that we have done our due diligence and our homework to know that when I do a crown prep, 85% to 90% of the time, it’s going to take me six or seven units to do that. When I do a seat crown, it’s going to take me three. And that has its own things, ‘Is my lab good? What does my scanning look like?’ So, if you get that stuff predictable, then your seat crown appointment is going to be predictable. You should never have to schedule more than three units for that, 85% of the time.” (8:18—8:59)
“This is healthcare, and there are things that come up. But just imagine, if you could be predictable in 85% of your day, then those things that do come up are not going to cause the chaos that normally happens.” (8:59—9:11)
“It’s all about making sure that the people who you are serving value what you do.” (10:12—10:19)
“Patient identification is a way to decide where and when you're going to put the patients in your practice, into the schedule. And it’s really about understanding who values what you do, basically. Do they pay on time? Do they show up on time? Do they bother to call if they’re not going to show up on time? Do they accept treatment? Are they patients who call us once every three years because they broke a tooth? So, I think that we need to understand who we’re putting into the schedule so that we can be predictable.” (10:45—11:25)
“One of the things that I find offices doing is that they are chasing people who don't want to be there, and they're appointing people who don't want to be there. If you have a patient with a high track record of no-shows or showing up late, why do we keep putting them in the schedule?” (11:25—11:43)
“You have said that 80% of your production comes from your “A” patients, and 80% of your headaches come from your “C” patients. And it’s so true. We can almost always trace back when there's an issue to the schedule, or we ran late and somebody didn't get a lunch, it’s because we let a “C” patient get into the schedule. Now, I'm not saying that they're bad people. They're fine people. They just don't share the values that the practice has.” (12:49—13:17)
“We don't want to abandon [the “C” patients]. We can see them, but we have to see them on our terms, not on theirs. They're great schedule fillers. So, if I have an opening, maybe that's the list I go to. Somebody who just doesn't schedule, or we don't want them to schedule, I'll just call them and say, ‘Mrs. Jones, I had a change in my schedule at 10:00 today. Are you free?’ And then, if she comes in, great. Then I've used her for that, and she got the care that she needed. But I don't want to count on her to show up when I've scheduled her six months ahead.” (13:18—13:50)
“[The second “P”] is profitable, because it is a practice, it is a business that we have to have. If we’re not profitable, then it doesn't matter what our schedule looks like because we’re not going to be in business anymore. So, we do have to consider that profitability.” (14:47—15:00)
“Doctors, I'm also going to ask you, please do not give patients your cell phone numbers. Because I've had this happen too where [the] team is great, the team is aligned, they are following the patient identification — everything’s great. And they tell Mrs. Jones, who’s cancelled seven times in the last three months, that we’re going to put her out six months, and she calls the doctor, ‘How come you can't get me in sooner?’ So, we all have to be on the same page when it comes to this system.” (15:51—16:19)
“[For profitable scheduling], understand what you need to collect, what is your break-even point every month, and understand what you need to schedule in order to collect that.” (17:30—17:42)
“A lot of times, doctors are a little hesitant about talking about [numbers] with their team. They don't want to talk about money. They don't want to talk about numbers, and goals, and targets, and things like that. But your team is there to help you. And when we set that expectation that this is what we need, then they're going to be there to do it, as long as we all agree that we’re going to do it. But we’re not just going to cram everybody in to make those dollars. We’re going to do it strategically and predictably and in a profitable way.” (18:17—18:47)
“[Being productive] is where it becomes a tougher challenge when there are those PPOs. But you have to think about what does it mean to be productive. And oftentimes, we think, ‘Oh, if I just keep putting stuff in the schedule, I'll be productive.’ But we have to be really careful about that too. We have to understand, are we doing work on people who don't know what their portion is going to be? Are we doing a lot of same-day dentistry? That's one of the things I think is happening a lot with a lot of my practices right now. And I think it might be off of COVID-19, people just feel like, ‘Well, they came in. They're here now. I don't have time for another six weeks. I'm just going to do it now.’ But you're getting yourselves into a little bit of trouble, not just with the team but also with the patient.” (23:18—24:07)
“If you're rushing in to do that extra filling and not really stopping to let the patient know that you're doing this, or to tell them and go over what the financials are, you might be doing that and you're not going to get paid on it. What would you rather have, a free hour, or do you want to have an hour where you do work on somebody that you're not going to get paid for? It doesn't make any sense. Yeah, the production looks good. Production is great. But it’s what you collect that is really important. So, you have to think about it from that perspective.” (24:07—24:45)
“One of the responsibilities I like to get my doctors to commit to in front of me and in front of their team is that they're going to give up control over same-day dentistry and not just do it on their own. Because they look at their schedule and think, ‘Well, I'm good. I can do this,’ but they're not thinking about everybody else’s schedule.” (24:53—25:12)
“One of the things I like to have my teams do is debrief about the schedule. So, I mentioned earlier there might be some tools that we’ll add into here. One of them is a schedule analysis. And I think it’s super important to understand what is happening in the schedule and try to be proactive in the future. So, taking a couple of days — not just bad days. I want to also analyze and debrief and celebrate the good days — and think about why were they good days, what did we do different on these days that made us productive and profitable, and we all got out on time and everybody had a lunch.” (27:41—28:21)
“Verbal skills are important with this too. If scheduling is your priority, you might not think verbal skills comes into play. But it does, because we have to know how to communicate where to put the patient. If we think about ourselves as professional schedulers, then we know where to put the patient. We know what's best for us. We just talked about how to create a productive and profitable day. Then, I need to know where to put all of these patients. So, we have to stop letting patients put themselves in our schedule.” (31:28—32:03)
“I don't like to hear, ‘When would you like to come in?’ because then that assumes that it could be any time. I want to be really strategic about it. I want to make sure that my doctor feels really good about the day, and that by the end of the day, we've hit our production goals. I've said before I don't mind giving the patient choices. But those choices should be what I want. So, ‘We can do this Monday or next Monday. We can do 12:00 or 3:00.’ And then, they feel like they're picking. But really, they're choosing two options that would be very good for me.” (32:05—32:40)
1:40 The scheduling problem.
4:07 The three Ps of scheduling.
6:41 Which “P” is the most important?
7:17 What predictability means to a great coach.
9:42 Serve people who value what you do.
10:42 Patient identification.
11:58 Put your energy where it matters.
13:51 The second “P”: profitability.
17:12 Where to start in profitable scheduling.
19:23 Plan to create the practice that you want.
22:24 The third “P”: productivity.
27:34 Other things to know for productive scheduling.
29:53 Verbal skills are also important for scheduling.
33:11 Why a coach can help you and your practice.
35:04 Last thoughts on scheduling.
Reach Out to Christina:
Christina’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ACT Dental’s free practice resources: https://www.actdental.com/free-resources
Christina Byrne Bio:
Christina Byrne has been involved in dentistry since 1985. Over the years, she has held many positions on the dental team, including dental assistant, business office, and dental hygienist. Christina’s extensive knowledge of the front office and clinical procedures is a great asset, and she loves to impart her knowledge to guide dental teams do the best they can to achieve a Better Practice, Better Life!
“One of the many unique things I love about ACT Dental is that we put as much emphasis on improving the culture of the practice as increasing the profitability. That is not to say we don’t have a keen sense of the financial health of the practice. But what we have learned time and time again is that when you do what’s right for yourself, your team, and your patients, the money will follow!”