June is just around the corner, signaling the start of the busiest time of year for dental office management across the country. CWA Financial Planner Bill Harrigan says his orthodontic, oral surgery and pediatric dentistry clients are especially busy in June, July and August. General practices have traditionally seen an upswing in activity during the summer months, too.
The main reason running a dental practice is about to get more challenging: the summer break for school children.
“Most kids are out of school, and it’s easier for parents to schedule appointments,” Harrigan said. “For orthodontics, getting fitted during the summer gives the child some time to get used to braces before having to go back to school in the fall.”
During the summer, adult patients may have more flexibility in their personal schedules, making it easier to schedule the extra time needed for oral surgery procedures. Regardless of your practice specialty, getting ready this month can make a big difference in dental office management to guide your staff through the months ahead.
Get new patients in early
One of the best ways to manage the season is by getting new patients scheduled and in the pipeline this month, ahead of the surge.
“With orthodontic and oral surgery practices especially, getting new patients into your production stream now helps a lot,” Harrigan says. “If you can see them in the spring, then you can start scheduling out according to their treatment plans. This makes your summer much stronger for production.”
For pediatric dental practices, adding more oral hygiene chairs and capacity for the summer months can improve financial results also.
Make sure all hands are on deck
When it comes to managing staff through the busy season, Harrigan recommends these tips to his clients:
– Discourage staff from scheduling vacation time during June, July or August
– Monitor the flow of the daily schedule, to identify and alleviate bottlenecks before they become train wrecks
– Consider adding Saturday hours during the summer if you don’t already
– Train front desk staff on how to gently enforce scheduling with patients; sticking to the schedule keeps your practice productive, but not frantic
Enjoy the crunch
With dentists focusing on quality of patient care, it’s easy to feel run down and tired during the busy season. Harrigan recommends dentists regularly schedule some down time into their personal schedules, to refresh and relax.
“We encourage clients to work smarter, not harder,” Harrigan said. “Staying organized and on schedule makes everyone’s day easier. And making time for yourself will energize you when you are back at work.”
To keep your practice team motivated and rewarded, schedule a few team meals. Have lunch brought into your practice if possible, versus going out to a restaurant. You will save time, and you can record the meals 100% as a business expense if they occur at your office.
Look at the entire year
Inevitably, the summer rush leads to a lessening of practice activity in the early fall. Harrigan recommends accounting for that slower September in your annual planning, to ensure a healthy short-term cash flow during slower months. Being realistic in your annual planning will also help you schedule large expenditures for minimum impact.
Adjust your processes as needed
A regular review of the workflow of your practice can be helpful. After the busy season settles down, lead a positively-focused debrief with your staff. Ask for specific suggestions on improving how the practice operates.
Harrigan recommends doing this after the daily workload eases up, so your team members can speak to any issues without being emotional from the stress of busy workdays. Along with helping to continually improve the quality of your patient care, it can build teamwork among your staff and recognize their hard work.
“The bottom line is this: Getting prepared now, then taking care of your team – and yourself – during the busy summer can lessen office stress, and help keep everyone focused on patient care,” Harrigan said. “This will translate into a productive season, that can be invigorating and fun, also.”