By Susan Richards
Sales seasonality may be more easily defined in the world of retail, but most dentists agree that summer is their season to smile about. General Dentistry practitioners and Pediatric Dentists alike typically see an upswing in appointments in the summer months as kids are out of school and people’s schedules are generally more flexible.
We continue to monitor the ongoing Health Policy Institute’s (HPI) report on the state of the dental industry since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, getting a glimpse at the progress and concerns as we head into warmer weather. The May 2022 outlook shows a healthier 86% of full schedules, however staffing issues and flagging confidence in the nation’s economy continue to put a strain on practices.
When looking ahead at the summer months and the rest of 2022, there are several effective steps to take to counter the financial uncertainty in the country and boost your practice’s success.
Get in front of the summer surge by having a plan. Try to schedule new patients early so their treatment plans can be managed throughout the summer where necessary. Pediatric practices may want to look at adding oral hygiene chairs for the short term and consider these 10 steps to boost productivity.
Just as those in retail know not to take vacations during the holidays, encourage your staff to plan their time off to avoid the heavy months – especially August, right before school starts. For morale and practical purposes, order lunch in on busy days.
Monitor the flow of each day through consultation, treatment, and front desk time in order to mitigate delays or gaps in the schedule.
When you and your team have processes in place, it’s easier to avert those unexpected surprises that are inevitable or at least make them more manageable. For instance, set up a protocol for dental emergencies so the whole schedule isn’t disrupted when one occurs.
Track the time for room set-up and tear-down, tool sterilization, and patient prep so you’ll know how to best block time for each appointment.
Establish a stricter policy in the summer for cancellations and late arrivals to avoid gaps in the schedule.
Because one of the biggest bumps in the road to a smooth daily schedule is late patients and cancellations, be sure to train your front desk staff to counsel patients on arriving early and canceling ahead of time wherever possible. Provide scripts for these conversations as well as for proactively scheduling appointments before school starts.
If your state allows dental assistants or hygienists to cross-train and perform certain procedures, this could provide more hands on deck, saving time, money and headaches. With approximately 40% of dentists actively recruiting hygienists and assistants right now, hiring extra help could be difficult which is where cross-training staff can plug the gaps.
Set aside time each week to review with the team which processes are working and what potential bottlenecks can be avoided. If necessary, add hours on Saturdays or holidays when more dental emergencies are likely to occur.
5. Look Ahead
Full chairs and waiting rooms in the summer months are always encouraging but be sure to keep your eye on the rest of the year. Don’t slow down your marketing plans because you’re busy. By advertising for back-to-school and slower months, you can fill the pipeline now. Perhaps create a referral program for summer patients which will generate goodwill and more business.
It's also a great time to plan those deferred vacations allowing everyone to recharge after a busy summer. By taking these proactive steps you can keep your cool with a steady flow of business into autumn.
Author: Susan Richards is a staff writer at DOCS Education. With over 20 years of experience in local journalism and business marketing, Susan’s career includes award-winning feature writing, as well as creating content with context for a wide variety of industries.