Efficient, economical, and patient-friendly: good patient management is one of the most important pillars of any dental practice. But what can you do if you do not have enough time for all of your patients? Long waiting times can be very frustrating for patients. In this article, we will show you how to handle an ever-increasing number of regular as well as emergency patients. After all, efficient patient management not only means less stress for your team but also satisfied patients who are likely to come to your practice again.
Dealing with emergency patients
Emergency patients visit dental practices every day. For the most part, it is difficult to accommodate emergency patients due to the large number of regular patients. Appointments are tightly scheduled to prevent long waits. Therefore, it is important to schedule certain time slots for emergency patients. We also recommend keeping detailed records of emergency patients’ complaints and the time needed (see article Documentation obligation). You can draw conclusions from this historical data and, thus, improve your patient management process.
But beware: not all emergency patients are the same! That is why it can be helpful to categorize the severity of each case. Does the patient need immediate treatment? Can you treat the patient a couple of hours later or can you schedule an appointment within the next few days? This categorization allows you to plan efficiently and reduce the impact on existing appointments.
How to optimize your patient management
Shorter wait times lead to happier patients. Going to the dentist is not very pleasant for many patients and sometimes even associated with anxiety. If the scheduled appointment is delayed by an hour, the patient’s mood can deteriorate significantly.
The basis for efficient patient management is a good concept. From the first contact with the patient to treatment, consultation, follow-up, documentation, and billing – you should structure your processes well. Based on your previous experience, such as the time and number of employees required, you should adjust and improve the processes accordingly.
Here are some helpful questions:
- In which months do patients schedule appointments more frequently?
- At what times do emergency patients usually come to the practice?
- Which days and times are considered peak hours and should not be dedicated to treating emergency patients?
With this approach, you will succeed in establishing certain routines in your dental practice.
Of course, even with the best plan, unpredictable events occur. Prepare yourself and your team and discuss what to do in which scenario! If patients have to wait longer than expected, transparent and open communication is key. Let your receptionist prepare patients for longer waiting times by offering them a glass of water, for example. We recommend a display of various magazines in the waiting area – specialist magazines from the field of dentistry and magazines, daily newspapers, and the like.
Digital patient management will make it easier for your practice and your patients to schedule appointments. Patients can, thus, easily view and schedule appointments online via your website. This will lead to fewer phone calls, giving your team more time to spend with patients in your practice. You can read more about this in our blog post about Doctolib and jameda.
In summary, try to analyze your patient volume in detail to develop an individual patient management plan for your practice and optimize it continuously. If delays do occur, friendly and open communication is key – especially with anxiety patients (see article Anxiety patients).