Good time management is one of the fundamentals of any dental practice. If processes are not clearly structured and the duration of each treatment is not correctly estimated, waiting times go up. This results in dissatisfied patients, who in turn vent their displeasure on the staff. Therefore, try to optimize your time management so that you are not caught in this vicious circle in the first place.
Optimization through structures, routines, and empirical values
Optimal time management is the basis of a well-functioning dental practice. This requires appropriate planning. Document all workflows in an as-is analysis of your dental practice and objectively monitor the current workflow of your team. Furthermore, get feedback from your employees. They will see certain processes and tasks from a different perspective and can thus provide valuable input. Ask yourself the following questions, among others:
- Who is responsible for which task in your practice?
- How many employees are required for certain processes?
- How many are currently involved in certain processes?
- How do certain processes work?
- How much time do these processes take?
- Which processes are the biggest “time sinks”?
- Which processes occur regularly (daily/weekly), irregularly, or at longer intervals?
- Which processes are done manually and which are digitized?
- What is the average wait time for your patients – with and without an appointment?
- What is the share of emergency patients?
- What is the share of long and short appointments?
- On which days do peak hours occur?
- How satisfied are you after a day’s work?
- Does the actual work also reflect the focus of your practice?
- Are there time sinks that keep you from concentrating on this focus?
By answering these questions, you will have a better picture of the current status quo of your practice. You should then set goals that you want to achieve; for example, the number of patients you want to treat per week or decreasing waiting times by a certain amount of time. It is important to always communicate transparently with your employees. Everyone should know exactly which activities are part of their job description.
● Establish regular team meetings and be open to criticism and suggestions for improvement – the same should naturally apply to your employees. Respectful and open cooperation is the key to success.
● If unexpected problems occur, you should categorize them according to how important and urgent they are and deal with them accordingly. What needs to be done immediately and what can wait?
● Set fixed time slots limited to treatments related to your dental specialty. This way you will maintain the focus of your practice.
● We recommend passing on any information received in full – and not only partly – in order to avoid sources of error and misunderstandings. This, in turn, will help you establish a professional time management system in your dental practice.
● In general, there should be a certain daily structure that all employees can use for orientation. This creates routines that ensure smooth work processes.
● Appointment scheduling can also be approached systematically. Since the ability to concentrate is higher in the morning, more demanding treatments should be performed before noon. Also, by proactively suggesting follow-up appointments to your patients you will have more control over the planning of treatments.
● Keeping waiting lists solves the problem of last-minute cancellations. Any gaps that arise can thus be closed and flexible patients are satisfied.
● Regularly review your time management and treatment planning. This allows you to optimize processes and accommodate the wishes of your team.
Optimization through digitization and artificial intelligence
The days of paperwork are over. Digitization (see also “The digital dental practice”) has arrived in virtually all areas of life – including dentistry. Practice management tools (see also “dental software”) will make it easier for your patients to schedule appointments; they can be booked online at any time, reducing the need for phone calls. In addition, patient data can be recorded in advance. Referrals, X-rays, findings, and the like can be stored in your system in no time at all. Moreover, digitized patient records are extremely helpful when searching for specific information and save an enormous amount of time compared to analog processes.
The field of artificial intelligence in dentistry has also grown steadily in recent years. For example, our AI-based software from dentalXrai helps dentists to analyze X-ray images in a fully automated way. Based on an algorithm trained on thousands of X-ray images, the software supports dentists by providing a more reliable and evidently better evaluation of X-ray images*. By highlighting the detections in color, the results can be easily shown and explained to patients on various devices, such as tablets. By integrating AI into your X-ray software or practice management software, you will significantly improve and professionalize time management processes in your dental practice.
In summary, the following factors are crucial for optimizing your time management:
- regular process analyses
- structured workflows/processes and clear work instructions
- categorizing patients and problems according to importance and urgency
- good communication by sharing information in full
- regular team meetings
- openness of the whole team to suggestions for improvement and criticism
- digital workflows
- use of artificial intelligence
* According to the study “Detecting caries lesions of different radiographic extension on bitewings using deep learning” of 2020 our AI – dentalXrai Pro – detects up to 3x more caries lesions at an early stage in comparison with conventional dental diagnoses.