Time Management for Dentists

Dentistry requires excellent time management skills, how do you maximise this to help more patients?

Every profession has its own share of stresses, but it goes without saying that some are more challenging than others. Dentistry is inherently known for its extremely busy and hectic schedules, and often, as an owner of a dental business, you’re expected to wear multiple hats on any given day to keep the overall pace of the practice in sync. 

Dentists in a workplace may humorously compare to the likes of worker bees, frantically racing to complete a hive of activities while also balancing these responsibilities with close deadlines and unhinged projects. All in all, you may find yourself often being up to your ears with work and maxed out on time and labour.

Third-party tools like educational webinars, local chapter networks, and practice management training are surely vital, but unless your dental practice operates under good time management skills, implementing solid practice management skills can become taxing. It is here that the analogy “pulling the cart before the horse” may fit with ease, given the circumstance.

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Why is time management important?

Business owners understand that working efficiently can only benefit if they also employ smart time-management tactics. Time management and organization are extremely notable skills needed in a dental practice. This is because good time management can help build team morale, encourage a positive work environment, increase patient retention, and most importantly, skyrocket production.

A recent survey is telling of poor time management skills in dental practices. According to this Dental Protection survey, half of the dentists (50%) in the UK reported considering leaving dentistry for reasons surrounding poor personal wellbeing and burnout. This has been directly correlated to long work hours and monotonous office culture, all indicative of a poor system of time management and organization. 

What can you do to manage time better?

Some days it may feel like your practice is running on pure pandemonium and chaotic decisions, what with the numerous amount of phone calls, restless patients filling the waiting area, and a never-ending supply of paperwork. 

At times like these, you can implement some time management tips to help you bridge the growing gap between your patient’s needs and your practice’s capabilities.

Establish daily goals

When things get busy, the last thing you want is to run around like a ball of frenzy, thereby also overwhelming your teammates. Instead, take time to establish solid goals for the day which will help create a sense of purpose for the entire workweek. Set consistent goals for 30, 60, or 90 days.

With any given workday, there are certain tasks you need to get done by the end of the day. Tackle those immediate duties first in order to prevent a roller coaster of production by the stacking up of incomplete daily tasks. Start out each day by checking out all the accomplishments you need to finish by the day’s end. 

Next, prioritize these tasks in order of importance. Certain tasks will be required to be pushed onto your staff more than others. Add and erase these tasks in tune with your workforce’s contributions.

Develop your ideal day

Determine the perfect combination of procedures that should be included in your day for you to be able to meet your goal on time. There are three categories you will need to consider:

  • Substantial cases (major): These procedures are highly productive such as crown and bridge, partials, and veneers. Ideally, about 50% of your workday should be assigned to substantial cases.
  • Restorations (minor): These may be considered moderately productive procedures. Amalgams, composites, and root canal therapy all fit into this category. Two to three hours of this procedure per day may be a good way to regulate your workweek.
  • Miscellaneous: These are low to non-productive procedures such as seats, exams, emergencies, and adjustments. These types of procedures may be used as fillers around a controlled number of substantial cases and restorative procedures.

Look at your long-term schedule

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a healthcare professional is to not look beyond the day, week, or even month that you’re currently in. Not having a vision for the long haul can fill your practice with uncertainty for the future, which in itself can be an unsettling feeling. 

  • Block time in the schedule for substantial cases for the entire month. Manoeuvre the other procedures to fill the spaces around these. This will allow you to craft adequate time for the most important procedures in order to meet your goal. 
  • Track your seat appointments so as to ensure that not too many clusters during the day.
  • Track your restorative procedures by using a time tally system.

Delegate workload diligently 

Practice managers should delegate other duties to their team members for the timely execution of the goals. This helps reduce everyone’s workloads. For example, if a hygiene patient is a no-show and the hygienist isn’t busy with other relevant tasks, you can ask him or her to help you sort through that hefty pile of paperwork.

This also relates to another point. You should be cross-training your staff. This will not only ensure that each individual of your team is articulate in another’s job description but will also help you delegate out tasks that may not normally fall under a certain person’s work profile. You should allow some amount of overlap to allow the pressures of a strict practice schedule to flow properly.

Capitalize on technology

Today, you have a growing library of modern apps and software that can help you prioritize and expedite certain aspects of your work. Gone are the days when you had to multitask and juggle multiple responsibilities that are way beyond your grasp. Optimize your health records online and save valuable time to actually treat your patients instead of deliriously filling out paperwork.

There are also apps that allow your patients to review records, make appointments, and communicate with your staff. Finding the right software can allow you to efficiently manage your workforce and keep your work culture up and running at all times.

Final thoughts

Time management can be as simple as promoting morning huddles, planning ahead for huge projects, forming strict schedules for patient treatment, prioritizing organization, and the pre-planned allocation of tasks amongst the staff in order to prevent the need for long working hours and over-time. 

It is important to find a good balance in the work environment so that each working staff can put their best foot forward without feeling fatigued or overworked.