In a year unlike any other, unexpected shortages of many previously easy-to-find items have become a notable theme of 2020. Toilet paper, of course. Bicycles. Bottled water. Pocket change. Beef, pork, and poultry. And bread flour. Apparently all that time at home translated into lots of people baking, which makes perfect sense when you think about it.

All this baking has no doubt included some kitchen catastrophes, as wanna-be-bakers attempted to make lots of sourdough bread, cookies of all kinds, and that comfort food favorite, banana bread. A common problem for all bakers, regardless of experience, is occasionally forgetting to include a critical ingredient such as yeast, salt, or sugar. Even though those cookies may look perfect coming out of the oven, without sugar they’re not going to be on anyone’s most-favorite-cookies-ever list.

So, how exactly does this relate to your dental practice’s 2020 recovery plan? Let’s talk about October 2020. Tuesday, October 20th to be exact. There’s a problem with that date.

Why? Because very few practices in the country actually thinking about anything but navigating the next week (i.e. fewer patients coming in, longer appointments, PPE for team members and patients, infection control, contactless payments). Unless you are one of them, October 20th (and, for that matter, much of the 4th quarter) is not looking promising for your practice.

Here’s why – virtually all of those patients who were scheduled to come in during March, April, and May got bumped, right? Perhaps you’ve been able to see a portion of them in the past few weeks, but many more have yet to reschedule. With most patients on a six-month appointment schedule, this likely means that you have very few patients scheduled to come in during 4th Quarter 2020. Just as it might be easy to forget to add a crucial ingredient like sugar to your cookie recipe until it’s too late to do anything about it, unless you start to focus now on your fourth quarter schedule, it may soon be too late to fix the problem.

Dental Intelligence has recently completed a comprehensive data analysis of over 8,000 U.S.-based dental practices’ 4th quarter 2020 hygiene schedules and has discovered this hygiene shortfall. In many instances, zero appointments were currently on the schedules of the practices analyzed.

With so much focus on the heavy volume coming through practice doors right now, it’s not at all surprising that no one is thinking about what’s (not) scheduled 2-3 months from now. But that needs to change, and soon.

The Right Way to Schedule

As Dental Intelligence has looked at all of the options for solving this problem, the goal was to help practices increase the number of appointments scheduled while decreasing the cost and amount of time required to do so. We asked, “Is this something adding a call center could solve?” The price tag for this was around $12,000, or around $30 per scheduled appointment. So, maybe not. We then wondered whether trying to add this many new patients through a paid marketing campaign could do the trick? The price tag on that came out to over $40,000, or $100 per new patient appointment!

So, instead of your staff making lots of phone calls, or an expensive call center making lots of phone calls or spending $40k to try and attract new patients, the team at Dental Intelligence came up with a much more effective and much less expensive solution – bulk online scheduling.

Bulk online scheduling is the fastest, most effective, and by far least expensive way to schedule the exact type of dentistry you want to schedule with the type of patients you want to treat. Here’s how it works:

Inside of the Dental Intelligence growth platform is a powerful tool called the Patient Finder. The Patient Finder does exactly that – it uses sophisticated software and proprietary algorithms to search your entire patient database to find the patients you tell it to find – in just seconds.

No more spending hours going through patient lists or spreadsheets to identify unscheduled treatment – the Patient Filter does all that work. And now, with recent new enhancements, Patient Finder now includes access to a LocalMed Online Scheduling platform, so that you can build and send customized texts and emails with a scheduling link that allows your patient to schedule their own appointment in real-time!

That’s right, Online Scheduling eliminates the frustrating process of calling (and calling) patients, checking schedules, confirming, and so on and so on.

Best of all, you have total control over the options the patient sees when scheduling their appointment, so there’s no risk of them bumping another patient or scheduling in a time reserved for other types of treatment.

Here’s what the Patient Finder looks like:

At the top of the screen above, you can see all of the pre-built filters that were used to identify these 155 unscheduled hygiene patients. You have the option of selecting one, several, or all 155 of these patients and sending them a brief communication via text and email to schedule an appointment. You can even set the exact dates or blocks of time (i.e. October 2020) you want the patient to schedule within. This can all be done instantly within the Dental Intelligence growth platform if a customer is a LocalMed Online Scheduling subscriber, or you can easily export this list into another third-party customer communication tool.

Perhaps you’re wondering, “How effective is bulk online scheduling vs. someone from our practice calling the patient? Isn’t that a more personal, more effective way to schedule patients?” Although that might seem to be the case, the opposite is actually true.

Customers using Online Scheduling have experienced significant increases in confirmed appointments when offering online scheduling to their patients. Of those who click on the scheduling link via text or email, 46% schedule an appointment. 46%!

Right now, you are likely on the verge of exhaustion. Having few if any appointments on your schedule might even sound like exactly what you need at the moment, and certainly some downtime is never a bad idea. But the ramifications of this on your patients and practice could have a far-reaching impact. Making a mistake when baking a loaf of bread is simple and easy enough. You just start over. The same can’t be said of trying to instantly add appointments to an empty schedule. Better to take action now so your 4th quarter doesn’t end up tasting like those sugar-free cookies.

To see how many holes are open in your schedule (and also how to fill them using Online Scheduling) visit Dental Intelligence today. We want to help you have a fabulous 4th quarter – it IS still possible!

About the blogger

Scott Livingston is the Director of Communications for Dental Intelligence. His focus is on helping the company to tell the story of how actionable data can measurably improve patient care, team collaboration and dental practice profitability. 

Outside of work, Scott enjoys spending time with his family, hiking the many trails in Utah, and serving others in his church and local community.