Scheduling Issues in a Multi-Practitioner Office
When there are several people providing the same service in a business, in this case - the dentist, it’s just a matter of time before scheduling conflicts arise. Fortunately, there are a few points to be on the lookout for in order to avoid confusion or hard feelings among dentists and their staff.
Who is the Patient Seeing?
One of the most vital decisions that your multi-practitioner office needs to make, is which patients belong to which doctor. Some practices have patients see whomever is available, while others maintain a single provider with the individual through their life as a patient.
Each time you add a practitioner to the office, you need to decide whom the patient is going to see. Whether it’s because of their family (who may already be patients of the practice,) the age of the patient, or specific types of needs they have is up to you. But make a plan and stick with it. Otherwise, it can breed bitterness between practitioners, staff, and patients when someone is “stolen” by someone else.
Once you’ve decided whom the patient is going to be seeing, make it clear in their chart. This way, assistants, hygienists, or front desk won’t put the patient with the wrong doctor. Consider changing providers if, and only if, the patient requests you to do so - or because of emergencies.
Not Enough Rooms
When was the last time you needed to start a filling on a patient, but someone else had an emergency in the only open room left? If you have 2 rooms for each doctor, that’s great - you can assign them without overlap. But if you’re sharing 3 rooms that means there is one left in the middle that needs to be split. Without clear-cut guidelines, accidents are going to happen with your staff. Consider options like one doctor using the overflow room in the morning, and the other in the afternoon - or - one of the doctors having 2 rooms on certain days, and only 1 room on the others.
You wouldn’t let your hygienist or assistant sit somebody in one of your rooms if you’re planning on needing it - neither should your associate.
It’s not uncommon for multi-doctor offices to share single pieces of technology that the practice has invested in. Let’s use the example of CEREC equipment. Obviously, both doctors cannot book a crown prep and same-day crown placement at 9 am. Only one of them is going to be able to perform the procedure.
Decide how, when, and where pieces of technology are going to be used. Whether it’s by using set days for laser procedures or placing an implant, or simply having a very-educated scheduling staff at the front of the office - decide what’s fair when it comes to pinning down equipment that other people may depend on.
Establishing a block schedule is a great way for staff to ensure that two providers aren’t double-booked for the same room, equipment, or fighting over a patient.