Are You Measuring The Wrong Stuff?

Are you measuring the wrong stuff in your dental office?

Are you measuring at all?

A recent posting on a dental chat forum reminded me that sometimes as dentists we can get hung up measuring the wrong things that don’t need to be measured.

I say this, because years and years ago I remember talking with a young dentist who felt that his employing dentist was making him collect and record data measuring things that made “not one point of difference”.

And I know even in my own office, at times, there were times where my team stopped recording information required on a daily basis because they felt that I was not reviewing that information so much.

The thing about recording information is purpose.

What purpose will this collected data serve?

Some data is recorded for daily checking, while other data is needed to determine future trends and forecasts.

And just because something is not reviewed on a daily basis does not mean that once a month, once per quarter or even longer, that someone is not going to sit down with that data and do something with it….

But I digress.

As I said, this posting that I viewed online was a question that was directed at collecting data that the result of would have no benefit at all to the office except in providing a number only.

Here is the question. It was a survey type question:

“We’re trying to figure out a better way to do scheduling. How many hours a week would you say front desk staff spend back and forthing with patients to schedule their next appointment? (incl.: Phone, email, in-person etc.)”

I responded asking for further clarification, simply because I thought that the end answer “How many hours a week?” was dependent on a number of factors that would vary depending on the office?

Here’s my response:

“Doctor, it depends on the number of patients seen per week at your practice. And on the length of appointments booked. And on the number of dentists and RDHs you have there.”

The doctor then replied with something really interesting, which was that he had a number in mind of time spent per patient, and that he had then multiplied that out by the number of operators in his office [a specific number] and then by the number of patients seen per day per operator [he provided a very round number here], to arrive at a number for the total hours per week spent scheduling.

It looked as though this doctor was looking for a number and not really looking for a result.

I sought more clarification:

“The next variable you need to look at is how much explanation of the next appointment is being done in the treatment room and how much explanation is left for the front office people to do?”

This is a really interesting factor and I see this time and time again in dental offices all around the world.

If the dentist and the dental assistant pre-frame the importance and urgency of the next appointment with the patient while the patient is in the treatment room, then the front office person has a considerably easier role in scheduling the appointment than if the patient is just sent back up to the front “cold”.

I see dental offices where “cold” patients arrive at the front desk with absolutely no idea of what’s going on, and guess what?

The front office employee really has no idea either because they weren’t in the treatment room to see and hear what went on beforehand.

This system, and I use that term very loosely, has become more common in dentistry and is due to the reliance of automation in the office.

“I’m just waiting for the doctor’s notes to come through”

is a phrase destined for difficulty and failure to follow.

Anything that reduces verbal communication in the dental office increases the difficulty of future scheduling dramatically.


Back to the chat forum. I replied:

“Who has more influence in the dental office?”

It really depends on their nature and their roles?

“Is the dentist a waffler? Or a “D” type?

Has he explained EXACTLY what he will do next time and what will happen if it is not done in that time frame?”

A proper pre-frame and a proper handover in the treatment room will make the job of scheduling for the front office person so much easier.

“The set up from the back affects the influence at the front.”

I continued:

“Similarly, there are front office people who are great at communicating a message, and then there are others who are not good at speaking with purpose….and getting a result.”

The result I was talking about, of course, is securing an appointment.

Some front office employees are very social and very friendly, but they lose sight of the fact that it is their primary role to ensure that every patient leaves with an appointment that they are totally clear about.

Because a confused patient cancels their appointments.

Every patient needs to understand:

Which tooth or teeth will be treated next time.
What will those teeth be having done?
What will happen to those teeth if the treatment is not carried out in the time frame recommended.

I then replied:

“As Gary Vaynerchuk says, what you are trying to put a number on is like trying to put a number on the love of a mother…..”


“The end result is not how much time it takes to schedule an appointment, or a week’s worth of appointments.

The number that needs to be analysed is how many appointments are MADE and KEPT.”

An appointment cancelled or not kept quickly negates any minutes and seconds saved in hastily scheduling that appointment.

If I was having a surgical procedure in hospital, I’d want to make sure the surgeon did the best job he could, ending with the best result for me, the patient.

Time taken per operation is not a thing I would consider when choosing a surgeon.

Similarly, when I coach dental offices, I’m looking at production and kept appointments. And how few appointments are cancelled.

The salary of a great front office employee who gets it right no matter how long it takes is always a great investment compared to the lost production of one wasted appointment that is made and then cancelled or not kept.

I recommend not bothering to measure time taken to schedule an appointment.



My next public speaking presentation showing Dentists how to grow their Dental practices will be in Dallas Texas on Friday November 3 2017 with Jayne Bandy.

For more information and to secure your seat click this link here.

I will also be presenting at a Symposium on growing your Dental Practice in 2018 in Sydney Australia on Saturday December 2 2017 with leading experts Kinnar Shah, Angus Pryor, Jayne Bandy and Toni Surace .

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