If it seems like every system needs adjusting since you have returned to work, you are probably correct. One of these systems is probably the least thought about system in every dental practice I visit. Balancing your hygiene supply and patient demand is a system that should be adjusted every quarter in a practice by doing the calculations to ensure that you are offering enough hygiene hours for your patient’s needs.
Most offices never change their hygiene hours. This can cause a lack of access for patients who require three or four month appointments, new patient hygiene appointments and follow up hygiene appointments. Imagine your hygienist has educated a patient that they need to switch from every six or nine month intervals to three month intervals and the patient accepts but there are no openings in your schedule until five months from then. All of that education just lost its point with the patient because your office schedule couldn’t accommodate them.
To ensure that your hygiene hours being offered balance out with your patient demand, the first calculation you want to do is the number of hours offered in the month by your hygienists. This number is known as your supply of hours.
The second number is the demand for patient hours. Count up the number of hours that are already booked in the hygiene schedule (some software will give you this info in a report). Then you want to look at the patients who are due for that month and not yet booked. Last part of the demand calculation is patients who were due in the last three months who have not yet been booked. You want to make sure that you have close to equal number of hours of supply and demand.
Here’s a sample calculation:
Supply (hours offered by hygiene department)
64 hours offered per week x 4 weeks
= 256 patient hours per month available
Demand (hours required for patient care)
174 hours already pre booked for patients
+ 45 patients due and not yet booked
+ 30 patients (50% of last three months not yet booked)
= 249 hours needed
If you look at this calculation you would think that this office is offering a balanced number of hygiene hours but we have also not factored in any new patient hygiene appointments (almost half of them need 2 appointments), any patients whose intervals have changed and any patients who may have to cancel last minute and then reschedule.
My advice for this particular calculation above would be to add hours in for that month. There are also months where you may need to take away some hours if the demand isn’t there.
If you are pre appointing patient’s you will also want to keep track of how many patients you have in three or four month intervals and pre block spots to ensure that they are available when booking these patients.
Having no downtime is very often a sign of a practice that has limited accessibility for patient care. When speaking with your hygienists they should be aware of this calculation and that there is a possibility that their hours may change over time.
If there is a limiting factor of chairs availability or office hour availability and you are coming up with a shortage of hours for patients, you may want to become creative in how you can offer a few more hours without a complete office overhaul.
Your hygiene supply and demand calculations will not only help balance your hygiene department it will also ensure that you are getting the most benefit possible towards the practices overall production.