Stop running late. Now.

I’m curious about why some folk are successful while some consistently underachieve or just seem to stagger along from crisis to crisis. Over many years of observing and working with both ends of this spectrum, I realised that successful folk (by any measure) have adopted successful habits. Habits that, over many years, have supported them and eased their way through the day, allowing them to perform at a level that creates and supports their success.

And a top-ten successful habit is, being on time. Period, no exceptions.

I think people are chipped (genetically?) to be:

  • Always early
  • Just on time (that’s me)
  • Reliably late

And the gold-standard for this successful habit is, always early. Thirty years ago, my (very successful) mentor said, “Simon, if you’re the only painless, on-time dental practice in town, you’ll always have plenty of high value patients.” He was right, we always did. Patients want and expect you to be on time. They’re not really interested in the complexity and difficulties of delivering clinical dentistry or that it might have gone wrong, they simply want to see you on time and be away and on with their day, at the time they were expecting to be.

If you really want to increase the stress levels of your nurses and receptionists, then, run consistently late. (You know you’re doing it consistently when your patients enquire of your receptionists, “How late is he running today?”) Ok, so you know who you are!

So, here’s how late running dentists behave:

  1. They genuinely believe that it’s ok to run late. Patients will understand. Their time (the dentist’s) is simply more important than the patient’s time.
  2. They arrive at the practice at the last minute.
  3. They start most sessions late, 10 minutes or so, getting changed, making a hot drink, talking to staff or messing with their phones.
  4. They spend too much time talking to their patients (they believe this is a good thing).
  5. They try and cram too much treatment into an appointment.
  6. Do their own stuff between patients/go off for a chat with reception or lock themselves in the loo with the newspaper.
  7. They book patients in for too short appointment times because they don’t know how long procedures are likely to take (in their hands) or they are optimistic about their own capabilities.
  8. They work into their lunch break and then start the afternoon session late.
  9. Finish late and spoil their nurse’s evenings.

These dentists have lost control of their day and are seriously damaging the reputation of their practice.

Of course, patients carry some of the blame for late running. If you/your practice manage patients badly, they can:

  • Arrive late
  • Not go numb, gag on the impressions, request an unplanned item of treatment is carried out
  • Ask an important question when they should be leaving

And, occasionally, receptionists: book patients in for the wrong appointment time, squeeze patients in and/or double book patients (with the dentists connivance!).

If you are serious about and committed to running on time, here’s what you have to do.

Firstly, you have to adopt the attitude of someone for whom running on time is important. Very important! Then do this:

  1. Actively measure how long activities take. For example, measure how long it takes to get to work, not by how long you spend in the car, but how long it takes from leaving home to going through the door of the practice.
  2. Set a standard: I suggest you aim to see all patients within 5 minutes of their appointment time.
  3. Add a buffer to all of your timings, allow time for things to go wrong, either on a journey, or for an appointment, at least 15%.
  4. When you’re at work, focus, focus, focus. Don’t get caught up in trivia or gossip, no matter how attractive and distracting it seems.
  5. Although you have to be accommodating, if a patient arrives late, either scale back the amount of treatment you planned to do in their appointment, or if this is not possible (you can’t do half a crown prep), reschedule them if they have lost more than 15% of their appointment. Don’t rush clinical dentistry!
  6. Book out a buffer half way through a session: 15 minutes or so.
  7. Don’t have long conversations with the patient before you start treatment, keep these conversations brief and get started on the clinical aspects. Talk to your patients while you are both waiting for the local to work and/or at the end of the appointment (providing you finish early!).
  8. If you are unavoidably running late:
    1. Ask reception to apologise profusely and keep the next patient informed about how long you are going to keep them waiting
    2. Ask reception to reschedule the patient after them and apologise profusely
    3. Make reparations in some way to the patient you rescheduled

Also, have your receptionists ask your patients to arrive around 10 minutes before their appointment time so that they can get themselves settled before their appointment (go to the loo, have a drink, etc etc…).

The Royal Navy teach their trainee officers, “If you arrive 5 minutes early, you’re 10 minutes late!” Go figure…

If you would like some help running your practice (on time), then contact me for a chat.

Best wishes,

m. 07770 430576

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