Many management groups recommend that you template your appointment book but I find that is quite unsatisfactory.
The reason is that I do not like the subtle psychological pressure it creates. For example, whenever I had an open crown slot tomorrow morning I felt that it skewed my diagnosis. I was diagnosing to fill the appointment book, not on the merits of what was in front of me. It made me pressure the patients.
Major work like crowns is inherently lumpy — some days you get to do 12 and the next day you do none. Trying to smooth out the flow flattened off my good days and put an extra layer of stress on my bad days: “Why can’t we fill these slots?”
The question is: What do you do when someone says ‘yes’ to a big case and your appointment book is jammed up with odds and ends for the next 4 weeks? How do you fit them in? My answer was to reschedule the odds and ends and give priority to the major case. I’d have the staff clear out a couple of hours so we could get on with the big case. I never liked big cases to be waiting around to be seen.
So my approach has always been to avoid the inflexibility and pressure of a templated schedule and work to a more rules based system. More on the rules in a future blog post.