Mobile Dental Systems Program Operations
d. What are some scheduling and patient flow considerations?

Appointments are a type of contract. In a traditional dental office, usually the staff and the patient schedule a mutually agreeable appointment time, although it may not always be convenient for the patient. The same is true for a van program when scheduling a site. Scheduling individuals at a site may provide additional scheduling flexibility, however, than in a setting where patients travel to the office. The "captive audience" nature of the populations allows for more flexibility in who is seen and in what sequence. The site liaison will know which persons might best be substituted in case of changes.

Some programs screen or examine all eligible participants at the beginning of the program to determine which ones will need the greatest number of visits. By beginning treatment on those individuals first, you minimize the risk of having persons at the end of your scheduled stay at a facility who still need several visits. Inevitably, people will enter and leave the system after the beginning of the program, so you will need to plan for additional screenings as well as make note of those who are no longer at the facility.

Some planners believe it is necessary to have a parent accompany a child on each visit to the van, while others believe the parent should be present at least for the first visit. Requiring a parent to be present even for the first visit may create a significant barrier. Communication with parents is very important, however, and there should be a system in place that allows two-way communication between parents and providers.

To make the best use of everyone's time, develop a timetable for operations to include the following: