Written by Risa Simon Wednesday, 30 April 2003 19:00
Fantastic! Unbelievable! Amazing! At least that’s what you were thinking when you purchased and installed the updated version of your practice management software. You even had the support “techie” in to provide in-service training to ensure optimization of those incredible tracking reports demonstrated at the convention. However, several months have past and not a glimpse of an accounting from your team.
The most effective way to manage information “that counts” is to assign specific team members to report information relative to their key areas of responsibility on a consistent basis. This can be accomplished very efficiently through an amazing tool called practice management software. Your computer can help you run several sophisticated reports (most of which are underutilized by dental offices). When optimized, they can provide a very clear picture of the health of the practice at any given moment, and in most cases, with the touch of a button and one simple command. If the process is so easy, then you might ask, “Why don’t more offices utilize these features?” The answer is plain and simple: “Because it’s not a requirement of the job!”
UNSCHEDULED TREATMENT PLAN
This is an essential report because it examines treatment that has been presented and presumably accepted, but not yet scheduled. The treatment coordinator should be accountable for monitoring these numbers and contacting those that have not scheduled planned treatment, with the goal of getting them schedule. Likewise, the financial coordinator can work together with the scheduling coordinator to contact these folks that fell through the cracks to ensure case completion. While case acceptance is essential to monitor, case completion is even more important. It’s far easier to say yes or even schedule—then disappear— than it is to show up and complete a treatment plan.
These reports identify those patients who must be called back to be rescheduled. Before picking up the receiver, be certain to evaluate the reason for the no-show or last-minute cancellation. It could be a problem on your end. When you made the appointment, was the value of the patient’s exclusive time slot you reserved emphasized. Was the significance of the treatment or timing of the procedure reinforced?
If your accounts receivable are out of line (>1 x production), you will need to go back and reevaluate your financial policies to see how far you extend payments. According to banking industry research, most individuals cannot write a check for more than $500. Hence, it only makes sense to make an arrangement for dentistry above that benchmark. Remember, you’re not running a banking business; you are a dental office who has no business giving out loans!
This report is essential in keeping continuing care active. It gives you the big picture of how many patients are actually returning on timely and prescribed intervals. You must develop a plan to recapture those who have fallen through the cracks, and more importantly, look for ways to more effectively motivate patients to understand the importance of continuing care. Verbal skills and “co-discovery” in-service training may be required to achieve a distinctively higher level of communication. Ideally, the hygiene coordinator (the person responsible for helping the hygiene department run smoothly) would be the one to make calls and send letters on past-due patients from the report. Assigning an individual to carry out these essential tasks will ensure that they get done. Most offices never have the time to follow up on past-due recall. Consequently, hygiene departments end up relying too heavily on new patients for generating revenue.
When accepting insurance payments, insurance submissions should be traced when they hit the over-30-day mark. Otherwise, the goal of achieving a zero balance on insurance accounts over 60 days will never become a reality. (Your best bet, however, is to have patients submit their own forms for direct reimbursement—of course, after you’ve collected the fee in full from them directly).
Production by Code/by Producer
This is another very important report that determines if the type of dentistry you’re producing is indeed meeting your hygiene and restorative vision. The practice administrator should be running these reports and submitting them to each provider. Providers should then be reviewing and discussing their game plan with the business owner to ensure that goals will indeed be met. For example, if hygiene is generating >50% of revenue in adult prophy fees, an assessment of periodontal therapy needs should be reevaluated to determine if you are simply underdiagnosing and “watching” conditions get worse, or if you are truly offering your patients an opportunity to achieve optimum oral health before further damage occurs.
Each new patient, emergency patient, and continuing care patient has a value. The value is the total fee diagnosed, presented, accepted, scheduled, and then—last, but certainly not least—completed. There is no value on scheduled treatment until the work is completed. In fact, scheduled treatment can be a deficit if the patient no-shows!
Determine what you and your team will do to secure the bottom line. Remember, it’s not what you learn in seminars or from consultants that matters most; it’s what you and your team are willing to do on a daily basis that makes a difference. Team members who are willing to become accountable for measurable results will more effectively control the destiny of their practices. Do not wait until the end of the year to see if you’ve made it. Too much has transpired by then to try to determine what went wrong. Develop a plan. If you are banking on a fee increase, make sure the plan accounts for overhead increases to ensure that you retain a profit. Optimize those amazing “unlimited access and free-of-charge” reports that your practice management software offers. Think in small, manageable doses, and you will indeed regain control of your practice by proactively working your plan to achieve desired results.
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