Not Enough Time

Paul Feuerstein, DMD


…end-of-month reports could find overdue accounts…but many times they are simply glanced at….With all that goes on managing a practice, who has time to read them?

Most dental offices seem to get set up, trained, and started with practice management software, but how many of us are using it to its full potential? I recently spoke with Alex Nudel, founder of RevenueWell and an industry luminary, at a recent dental meeting. If you don’t know Alex, he is a ball of fire and passionate about dental-office management. Before founding RevenueWell, he owned a dental practice, so he knows the day-to-day challenges we all face as practice owners. He is a frequent presence at dental meetings large and small and is an omnipresent resource (and quite a character) on social media, where he is known as the “selfie king” of the dental world!

Alex Nudel, founder of RevenueWell.

Although he is proud of his company and its flagship practice marketing and communications product, Nudel is also a great resource for information on patient marketing and engagement and certainly acknowledges what others in the industry are doing to help practices. He has a wealth of industry data about treatment-plan acceptance, new patient acquisition, patient retention, marketing dollars, and more.

Nudel states that practice owners and office managers start out with great enthusiasm when they first buy a practice management system (PMS), initially focusing on appointment book setup and then automating some of the less exciting, but necessary, work, such as billing and managing insurance. But the reality is that many offices can go a lot further to use the full capabilities of their PMSs.

For example, practices could start by printing and filing their end-of-day reports and reconciled bank deposits. The neatly stacked end-of-month reports could help staff find overdue accounts, unpaid insurance claims, and, of course, upcoming and overdue recalls, but many times they are simply glanced at and not analyzed. With all that goes on managing a practice, who has time to read them?

Nudel notes that one valuable report practices can run is for “outstanding treatment plans.” Most practices have hundreds of thousands of dollars of outstanding prescribed treatment plans in their records. Manually, it would take a lot of time and effort for the staff to plow through reports to track patients down, but software can get it done in seconds. In addition, at the end of the year, you can run reports of patients with unused insurance benefits and outstanding treatment plans (or maybe those who frequently say, “Let’s wait until later in the year to do that crown”). A program such as RevenueWell uses computer algorithms and “data mining” to harvest the information that is already in the practice management software. A simple example is to identify a patient who had a root canal procedure and no further appointments scheduled. Data mining finds procedure codes and clinical charts and matches related services. If that patient also has a missing tooth, and there is coverage available for implants, the software alerts the staff and dentist. Of course, this information is also in the charts and those volumes of reports, but it would take a lot of time to search for this type of information.

You can think of these processes as a type of artificial intelligence. The software can also connect with patients after treatment for follow-up with email or other correspondence, reviewing what was done; checking on postoperative instructions; and even including a description or video of the treatment options, going as far as the office wants into the payment options. The office has all sorts of options to put these things into effect at its comfort level with full automation but with total control. There are many products in the marketplace that help offices with new patient acquisitions and retention. These services include automatic confirmations, reactivation of patients who have not been in for a while, patient surveys, online reputation monitoring, and more. Many of the products in this realm even have patient portals where patients can not only pay bills but also access some of their records and treatment plans. Being more interactive and having better-informed patients can surely strengthen the patient relationship and experience.

Some of the companies in the PMS analysis market have taken other approaches. The landscape is varied, and each company has a menu of features that may suit an individual practice, which would help in an office’s decision to sign on. Some have long-term contracts while others are month to month. Also be aware of pricing, as some are all inclusive, while others allow you to customize your own office’s requirements. Most run independent of practice management data and do not affect it in any way; they are just reading information into their applications. As such, an office can remotely access this information from anywhere.

As stated earlier, RevenueWell is being used here as an example of these products, and you should look and compare the features of all of the available options—a daunting task, as there are many. At the very least, if you are at a dental show, conference, or study club where Nudel is present (which is often at the Patterson Dental booth), ask him your hardest questions and then join in one of his famous selfies.

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