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Donna Stewart is the founder of Dental Works Resources, a business consulting and management company for dental offices. With more than 30 years of experience in dentistry, she understands the importance of caring for your business and has the expertise to fine tune your dental practice. Her professional memberships include the ADHA, TDHA, AADOM, SCN, and ADCA. To contact Donna for a consultation, call (512) 838-1380 or visit www.dentalworksresources.com.
According to Dictionary.com, the definition of value is to consider (someone or something) with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance. How do you rate the worth (or value) of your front office? Dentistry is a specialized field that not only requires all of the team members to be “dentally educated,” but requires the front office staff to be business savvy as well. The clinical staff has received degrees, specialized training, various certifications, and continuing education. How equipped is your front office staff?
Here are some areas to consider:
1. Let’s start with the telephone. The staff member answering the phone in your office has the unique opportunity to give the first-time caller (and potential patient) a positive first impression as being a friendly, knowledgeable, and concerned person. This member should have sufficient knowledge of dentistry to answer the caller’s questions and then schedule the patient accordingly. Established patients also rely on this avenue of communication to convey their needs, wants, and concerns, to ask questions, and to connect with your office. The staff member on the other end of the line is an ambassador for your practice and represents (knowingly or unknowingly) your professionalism, competence, and concern. Scheduling patients and scheduling them properly are the first steps toward front office excellence and productivity.
2. The insurance coordinator should be familiar with the current Code on Dental Procedures and Nomenclature (CDT), understand the 12 different categories of procedures, and have a working knowledge of the codes that correctly identify the treatment and services provided by your practice. In addition to obtaining a comprehensive verification of patient insurance coverage, this member must correctly enter the information into the patient’s account. A very clear explanation of coverage must then be communicated to the patient. These topics include in-network or out-of-network, annual maximums, deductibles, waiting periods, excluded services, age limits, downgrades, frequency limits, percentage payments versus fee schedules, primary coverage, and secondary coverage. He or she also has the very important responsibility of filing correct and complete claims to the insurance companies and then tracking the claims for payment. A working knowledge of dentistry is also required for attaching the correct documentation (radiographs, intraoral pictures, narratives, etc.) to each claim as precise information is essential for timely payment. Comprehensive and accurate insurance management is another component of front office excellence, resulting in increased productivity.
3. The front office staff member that discusses the treatment plan with the patient should have a clear understanding of all of the procedures that are performed in your office. Since most people are visual learners, the office’s patient education software would be a great teaching tool for the front office staff as well. It would also be a good idea to have this member shadow a dental assistant and hygienist. Seeing a procedure from start to finish would increase understanding and create confidence in presenting a treatment plan. Many times, the patient feels more comfortable in discussing concerns and different treatment options with the treatment coordinator. A staff member’s ability to accurately present and clearly communicate alternate treatment plans can directly affect the patient’s decision for case acceptance. Clear and concise explanations of treatment also factors into front office excellence and affects your bottom line.
4. Another area of importance to consider is the financial coordinator’s position. This staff member has the responsibility of not only managing the practice collections and patient accounts but also assisting patients by providing different ideas, game plans, or other avenues for payment. He or she must be intuitive while speaking with patients about the financial commitment of their dental treatment. Finances can get in the way of a patient’s decision to move forward with the treatment plan and the financial coordinator can be the champion in resolving those issues. The outcome of excellence in this area is increased productivity and increased collections.
5. Remember the benefits of role playing. Just as most people are visual learners, we also perfect our verbal techniques by sharpening and honing our skills. In other words â¦ practice, practice, practice. The result: Front Office Excellence.
An educated and trained front office staff is a well-equipped front office staff. These employees will make a difference in the productivity of your practice and your bottom line. Doctors, do you value your front office?