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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.
From a business perspective, the health of a dental practice is affected by the vitality and strength of the front office. Have you checked the pulse of your front office lately? Do you regularly monitor its performance? It can be sluggish or robust, arrhythmic or constant, weak and ineffective, or strong and productive. Fortunately, there are definite actions you can take to improve the functionality of the front office and keep it in good working order.
The following five “exercises” are essential to promoting the health of a dental practice:
Each front office staff member should have a written job description complete with a detailed list of duties. These positions include, but are not limited to, the receptionist, the financial coordinator, the insurance coordinator, the scheduling coordinator, the treatment coordinator, the collections manager, the check-out desk, the marketing manager, and, yes, even the office manager. A schedule of these duties should also be clarified as to whether they are to be performed daily, weekly, or monthly, as well as detailing what time of day and what day of the week or month. In some offices, depending on its size, one person can be assigned to more than one position. These assignments may change or new ones may be created as the practice grows.
Office policies should be written in detail. These include, but are not limited to, the new patient information, patient information update, patient inactivation, treatment plan, financial, collection, refund, insurance claim filing, dual insurance, dental lab case, telephone, and morning meeting policies. These policies may also change as the business grows and as new laws are passed. It is imperative that the office manager to stay up-to-date and keep everyone well-informed of any changes.
Be sure each employee has a copy of his or her duties and copies of the office policies. The office policies should be kept close at hand for reference. A thorough understanding of the procedures can be achieved by observing, rehearsing, and role playing. These policies and procedures should also be reviewed on a regular basis. Comments or suggestions from staff members should be encouraged and considered. The office manager should actively oversee the daily, weekly, and monthly policy and procedure implementation. This oversight is vital in keeping the operations of the front office constant and productive.
The office manager should ensure that each employee is thoroughly trained in his or her position and sufficiently trained for all other positions as well. This cross-training is valuable and necessary in order to maintain optimum performance and continuity in the event of absences or employee turnover. Specific training also ensures that newly hired employees are an asset by keeping with the collective pace of the office.
In order to have a healthy and successful practice, all employees should exhibit a desire to work together. As each member of the front office staff fulfills his or her job description and follows the office policies, the separate parts will come together to compliment the whole. The effect will not only increase office morale and decrease workplace stress, it will also motivate each employee to be confident and effective. In other words, a willingness to work as a team will have productive results.
For a business, having a healthy pulse is imperative and must be emphasized to every member of the organization. The performance of the front desk staff, individually and collectively, directly influences the overall health and well-being of the dental office. Assess the target areas listed above. Would you classify the pulse of your front office as erratic or consistent, weak or strong, ineffective or productive? What “exercises” need to be performed in order to achieve and maintain optimum health? Be willing to take an honest look at your office policies and procedures and then be willing to make modifications. Reaching your goals will take hard work and discipline. The result will be a healthy business and the entire office will reap the rewards.