Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Your Marketing Questions Answered by an Expert . . . part 4 of 4

Dayna: Doctors are asking me “What do I do if someone posts a bad review on Yelp or one of the other search engines?

Naomi: This is a great question about an increasingly important area of marketing known as Online Reputation Management.  When it comes to your online reputation, knowledge is power, so it’s important to Google your name and/or your practice name on a monthly basis to find out what is already out there about you.

If there is a negative review somewhere online about your practice, first of all, know that you are not alone. Most highly reputable, beloved local businesses somehow manage to upset at least one customer. Somehow, you just upset the wrong one.

The best protection against negative reviews is having positive reviews from happy patients posted on a variety of websites as a prophylactic measure – as well as to balance out (and hopefully, to drown out) any negative reviews. If you haven’t already begun to do so, the easiest way to get started is to simply ask your happiest and most loyal patients to post a review about the practice online. Once you know which websites come up in a search for your own name (plus your city, state), you’ll know where to tell patients to post their reviews! Three of the most important sites to have positive reviews on are Google Places, Yahoo Local and Yelp.

Several words of caution:               
1)      Don’t treat online reviews like a one-time task to check off your to-do list. Cultivating a positive online reputation should be an ongoing part of your practice’s marketing efforts. Get everyone on the team involved, and make sure they know what the goal is! My goal would be to shoot for two positive reviews per month until you hit double digits, and then one per month…forever.

2)      It’s important not only to have good reviews online, but also to make sure that they are real, compelling and credible! Think of it this way: if you found a restaurant online that had a bunch of five-star ratings, how would that make you feel? What if the restaurant had been open for five years, but all of the ratings were posted in the past two weeks? Might that affect their credibility? So – it’s important to ask REAL patients to post REAL reviews. Please - don’t create profiles for patients and post testimonials they’ve shared with you as online reviews. Don’t have staff or family members (even if they are also patients) post reviews. DO ask happy patients to post a review every time they pay you a compliment. You can even email them the link of where to go to post them!

3)      Regarding responding to negative reviews: first, ask yourself if the complaint is clinical in nature. If so, please get legal advice before you consider responding or taking any kind of action. If, like most online reviews, the comment is about an alleged interpersonal or customer service issue, you have a choice whether or not to respond. My general advice is to take the high road whenever possible rather than publicly going on the defensive; the last thing you want is to give the comment any more credence or attention.

Naomi Cooper is President of Minoa Marketing, a dental marketing and social media consultancy based in Los Angeles, CA and serves as Chief Marketing Consultant for Pride Institute. She has over fifteen years of marketing experience – and a ten-year track record of enabling dental practices and dental companies to achieve their marketing goals. Naomi is also a published author, a sought-after speaker and an industry opinion leader. She can be reached via e-mail at naomi@minoamarketing.com.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Better Way to Check on Insurance Benefits

Get your time back!  A better way to check on insurance benefits
In my work teaching dental practices how to become more productive and efficient by using their Dentrix software, I’ve noticed that many front office staff are still using old, slow methods for checking on their patients’ insurance benefits.  Many offices I visit are still doing what I used to do back in the day when I worked the front desk:  spending hours on the phone with insurance companies getting routed from one phone tree to the next and then waiting around for fax backs that seemed to take forever. .   Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s no longer any need to waste that kind of time.  I’m happy to say that the days of phone and fax are behind us and there is a better way. . 
Current, accurate information about insurance is, of course, a critical need for any front desk.  Having real-time information at your fingertips allows you to relay the information to your patient so they can budget for their dental care and allows you to collect the patient's portion at the time of service.  But, the time and energy cost of retrieving this information the old way is very very high.  So high that in the practice where I worked, we realized that we either needed to find a more efficient way, or hire a new front desk person just to handle insurance issues. 
Our solution?  We added eCentral Insurance Manager to the list of the  eServices we were using with our Dentrix software.  I’ll bet you have seen the little red e’s on the Family File in the insurance box - haven’t you?  Well, once you sign up for eCentral, that little red “e” becomes a one-click portal to insurance information.  All you have to do is click on the little red “e” and it searches for that patient’s insurance benefits and provides you with an instant, real-time benefits breakdown and maximum used.  Really.  It is that simple.

Now I know there are some of you out there that are saying “Sounds great, but I am not going to spend the $ on eCentral.”  I respect your desire to save a dollar – we all get that – but I want you to look at whether this is one of those expense that will actually make you money.  If you can cut down on the time your front office is spending on the phone with insurance companies by just one hour, your front office could be spending that time calling patients with unscheduled treatment or past due hygiene appointments.  Also, one hour a day in increased productivity adds up to a lot more profits for the entire team. 
And, here’s a thought:  What if you had a patient in your office with a broken tooth or toothache and you had the time to treat them?  Wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that opportunity?  You can, but only if you can get the insurance information instantly, because the doctor will need to make sure the patient has a financial arrangement before he gives anesthetic.  If your office is using eCentral Insurance Eligibility, the probability of you being able to treat that patient on the spot just went up because you can get his insurance information in about 35 seconds.
So, I understand that adding eServices costs the office a monthly fee but I look at it as a way to spend more time with patients building relationships, scheduling treatment and increasing your hygiene retention.  I think if you pencil it out, you’ll find a cost savings in there that will benefit everyone involved.  And, you won’t have to spend your time lost in the dreaded phone tree maze! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Your Marketing Questions Answered by an Expert . . . part 3 of 4

Dayna:  Doctors are asking me “Do I really need a Facebook page?  If I do, how do we keep up with it and what do we post?”

Naomi:  Yes. There are now 800 million people on Facebook (350 million on mobile devices alone), and over 50% of them log on to the site on any given day. Facebook is where people go for a real-time, personalized news feed from their friends and family – as well as increasingly, from the businesses they “like”.  But again, don’t feel like you have to master this all on your own. First of all, if you have at least one team member who is a member of Gen X or Gen Y, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a Facebook expert already in your employ. And secondly, there are a number of great companies that have popped up in the past 3-5 years offering assistance in this arena to the dental professional. Visit any dental tradeshow exhibit hall and you’ll find a plethora of companies who will manage your Facebook page, create posts for you and help train you and your team how to use this incredible patient communication tool. A few ideas for Facebook posts:

-          An inspirational quote from a famous figure
-          A link to a healthy recipe
-          A photo of the team in the classroom at a CE event**
-          A link to a page on your practice website featuring the bio/photo of a new or existing team member **
-          A message to patients -- or a special offer for patients
-          Practice news
-          News of local interest
-          A link to an article on general health or oral health
-          Full-face, professionally taken “after” photos from a recently completed case**
-          A link to a case featured on a referring doctor’s website**
-          A link to a patient education video or article**
-          A link to a patient testimonial or video testimonial**

**Remember, all testimonials, photos or video (of/from patients or team members) generally require a signed release.

What not to post on Facebook:
-          “Before” photos, intraoral photos or retracted photos
-          Clinical articles
-          Pictures of the team at happy hour
-          Broken links
-          Any photo or video or testimonial without a written release from the person featured

Naomi Cooper is President of Minoa Marketing, a dental marketing and social media consultancy based in Los Angeles, CA and serves as Chief Marketing Consultant for Pride Institute. She has over fifteen years of marketing experience – and a ten-year track record of enabling dental practices and dental companies to achieve their marketing goals. Naomi is also a published author, a sought-after speaker and an industry opinion leader. She can be reached via e-mail at naomi@minoamarketing.com.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Your Marketing Questions Answered by an Expert . . . part 2 of 4

Dayna : Doctors are asking me “With all the new companies popping up telling me they can get me noticed in the search engines online, how do I know which ones are reputable and going to serve my needs?”

Naomi: There are four main rules to remember when it comes to search engine optimization vendors.

1)      Leave it to professionals.
 If you spent all day, every day, learning about search engine optimization, you still wouldn’t be able to stay on top of “what works”. Search engines make their decisions based on constantly changing, complex algorithms; they’re like secret recipes that change every day. What that means for you is that the day after a website posts an article about how to better “optimize” (aka game the system), the search engines change something else in their algorithm to make that insight less relevant. And by the time you read that insight in a book, it’s ancient history. So first off, it’s best to leave SEO to companies that employ experts to do this full-time rather than attempting it yourself. Secondly, in my experience, your local yellow pages rep and your second cousin don’t count as SEO experts. Instead, consider companies that have a track record in successfully assisting dental professionals and who can provide references to that effect.

2)      Don’t sign long-term contracts or pay large sums up front.  
Search engine optimization (SEO), like most marketing efforts, is best looked at as a process, not an event. That means that SEO is something that must be worked on consistently over time, so don’t trust anyone who tells you they can “fix” your page ranking permanently for a one-time, up-front fee. I know dentists who have made the mistake of paying as much as $20,000 in advance for a year’s worth of SEO. Think about that. When you’re buying an ongoing service, what incentive does a vendor have to continue to work hard when they’ve been paid in full in advance, or when you’re tied into an iron-clad two- or three-year agreement?  Instead, hire a vendor who promises to continue to optimize your site on a regular basis and who is incented to do so by the prospect of continuing to earn your business. SEO does have a cumulative effect, as it takes time for search engines’ programs, known as “spiders”, to find your website and any newly optimized content. A six-month or one-year agreement should give your vendor enough time  for their work to take effect while leaving you with the leverage to be able to move on – if they don’t deliver.

3)      Prices vary widely based on geography and the competitive environment.
I’ve observed that as a general rule, the cost of SEO is directly correlated with the fair market rental rate (per square foot) for your office space. Is your practice in an upscale California suburb or a prime neighborhood in Manhattan? SEO is going to be expensive. For small town dentists, it’s much cheaper. If you have lots of competition, or group practices driving up the rents in your area, that will probably drive up the cost to compete for eyeballs online via SEO as well. For my clients in smaller communities, $100-$300 per month may be more than enough to stay at the top of the heap. For clients in more densely populated cities or high-rent districts, monthly SEO expenses can be in the thousands.

4)      Have reasonable expectations.
SEO is a constantly evolving art, not an exact science. Because search engines’ algorithms are well-guarded and constantly changing secret recipes, even the very best SEO specialists are essentially making highly educated guesses about what will help your placement. Nobody can legitimately promise you the top spot in natural search results, and nobody can guarantee that you’ll keep that page ranking once you’ve gotten there. Better to hire a company that promises to improve your placement incrementally than someone selling a panacea.

Naomi Cooper is President of Minoa Marketing, a dental marketing and social media consultancy based in Los Angeles, CA and serves as Chief Marketing Consultant for Pride Institute. She has over fifteen years of marketing experience – and a ten-year track record of enabling dental practices and dental companies to achieve their marketing goals. Naomi is also a published author, a sought-after speaker and an industry opinion leader. She can be reached via e-mail at naomi@minoamarketing.com.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Keep Your Hygiene Chair Full . . . part 3 of 3

So how is your hygiene schedule looking?  I’m guessing it looks a lot better since you started working your Continuing Care Report on a regular basis throughout the week.  Sometimes a courtesy call is all it takes to get a past due patient scheduled.
Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news again, but now you have a 90 minute opening in your hygiene room and that 60 minute prophy appointment just won’t fill it.  Because I know you want to fill every precious moment for your hygienist so she can be as productive as possible, I have another great tool for you!  In addition to working the Unscheduled List and the Continuing Care Report on a regular basis, you can also follow up on patients that have unscheduled scaling and root planing treatment to complete.  I suggest using the Dentrix Treatment Manager Report.
Now, what would be perfect for that 90 minute opening?  2 quads of gum therapy.   If you are planning your gum therapy treatments through the Dentrix Patient Chart it will be a piece of cake for you to pull a list of gum therapy patients to fill that opening in your hygiene chair. 
How do you pull this list?  From the Appointment Book click on the icon at the top of the screen with the green chair and a dollar sign on it, this is the Treatment Manager Report.  You are going to filter this report down and only search for procedure code D4341 through D4342.  See the screen shot below.  

Now that you have generated a list of patients to call, I recommend you do a little research before you pick up the phone.  Remember you are not calling about a regular recall visit that is usually covered by insurance at 100%.  So, before you pick up the phone, you’ll want to check their insurance benefits, current account balance and any previous notes about the patient’s treatment plan..  That way, you can be sure you are calling the most appropriate patients and that you’ll have everything at your fingertips to answer any of their  questions.
And, (pop quiz!) when you do call the patient – where are you going to document the call?  See my discussion of the Office Journal in my last post on the Continuing Care list if you drew a blank on that one.    The Office Journal link is at the top of the report for easy access, and it offers a handy and integrated way to keep a log of your communications with each patient.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the Hygiene Coordinator has a big job in keeping the hygiene chair full and productive.  Over the last three posts, we’ve now looked at three great tools she can use to make her job easier, while keeping the Hygiene room booked and the hygienists happy:
1.        The Unscheduled List
2.       The Continuing Care List, and
3.       The Treatment Manager Report
Plus – we threw in a bonus tool, The Office Journal, which works alongside the lists and reports to support you in tracking your contacts with each patient.
I know that these tools and resources will help you manage your hygiene in a more efficient and productive way – give them a whirl and put them to work for you!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Keep Your Hygiene Room Full - part 2 of 3

Awesome!  You got that opening this afternoon filled by using your Unscheduled List - Great Job! 
Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you still have that opening in your hygiene room for tomorrow to fill.  Never fear, I have another great tool for you.  Remember in my last post how I said not to worry that if you delete someone off the Unscheduled List, because they would show up on another list?   One of the other lists I am talking about is your Continuing Care Report.
If you delete a Continuing Care (recall) appointment off of your Unscheduled List they will (presto change-o) show up as “unscheduled” on your Continuing Care Report.  (To get to this report go to your Appointment Book and click on the Continuing Care icon on the toolbar.)  This Continuing Care list can be filtered to generate a report of patients that meet a particular set of criteria.  So for example, if you want to see a list of patients who were due for their Prophy in September 2011, your setup screen would look like this:
Now that you have created a list to work from, start calling!  My favorite place for documenting phone calls to patients is in the Office Journal - and it works out beautifully because when you generate a Continuing Care report, the tab for the Office Journal is right at the top of the report.   How easy is that?
Another time saving tip for working this report is to create and use list templates.  To do this, go into Views >Continuing Care View Setup and create several search criteria to help save time when you are generating your report.  Here’s a list of the templates I’d recommend right off the bat:
·         1 yr past due Prophy
·         1 yr past due Perio
·         3 month past due Prophy
·         3 month past due Perio
·         current Prophy
·         current Perio  
As I said in my last post, this system of working your Continuing Care report should be part of your weekly management routine, just like making collection calls.  It is that important! 
The continuing care list is only the second of three lists that will help you keep your hygiene chair full; my next post covers another one that you might not have thought of -  so make sure you tune in for the mystery list #3!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Keep Your Hygiene Room Full . . . part 1 of 3

You have a hole in your hygiene schedule this afternoon and a big opening tomorrow? Where do you start?  This is a common – even daily - challenge in all dental practices and one that requires you to have an office protocol so team members know how to tackle it. 
Use your “Unscheduled List”
To fill the opening in this afternoon’s schedule,  I would definitely start with your Unscheduled List.  The Unscheduled List is a great tool for filling those short notice openings that come up because these patients have already been in your appointment book and are ready to reschedule.  This list is located on the Appointment Book on the top of the screen under Appt List and is populated by patients who have either broken an appointment or clicked on the Wait/Will Call list button on the appointment.
No one likes a long, messy list
For those of you have let your Unscheduled List get out of control and don’t even use it any more, now is a great time to clean it up and get back to using one of the best features of your Dentrix software.  My recommendation is to keep this list very current, dating back only about 6-8 weeks.  The goal is to keep your Unscheduled List a short, quick call list to help you fill those annoying short notice cancellations. To maintain a short, useful list you’ll need to take regular action to move names off of it.  In other words, once a patient’s appointment has been moved to the Unscheduled List, don’t just leave it there!  Call the patient and get them re-appointed.   Working the Unscheduled List is just another part of your weekly office management routine and you should make room for it in your schedule just as you do for collection calls. 
If you have called a patient 3 times to re-appoint them and they are still making up excuses not to come in or you just can’t get  them to call you back, it is time to kick them off your list.  (Now don’t worry, if you delete this appointment off the Unscheduled List, the patient will still show up on another list so you will not lose track of her.)  I suggest using the Office Journal to document your phone calls whenever you make a phone call to a patient to try and reschedule their appointment, this way you or anyone else in the office can see the attempts made to re-appoint the patient. 
What are you waiting for?
If you are one of those offices that has stopped using this amazing feature, it is time to get to it.  There is a newer feature inside of the Unscheduled List that will allow you to “purge” your list down to a manageable level.  (Now again, don’t worry, any appointments that you purge off the list will show up on another list.)   Are you wondering  “what other list?”  Good!  Read my next post and you will find out.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Your Marketing Questions Answered by an Expert . . . part 1 of 4

Dayna: Front office team members ask me all the time “I feel like I am losing some of that personal touch with my patients now that we are using e-mail and text messaging for patient communication.  How can I use this new technology and still feel like our patients are getting good customer service?”

Naomi: The reality is that technology can actually improve and expand on your team’s ability to communicate with patients, rather than diminish or depersonalize it.  As always, it’s all about how you implement electronic communications in your practice. After all, you don’t have to impose a “one size fits all” approach to patient communication – instead, customize using the new tools you have at your fingertips.

Here’s an example. Does your practice have patients who have provided you with their email addresses, but you’re not sure whether they check their email weekly, let alone daily? One way of tailoring your communications could be calling these patients the first time you send them email appointment reminders, just to confirm that they received them, and even walking them through the online confirmation process.  Chances are, they appreciate the convenience of email communications, and the personal phone call on the front end shows them that you care enough to help them understand how the practice’s new online confirmation process works.

Giving patients the ability to “opt out” of electronic communication is also critical. Some people will never grow out of needing to be sent a recall postcard the old-fashioned way. But don’t assume that someone’s age determines their technology-savvy; the fastest growing group of internet users today are 65 and older!

Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the appointment reminder process is the only place to personalize the patient experience. At the end of the day, if you’re still fretting about the rise of technology and the demise of the personal touch in your practice, consider the time and expense involved every time you make ten appointment confirmation calls, mail out a batch of recall cards or assemble a paper newsletter. Using technology to automate these processes can eliminate hours of busywork each week, freeing up the front desk to take part in other truly personal communications, like sending handwritten thank you notes to patients who refer, interacting with patients via social media, spending more time with patients (and prospective patients) on the phone and speaking with patients face to face!   

Naomi Cooper is President of Minoa Marketing, a dental marketing and social media consultancy based in Los Angeles, CA and serves as Chief Marketing Consultant for Pride Institute. She has over fifteen years of marketing experience – and a ten-year track record of enabling dental practices and dental companies to achieve their marketing goals. Naomi is also a published author, a sought-after speaker and an industry opinion leader. She can be reached via e-mail at naomi@minoamarketing.com.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Type I or Type II NPI - What's the Difference?

Ok, let’s turn up the volume in the excitement department and talk about something that I know everyone is on the edge of their seats about.  What?  You don’t want to talk about Government mandated provider numbers?  Hard to believe, but let’s talk NPI types anyway, because it is important.  You might be surprised how many offices I encounter that are not billing correctly, because they have misunderstood these type codes.
When I am working with a new Dentrix office setting up the provider numbers   is a routine part of determining the basic information to include on the dental claim form.  But what about all you existing Dentrix users?  I worry about all the sleep you are losing, wondering what a Type II NPI number even is and where it goes on the dental claim form. 
In layman’s terms, a Type II NPI number is used if the dentist or dental office is a corporation.  If your office files taxes as a corporation (and not as a sole proprietor), then you need to have a Type II NPI number.  If you don’t know – just ask the office’s accountant, you’ll make his or her day.
If your office files taxes as a corporation, then your dentist will have his personal Type I NPI and you will also have a Type II NPI for the organization.  If you need to apply for a Type II NPI you can go to the National Plan & Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) to apply.  CLICK HERE to be directed to the NPPES application page.
Once you have received your Type II NPI number,  it only takes a couple quick steps to set it up in your Dentrix software.  First, from the Office Manager go to Maintenance > Practice Setup > Practice Resource Setup.  This will open up the page with all your providers.  You will need to create a new provider for the corporation and enter the new Type II NPI number here.

Next, from the Office Manager go to Maintenance > Practice Setup > Practice Defaults.  This will open the page where you will point the Billing and the Pay-To Provider to the new Corporation so the Type II NPI number will print in the correct fields on the dental claim form. 

So, there you have it – the basics you need to know  on NPI types.  Now we can all relax knowing we’ve put this important little tidbit to rest, and we can all move on to a topic more exciting than government regulations.  I promise.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fee Schedules . . . The Method of Choice for PPO Plans

As I said in my last post, using Dentrix’s Fee Schedules takes a little bit of management but produces huge benefits!  I am amazed at how many offices don’t know this Dentrix feature exists for setting up and managing fee schedules.   If you are in one of those offices, it’s time to find it and use it – you’ll be so glad you did.  Let’s walk through it together so that you can start seeing those benefits sooner than later. 
First, you will need a copy of your fee schedule from the insurance company.  Next, in Dentrix, find your way to the fee schedule set up screen, by following this path:   go to the Office Manager > Maintenance > Practice Setup > Auto Fee Schedule Changes.  The box that opens up should look like this: 

This is the tool you will use whenever you need to make changes to your fee schedules.  If you want to rename your fee schedules, just go to the Office Manager > Maintenance > Practice Setup > Definitions > click on the drop down menu and select Fee Schedule Names.  Now that your fee schedule is set up, you can now attach it to the Dental Insurance Plan, using the insurance edit screen on the Family File.  If you want to bill out full fees to the insurance companies, you’ll find a box just above the Fee Schedule box called the Claim Format box where you can change it to DX2012F.  See below: 

When you use the DX2012F claim format, remember that you will be billing out full fees to the insurance companies.  When you receive your EOB back from the insurance company it may look like you need to do an adjustment because the submitted amount will be greater than the allowed amount, but remember, the patient’s ledger has the correct PPO fees so no adjustment should be necessary. 
The final step in the setup is making sure the Coverage Table is accurate.  When using fee schedules, do not use the Payment Table unless there is a specific procedure code that falls outside the fee schedule coverage percentage.  A good example of this exception would be the downgrade for posterior composites.
The biggest benefits I see with using fee schedules are in the Treatment Planner and on the Ledger when collecting over the counter. 
If you are just switching over to using fee schedules and your patient has an existing treatment plan, you will need to use the Update Fees feature in the Treatment Planner in order for the treatment plan estimate to reflect the new fee structure.  Once you’ve used the Update Fees feature,  you can print the patient estimate just as you did before, but now it will reflect an accurate estimate without any manual calculations. 
In my experience, using Fee Schedules when you are contracted with an insurance company will give you more accurate accounting of production, help your front office team collect more accurately on the day of service and help give your patients an accurate treatment estimate when accepting treatment.  This is a WIN, WIN for everyone!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fee Schedules or Write Offs . . . That is the Question

This is the hot topic in my home state of Washington since our largest dental insurance company recently slashed our filed fees by 15% or more on June 15th, 2011.  Several offices I work with have called me asking for advice on how to deal with it now that even the non-PPO plans are working under a much lower fee schedule.  Before I give my two cents I want you to understand the differences between using a fee schedule and using adjustments. 
Let’s talk write offs
Offices using the write off system bill out the full fee for the procedure and then perform an adjustment (write-off) on the ledger to account for the difference between the office fee and what the contracted fee is with the insurance company.  On their billing statements, patients see the full fee and also an adjustment showing how much money their dentist is losing by being a member of their PPO dental plan.  Also, in the write off system, the dental insurance companies are automatically billed the office’s higher fee, rather  than the PPO fee, which will help when the insurance company looks at how much of an increase to make to the fee schedule (even though we all  know this hardly ever happens).  
I love this method!  However, the Dentrix Treatment Planner doesn’t work optimally with the write off method, and this can create some challenges for your team.  So, it is important to know what your options are, so you can make the best choice for your office.
Here’s the challenge:  If you are using your office full fee and doing write-offs, the Dentrix Treatment Planner has no way of knowing how to account for that difference.  Your office team will be required to make hand written adjustments to the treatment plan estimate which can make it look unprofessional and messy.  Also, it will be challenging to collect on the day of service since the ledger cannot accurately calculate the patient’s portion if the full fee is being posted to the ledger.  Of course, even with this tricky calculator work, some offices still prefer to use this method.  But you should know that there  is another option – fee schedules -  that can work really well for you in the long run.
Fee Schedules – a little bit of management but lots of benefits
The fee schedules system is the preferred method for offices that are contracted with multiple PPO plans.  With this system, the office team must keep the fee schedules current, update the coverage table accurately and attach the fee schedule to the insurance plan properly.  
The most frequent comment I get from team members when I discuss this method with them is “I want to bill my full fee to the insurance company and that is why I have never switched over to using fee schedules.”  Great!  You can bill full fees and still use fee schedules.  I’ll give you more details on this in my next post, but for a preview - all you have to do is change the claim format to the DX2012F when you are attaching the fee schedule to the insurance plan (the F tells the Dentrix software to bill the fee schedule fee to the patient ledger and the full fee to the insurance company).
So what are the advantages of using fee schedules?  Collecting at time of service is accurate on the ledger; the treatment plan estimates are accurate, so you don’t have to do any manual calculating; and the production for the day will show a net production number instead of an inflated production number.   All of these are huge advantages for your team and your bottom line!
So, now you have the scoop:  Both systems work, and there is no right or wrong way to deal with PPO plans – but there are pros and cons to each, so you should choose thoughtfully.  Hopefully this post has helped you understand your options.  Next week I will walk you through the proper setup of the fee schedule method.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Drumroll please . . .

It’s here!  The feature you all have been waiting for . . . Dentalink! 
I know, I asked the same thing . . . Denta –what?   Dentalink is the new instant messenger feature inside of your Dentrix software.    Like other IM programs, (such as  Yahoo instant messenger), Dentalink allows you to send a quick message to someone or have a full length conversation.  Unlike with other IM programs, though, with Dentalink you don’t have to create a new password or join anything to be a member,  you just have to install the latest version of eSync with the new Plug-in Manager.

Once your office computers are updated, Dentalink is ready to go.  You will see a little conversation bubble in the lower right task bar on your computer and if you miss a message notification from someone it will blink yellow until you read it.  Pretty cool, huh?  If you do want to go into the eSync setup and customize Dentalink you can – for example you can change your workstation names and create some templates if you are finding yourself typing the same sentences over and over again.  But none of that is necessary – the functions you need are already built in.
So here’s a situation for you:
                Your patient, Ms. Jones walks in and you greet her just like you always do.  Ms. Jones sits in the reception room for 5 . . .10 . . . 20 minutes until you finally walk to the back to find out why they are running late.  Your hygienist says “Oh, we decided to place Arestin in a couple areas while Mr. Smith was here, can you let Ms. Jones know that I am running a little behind?”  You think (to yourself of course), “Why didn’t she just tell me that 20 minutes ago so I could have let Ms. Jones know as soon as she walked in the door?”  
Once your office has Dentalink installed -any team member can send a Quick Message from any workstation up to the front desk notifying them of the situation.    Armed with this information, you’ll be able to set a reasonable expectation for Ms. Jones and save yourself the aggravation of being left in the dark when changes occur that impact the schedule.
Here’s another one for you:
                Your office has a Comlite system with buttons and flashing lights to let the clinical team members AND YOUR DOCTORS know when they are needed.   However, your doctor is in his office glued to his computer watching an oral surgery webinar and ignoring the Comlite.  If you had Dentalink installed, you could send him an instant message that would “pop-up” right in the middle of his webinar.  You could say something like “Is the Comlite not working in your office again?”  We use that one a lot J
Give the Dentalink feature a try!  I know you’ll appreciate the simple effectiveness of this tool – and I think you’ll find it allows your whole team to stay more closely in sync with each other throughout the day. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Use it or Lose it!

Put a little extra peace in your Holiday Season
It’s that time of year again . . . time to send out a reminder to our patients letting them know how much money they still have available of their insurance maximum so they can take advantage of their benefits before they lose them at the end of the year. (I know, I know, not all insurance companies renew at the end of December, but you can use this same technique for those unique plans that renew at other times during the year.)
A reminder today can save a heap of stress come December
Patients love that we take the time to send them a gentle reminder about their available benefits and treatment needs.  Sending out this letter now will hopefully save us all from that mad rush at the end of the year.  You know that phone call we get on December 10th that goes something like this;
“Hi, this is David and I want to get that crown done so I can use up my insurance before the end of the year.  Sorry I didn’t call sooner but time just flew by.” 
Unfortunately for David, our reply at that point would likely be;
“David, we have had a lot of people in your situation and our schedule is full till the end of the year so I will need to keep you on a waiting list.” 
By sending out the reminder letter now, we can help avoid this situation and at least lower the possibility that we’ll have a bunch of David’s calling around to other offices to see if they can get squeezed in before the clock strikes midnight on the 31st of December.
Wondering how to generate a letter like that? 
Dentrix letter merge makes it easy.  Here’s how to use it:
From the Office Manager, go to Letters > misc > Treatment Plan Reminder > Edit > then select the parameters for your search.  Click on the >> next to the ‘Dental Insurance’ to open the options for insurance, then click the >> next to the ‘Procedures,’ put a check mark next to  ‘Treatment Plan,’ and select the date range you want.  These selections will help you generate a group of patients who have a treatment plan with remaining insurance benefits. 
If you want to customize the Treatment Plan Letter (dtxlm21) you can click on ‘open template’ and make any changes you want and then say “yes” to save.  (Remember, however, that when you create a merge, you must always say “no” to save after you are done printing.)
Hopefully with this secret weapon your phones will start ringing off the hook with patients scheduling their treatment before the end of the year and not jamming up the schedule the last few weeks of December.   Trust me -  given the right nudge, even David might just pull it together and come in in November … Ok, maybe early December.  Isn’t it worth a try?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Does your Continuing Care need a boost?

Do you wish sometimes that your computer system would think for you?
What if you could put your continuing care system on auto-pilot?  What if your patients just magically received a postcard reminding them of scheduled appointments?  What if an email miraculously appeared in their inbox when they are due to come in?  This isn’t magic . . . this is reality! 
With the Dentrix eCentral Communications Manager you can eliminate the need for that calendar on your desk – you know, the one you have to update on a weekly or monthly basis to remind you to send out those postcards.  While you’re at it, you can stop wasting time sifting through countless catalogs trying to figure out which postcards to purchase.  It takes about 10 minutes to setup a series of reminders and then let it run . . . automatically! 
Is the 10 minute set up really worth it?
Back in May, I was working with an office up in Anchorage, Alaska where the staff was struggling to keep their hygiene chair booked a week in advance.  Within just three months of implementing the eCentral postcards and e-mail correspondence, their hygiene chair was booked out 3 weeks in advance! Needless to say, the doctor was ecstatic.  (By the way, they also added the text messages, and their no-show rate dramatically improved).
So let’s say I spring for the 10 minutes and get set up – what is it going to take to keep up with eCentral?
Even though my Continuing Care correspondence system is automated and I rarely think about it, I do like to go through and update it once in a while.  One of the awesome features of the eCentral e-mail and postcard program is that there are so many templates to choose from and you can customize them.  I like to change my templates with the seasons, so in a few weeks I will go in and add some fall or winter scenes to keep our look fresh and new.  If you want to play with customizing your text content to give it a personal touch, you can do it using the merge fields in the e-mail templates, (just like those in Dentrix quick letters).  I have found though, that the Dentrix default text doesn’t need too much doctoring up. 
Think simple and clear
I believe that you need to keep things simple and give clear instructions.  Our patients have simple questions, like: “when do I need to be at my appointment?” and “what do I need to do next?” Why not help them out by being super-clear about what you want them to do.  Do you want your patient to call to confirm?  Or, do you just want them to click on the confirm button at the bottom of the e-mail so that the status will automatically change in the appointment? (No joke – the appointment will change to ‘FIRM’ when the patient clicks on the confirm button)  Or, is this e-mail for a past due patient and you want her to call to schedule an appointment for a professional cleaning?  Once you are clear on what you want, you can express it to patients clearly and simply. 
Below is a sample of what an appointment confirmation e-mail might look like to one of your patients. 

In this example, I kept the merge fields intact and just added the sentence “Please click on the CONFIRM button at the bottom of this e-mail or call 360-221-6373 to confirm your appointment.   Remember to take your medications as usual the day of your visit.”  As you can see it is very professional, clear, and easy to read and our patients all understand the directions. 
With the eCentral Communication Manager you can not only automate your delivery method for postcards, e-mails and text messages, but customize the text for your e-mails to give it a more personal feel.   Give it a try – like the happy folks in Anchorage, I think you’ll discover that increased retention rate plus fewer no-shows equals the kind of bottom-line booster that will lighten up some serious smiles around your office.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Now where did I put those x-rays?

Back in the Day
Do you remember back in the day when you would get film x-rays from a referring doctor or the patients’ previous dentist and you would stick them in some kind of a filing system until the patient’s appointment?  The x-ray accordion file or hanging file folder seemed so simple and everyone in the office knew where it was. 
Well those days are quickly coming to an end for those dental offices transitioning to electronic health records and digital x-rays, and I’ll be the first to admit that the road to change can be a bit bumpy. Although there are multiple ways to import images and store them effectively, in my office it has been challenging at times to make sure the x-rays are received and then imported into the patients chart so that the clinical team has access to them before the patient’s appointment.  So, here’s some hard-won advice from one who’s been there.
Life after “The X-ray File”
So, what DO you do with the digital x-rays you receive for a new patient when you haven’t yet opened their account in Dentrix?  Is there a digital equivalent of that accordion file or hanging file folder that’s been so effective for storing those x-rays all these years?  I have a couple suggestions.
Suggestion #1:
 If you are using Microsoft Outlook, go to file > Data File Management > click on “add,” and create a file folder for your x-rays received from other offices.  This will give you a way to move those e-mails containing x-ray images into a designated file folder where  you can store them separately from all the other e-mails in your inbox.  Then, when you are ready to import the images into your software, you can delete the e-mail containing the x-rays. 
Suggestion #2:
Another option is to create a file folder on your desktop called something jazzy like “x-rays from other offices.”  If you choose this method, you will then need to create patient-specific sub-folders inside of this folder.  This will enable you to download the images into the patient’s unique sub-folder as they come in, and you’ll be able to locate them more easily when you need them.  Then, when the patient comes in, you would import the images from your desktop folder into the patient’s chart and then delete the patient’s sub-folder from the desktop file.
Either way . . .
Whichever way you go with your pre-upload storage system, when you are ready to import the images to the patient’s chart, you can import them into the Dentrix Document Center or your imaging software.  And here’s a tip:   If your office has not yet purchased an imaging software program and you are importing x-rays into the Dentrix Document Center make sure you have saved the image in the correct format.  These formats include .bmp, .jpg, .tif, .gif and .png.  The most common is .jpg (jpeg).  Don’t be afraid to ask the office that is sending image files to you to send them in one of these file types to make it easier for you.   Help them help you!
Once the x-rays are safely home in the Dentrix Document Center, you can easily view them on the computer screen, attach them to an insurance claim, e-mail them using Microsoft Outlook or export them out to a different folder or your desktop.  But these last topics I will save for another day . . .