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

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.