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 . . .

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Holes in your doctors schedule?

What do you do when, during a patient’s continuing care appointment, the doctor diagnoses a tooth that needs a crown and the patient leaves without scheduling it?  Have you ever wondered how much unscheduled treatment you have on your books, and how your team is following up on it? Looking for some new ways to reach out to your patients?  Read on.
When I present the Dentrix Insight Seminars I am surprised at how many offices have no idea what the Treatment Manager Report is.  Do you?  This is THE tool for retrieving a list of patients who have unscheduled treatment waiting to be acted upon.  These patients are just waiting for a phone call, e-mail, letter or some kind of correspondence reminding them about that decay or fractured tooth that the doctor diagnosed at their last visit.  I know none of us like ‘babysitting’ our patients, but we have a responsibility to our doctors to keep their schedule full and use every resource available to help our office be as productive as possible.  
The Treatment Manager Report can be generated from the Appointment Book or the Patient Chart.   You can customize this amazing report to generate a list of patients who meet specific criteria.  Using this report, you can search for all patients with unscheduled treatment or only patients who have dental implants in their treatment plan or only treatment plans from a certain date range.  However you build it, you now have an interactive list to work from. 

Once you generate a report that meets your customized criteria, you’ll want to put it to use by contacting patients with reminders and gentle nudges, and everything you need to do that quickly and easily is at your fingertips, right in the report.  At the top of the report you’ll find a list of all the built-in tools for corresponding with your patients.         These include:
·         The Office Journal – use this for documenting your phone conversations.  Why the patient didn’t schedule, when they want you to follow up or how they can achieve financing.
·         The Quick Letters – have some custom letters created in here if you have a patient who might respond better to a letter.  You could include how much insurance they have left for the year or include links to financing options like CitiHealth Card or Care Credit.
·         E-mail through Microsoft Outlook – if you have not been able to reach your patient by phone, try an e-mail.  I have found that many of my patients now want to communicate through e-mail instead of the telephone.
·         Treatment Planner -  review a treatment plan by clicking on this icon before you call your patient.
·         Patient Ledger – review a patient’s balance before you call her to see if she has a past due balance.
Wondering if these tools are worth the effort?   Not too long ago, the dentist I work for came up to the front desk and pulled out a paper chart from the file cabinet.   The patient had multiple items on his treatment plan and the dentist asked me, “Don’t you wonder what happened to this patient and why he never scheduled this treatment?”  My reply was, “Let me look and see what our correspondence with the patient has been and I will let you know. “  I reviewed the patient’s Office Journal and was able to show my doctor documentation of each and every phone call and conversation I had with the patient over the last 6 months.  Instantly, I was able to demonstrate to him that just because I wasn’t writing in the paper chart any more didn’t mean I wasn’t following up with our patients’ treatment plans.   Score one for the Dentrix Manager Report!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The New Patient Experience . . . Electronic Patient Forms

Ask anyone who knows me what my favorite Dentrix feature is and he or she will answer, “The Questionnaire Module.” I absolutely love it! Questionnaires can be used effectively for several different tasks, but the most common is for your new patient forms. In my last post, I recommended sending your new patient a customized welcome letter using the Dentrix letter feature and directing your new patient to your website to fill out the new patient forms. These electronic forms are created by you and are fully customizable. Many of the fields will merge directly with your patient’s Family File, including patient demographics and medical alerts.
If your office is ready to create electronic forms, ask yourself, “Do I like the paper forms I am using now?” If the answer is “yes,” then create your new patient forms in the Questionnaire module to match your current forms as closely as possible. This will help create consistency with your transition. If your answer is “no,” then this is a great time to make some changes. Add and delete questions as necessary. I have found it is easier to start with a new form and build it from scratch, then try and edit one of the existing Dentrix default forms (that’s just my opinion). Now, I would love to go into a long, drawn out, step-by-step how-to on building forms, but Dentrix has already done that in their user guide and Resource Center.

You might be asking, “What if our new patient doesn’t have a computer or Internet?” or “What do we do if our new patient forgets to fill out their forms at home?” These are great questions and I recommend that you have alternative options set up for these situations. Here are some examples of “Plan B” when your new patient hasn’t filled out their forms from your website:
1.       The most popular option I am finding is integrating an Apple iPad with the Kiosk software. There is no additional cost for the Kiosk software if you are using Website Manager in the eCentral suite. You just need to acquire a user ID and password.
2.       Another option is purchasing a Kiosk stand alone workstation so patients can fill out the forms at your office. These workstations are typically touch screen and very patient-friendly. Contact Henry Schein Tech Central for more information.
3.       You could also have a workstation at your front desk with a dual monitor where you could open the Questionnaire and “drag” it over to the other monitor for the patient to fill out the form in your office.
4.       The last (and least desirable) option is printing the Questionnaire, then handing the patient a clipboard. Someone will then need to type the answers into the form for the patient.
I think you will find that your new patients will be very impressed with your up-to-date technology and the ease of filling out the form from home. There are so many more great things to discuss when integrating the Dentrix Questionnaire forms into your practice, and I will discuss those in upcoming blogs.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The New Patient Experience . . . The Welcome Letter

In my last post, I said that I was going to talk about the handoff between the front office team and the clinical team. However, there are still some items to cover on the front office checklist before we move on. Now that your new patient is scheduled, you must make sure he or she feels welcome and the documentation needed by the front office and clinical team to treat the patient effectively must be collected. This information includes the new patient forms and any current X-rays or perio charting.
First, let’s talk about the new patient forms. Your Dentrix software has a great letter feature that allows you to generate a welcome letter to your new patients. This letter can be customized to provide instructions for your new patient to maneuver through your website and fill out the patient registration and medical/dental history forms online. You could also include your paper forms in the same envelope with the welcome letter and ask the patient to bring the completed forms to the first visit. If you haven’t used this letter feature, let me walk you through it.
From the Office Manager, click on Letters at the top tool bar, then open the Welcome Letters, select the Welcome – Before 1st visit and select the date range you want. Below is what your screen should look like throughout this process. Even though these patients do not have a Family File open, the Dentrix software is smart enough to search out patients that fit into these criteria.

Taking the time to send this letter will hopefully give your new patients that added boost they need to help them prepare for their first visit. We all know how much of an impact it can make on our schedule if the forms are not filled out. The last thing you want to do is put your clinical team 15-30 minutes behind schedule from the start of the appointment.
Look back in my previous post “The initial telephone call” where I talk about utilizing the check box list at the bottom of the appointment screen. Some ideas for this checkbox list could include Sent Welcome Letter, Requested X-rays, Received X-rays, and Received new patient forms. Using Dentrix to its fullest potential can eliminate all those unwanted sticky notes, paper lists, and misplaced information.