Monday, December 31, 2012

The Top 10 Most Read Blogs

As I conclude my first full year writing the Dentrix Office Manager Blog, I thought it would be interesting to do a year-end wrapup of the Top 10 most read blogs since I began writing in this space. Here are the topics that you, my loyal readers, have read the most, along with snippets of each blog.

1.       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.   Click here to read more . . .

2.       The 5 Minute Morning Huddle  Does this sound familiar? You walk into the office in the morning, say “good morning” to all your team mates and put your lunch in the fridge. The hygienists are busy sharpening their instruments for a day of root planing and scaling, the doctor is in the lab finishing up that nightguard that is due at 8:00am and the dental assistants are setting up trays for the day making sure all the lab cases are in.  Click here to read more . . .

3.       The New Patient Experience . . . the initial telephone call You know that old saying: “You never have a second chance to make a first impression”? Well that old saying still means a lot in this day when exceptional customer service is so hard to find. How your front office team handles the very first phone call from a new patient not only establishes the patient’s perception of how his or her visit will go, it even impacts the likelihood that they will refer their friends and family. Click here to read more . . .

4.       Does your Continuing Care Need a Boost?    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! Click hereto read more . . .

5.       A Little Known Secret If you are transitioning from paper to paperless, do you find that you are scanning paper all the time? Does the paper pile up in the “to be scanned” box and sit there, just waiting for someone to have free time to take care of it? When I work with offices on their paper storage management, I am surprised by how many offices don’t know about the “Send to Dentrix Document Center” feature. I actually received two e-mails about it this week so I thought I would “shout it out” to all of you. Click here to read more . . .

6.       The 5 Stats Every Office Should Monitor When I say “monitor,” I don’t mean you write the numbers down on your spreadsheet, stick it in the 3-ring binder, and forget about it. I mean you are writing it down, discussing it with your doctor, talking about it with your team, and coming up with strategies as a team to improve it or high-fiving each other because you are exceeding your expectations. Numbers tell a story. The numbers help you reinvent systems, protocols, and campaigns. Click here to read more . . .

7.       Don’t Let Unused Insurance Benefits go to Waste September is the perfect time to send out a reminder to your patients who have unused dental insurance benefits. Sending it out now will hopefully get patients to call in sooner instead of waiting until the middle of December when it gets down to crunch time on the calendar. There are two different methods I am going to talk about today: using your Dentrix software to create a mass merge letter and, for those of you using DemandForce, how to merge a list and send out an e-mail campaign. Click here to read more . . .

8.       Holes in your Doctor’s 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? Click here to read more . . .
9.       The Three Most Common Battles Between the Front Office and Back Office Scheduling is a chess game. It takes skill and planning to make just the right moves so that, at the end of the day, you’re not in checkmate with the entire team backing you into a corner, and you wondering what you did that caused total chaos. The schedule is the one thing in the dental practice that affects every team member, but running it properly is often not taken seriously. The problems I find in the dental practices I work with are completely fixable, with a little planning. Click here to read more . . .

10.   At Some Point We Need to Let the Patient Go Recently, I was in an office doing some training on the Practice Advisor Report and we were talking about the “Active Patient” count and how Dentrix comes up with that number. I informed them that, with the Practice Advisor Report, you determine the definition of an “active patient” using the amount of time it has been since the patient was in last for an appointment. This led to a new discussion of what was their protocol for patients who haven’t been in for 18, 24, or even 60 months? We ran a search of patients with a last visit date of more than five years ago and the list had more than 700 patients on it. They were shocked! Click here to read more . . .

If you have a topic that you would like me to write about, or a dilemma you wish you could solve in your practice, drop me a line at


Sunday, December 16, 2012

What is the Status of the Lab Case?

Do any of these lab-related scenarios ever happen in your office?

·         You call to confirm a patient for tomorrow, only to be told later that the lab case is not in the office and you have to reschedule the patient.

·         The lab case was never sent out.

·         UPS, FedEx, or the Postal Service lost the patient’s case and you have no way of tracking it.

·         You are trying to fill an opening in your schedule for tomorrow, but you have to go into the back and find the spiral-bound notebook containing the log of all the lab cases to find out if the case is back so you can call the patient.

Do you wish you had a better system for managing the lab cases in your office? The Dentrix Lab Case Manager can help with all the above scenarios. It is easy to set up, easy to use, and will help you and your team communicate better about lab cases and, in turn, help your office run more efficiently. When I say help your team communicate better, I am talking about non-verbal communication … you don’t even have to talk to get an answer to your lab-related question. With the Lab Case Manager, you can see right from the patient’s appointment if the case is out or in, check the due date, check what lab it went to, and check the status of it with the tracking number. I am amazed that more offices are not utilizing it.

To use Lab Case Manager, you must first set up your labs. Go to the Appointment Book and click on the Lab Case Manager icon (click stop if it starts loading). Before Dentrix will allow you to enter a lab, you must first create shade guides and shipping methods that will be attached to the labs. Select Shade Guide and click add, then you can just type in “office default” or you can actually type in your shade guides here. Next, hit close, go back to setup, and select shipping method. Enter any type of shipping you use with your labs (UPS, FedEx, lab delivery, Postal Service, etc.). Click add and close, then open the Setup again and select Labs. This is where you will enter the list of labs with which you do business. Fill in the important information about your lab and, in the drop down menu in the upper right, select how this lab delivers cases to you. You are done with the basic setup.

I use the Dentrix Lab Case Manager in a very simple form — I check the case out and I check it in. If you want to get more detailed than that you can, but I am not going to go into that much detail in this blog (you can watch a webinar in the Dentrix Knowledgebase article # 45893 ). From the patient appointment box, put a check mark next to the Lab Case and click on the Patient Lab Cases button, then select Create Lab Case. In my opinion, the most important pieces of information are Lab, shipping method, tracking number (if there is one), and the Case #. Click OK, then select your case to link with this appointment. You can see in the picture below why I am having you put in a brief description of the case in the Case # box. Over time, a patient can have multiple cases and this will help you to select the right case for this appointment.
After you have created the case and attached it, a blue L with a white background will appear on the appointment. When the case is delivered, just double-click on the L on the appointment, double-click on the correct case in the list, and click on the Receive button on the lower left corner of the box and a new box will open. If you want to track the fee for this case, you can enter it in the upper right corner of this screen, then click OK. Now the white background will turn green and you know that the case is in.

If the case needs to be returned to the lab for any reason, just double-click on the L again, double-click on the case #, click on the Receive Case button in the lower left corner, and then check the box Return Case to Lab. The case will then turn back to a white background on your appointment book so you know the case has been sent back out of the office.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, the Lab Case Manager can improve your communication in your office for managing the patient lab cases. Communication does not always have to be face-to-face; it just has to be consistent.

Monday, December 10, 2012

At Some Point . . . we need to let the patient go

Recently, I was in an office doing some training on the Practice Advisor Report and we were talking about the “Active Patient” count and how Dentrix comes up with that number. I informed them that, with the Practice Advisor Report, you determine the definition of an “active patient” using the amount of time it has been since the patient was in last for an appointment. This led to a new discussion of what was their protocol for patients who haven’t been in for 18, 24, or even 60 months? We ran a search of patients with a last visit date of more than five years ago and the list had more than 700 patients on it. They were shocked!
So … do you have a protocol in place? Most offices don’t, yet knowing which patients are active or inactive can make a huge difference in your practice’s planning for increased productivity in 2013.
I think one of the most powerful features in Dentrix is the Continuing Care system. If you manage it correctly, no one will fall through the cracks. But, at some point, we need to let the patient go. I know it’s hard, but it must be done. Here’s what I suggest and you can tweak it as you want.

First, create a letter to send these patients and let them know you are concerned about their oral health and you want to make sure their dental needs are being met. The letter I use has three choices for the patient:

“I need to come in and here is my new phone number”
“I have changed dentists, so please send my X-rays to my new dentist”
“Please remove me from your active list”

The patient checks the appropriate box and sends the letter back to us in a provided self-addressed stamped envelope. If you want a copy of my sample letter with the merge fields already included, e-mail me directly at and I will send it in a Microsoft Word format.
After you have created your letter, you will need to add it into the templates in the Letters section on the Office Manager. Go to the Office Manager > Letters > Inactive Patients, then click “new” or edit one of the existing letters. If you need specific instructions on how to add a letter into the templates, e-mail me at the address above and I will send you a step-by-step info sheet.
Once your letter is ready, you can create the merge and send your letter. Now, if you have never sent out a letter merge like this, it could be quite a project so make sure you budget for letterhead, envelopes, labor, and postage.Trust me … the rewards are worth the time and effort. To merge the patients into the letter, go to the Office Manager > Letters > Inactive Patients > choose your letter and click edit, then next to the Last Visit Date select a date range of 01/01/1900 thru 2 years prior to today, then click OK. Next, click Create Merge and make sure you select Create Data File and Merge Letters and Add to Office Journal. Microsoft Word will then generate the letters. Now you can view and print. Here’s an important reminder … when you exit, DO NOT SAVE.
My suggestion is to run this letter merge every three months . . . but you aren’t done with this project yet. Sending the letter is just the first part. The patients who do not respond to your letter should be inactivated at this point. On your second inactive patient letter merge (and subsequent merges after that), you will then run a list of patients with a last visit date from your previous letter run (so your list will include patients two years and three months from today).To get this list, go back to the Office Manger > Letters > Inactive Patients > repeat the same steps … except after you select Create Merge, you want to open Data File Only, then click View List. This will give you a list of patients who have not come in since you sent them the letter. If they are not scheduled, I would inactivate their account.
Once you include this routine in your regular systems, it will become easier and take less time as the list of patients gets shorter and shorter. This system has been very successful in shaking up those patients who have ignored the phone calls, e-mails, and postcards. It can be a huge boost to your schedule as, once you have a more accurate “Active Patient” count, you can then project increasing or decreasing office hours or adding or subtracting hygiene days.