Friday, February 28, 2014

3 Ways to Improve Cash Flow

I remember when my family relocated to a new city and I applied for a job at a dental practice closer to home. This practice had been open for a little more than a year and seemed to be thriving. However, as the months went by, I realized that this practice had no systems in place … and it was especially noticeable in the collections. After about three months, the doctor told me that that month was the first month since the practice opened that he was able to draw a paycheck. This was a collection problem. Over my 20 years of experience in the dental office, I have learned that collecting money is a task that all financial coordinators will master in their careers, but achieving cash flow is an even greater skill to master. We all strive to achieve a collection rate of 98% of our production so when we have that monthly team meeting to review the numbers, we can sit glowing at our accomplishment. However, as a practice owner, improving the cash flow can be a much bigger achievement. It is vitally important for every dental practice to create systems that will significantly improve cash flow, even if collections aren’t increased.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Treatment Plan Estimates . . . personal and efficient

When I am working with an office, I love to customize things in Dentrix to make it personal for the office and the patient experience, but I am also a stickler for efficiency. If you have read any of my blogs about using templates, you know what I am talking about. Well, the same goes for when we are printing a patient’s treatment plan estimate. I want it to be customized, but efficient for the front desk. You can create customized print options and save these options when you are generating a patient treatment plan estimate. Below is a screen shot of the print page and a description of all the options from which you have to choose.

  1. Treatment Plan Total - This will total up all procedure fees and give the patient a grand total at the end of the treatment plan estimate.
  2. Finance Status – In the supporting information tab of the treatment plan panel, you can select a status for this patient. This financial status can be customized if you click into the Settings tab in the Treatment Plan panel.
  3. Patient Balance – This will pull the patient balance from the ledger.
  4. Family Balance – This will pull from the account balance on the ledger.
  5. Fee Expiration Date – This can be customized per patient or you can set up a default date range (like 3 months, for example). To customize the default, click on the Settings Tab on the Treatment Plan panel.
  6. Treatment Case Note – Think of this as a disclosure statement. For example, insurance estimate is not a guarantee of payment, patient portion is due at the time of service, etc. You can customize this case note by clicking on the Settings tab in the Treatment Plan panel. You can create several case notes and then manually attach them to each case, but this does require more work.
  7. Graphic Chart – This will print a picture of the patient’s tooth chart. It is best if you print it in color, but black and white will also work. The point here is that patients are very visual and they don’t know tooth numbers so giving them a picture to follow really helps them understand where it is in their mouth.
  8. Patient Education – This will pull graphics and content from GURU. Even if you only have the free version of GURU, it will print educational topics based on the procedure codes listed in the treatment plan.
  9. Signed Consent Forms - The Treatment Plan does have a feature to attach a consent form to the case. The patient can sign with an electronic signature and it will put a copy into the Document Center. These consent forms can be created, edited, and deleted by clicking on the Settings tab on the Treatment Plan panel. One thing to remember when using the consent forms in this area is that it is linked to the entire case and not a specific procedure.
  10. Insurance – If the treatment plan is being printed for an insurance patient, make sure you put a check mark in ‘Use Dental Plan Maximums and Deductibles’ so it will pull information from the insurance information in the Family File. If you are printing this for a cash patient, then you can check to hide all the insurance information.
  11. Patient Privacy – I would check all these boxes to protect the patient’s private information just in case they lose the printed estimate or drop it out in the parking lot on their way out.
  12. Print sub totals by visit – If you have organized the procedures inside the case by visit, then you can check here to have the printout subtotal each group of visits. This helps the patient budget for each appointment or know the price for each phase.
  13. Use Patient Friendly Descriptions - If you put a check here, the description will override the ADA description with a customized description. For more information on this topic, read my blog, “No speak English . . . no worries
  14. Include Procedure Notes – If you have read my other blog posts (CLICK HERE) about where to enter notes, you know that I use this note box for the diagnosis for the procedure code or the clinical narrative. With that being said, you have the opportunity to have that diagnosis print on the patient’s estimate so if he or she needs to review it with a spouse or parent, he or she has all of the information needed.
  15. Exclude Completed Procedures – If you are reprinting an existing case, you may want to exclude any procedures that have already been completed.
  16. Compare to Fee Schedule – If you are using the Fee Schedule Method, then you can check here to add a column to the treatment plan estimate that would show the patient the full fee for each procedure. For more information about using Fee Schedules, read my two blogs, “Fee Schedules or Write Off’s that is the question,” and “Fee Schedules . . .the method of choice for PPO plans.
You can then click onto the Columns button and check mark which columns of information you want on the patient’s estimate. Once you have selected all your choices, you can save it and give it a name so you don’t have to remember each time which check boxes to select. I will usually create a saved option for insurance patients and a saved option for cash patients. I hope this custom yet efficient tool helps you and your team.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Re-evaluate your PPO insurance plans

The beginning of the year is usually the time where the doctor and team are getting back in the swing of things after vacations and preparing for a new year. With all of the uneasiness in the insurance world, I have had many offices looking to re-evaluate their contracts with PPO insurance companies. But, if you are using your fee schedules and billing out the PPO fee to the patient and not posting adjustments to the ledger, how do you assess the amount of your write-offs? Use the Utilization Report for Dental Insurance or The PPO Analyzer report. 

The Utilization Report can be found on the Office Manager > Reports > Ledger > Utilization Report for Dental Insurance. This report will give you a total amount that was billed to insurance and compare your PPO fee with your full fee. At the end of the report, you will see a net difference, which would be your write-off. The Fee column is your full fee amount being pulled from your full fee schedule and the Co-Pay column is being pulled from the patient’s ledger.

There are a couple of things that will make this report more workable for you -- make sure your insurance companies are all spelled the same and make sure you always have a fee listed in your full fee schedule, even if you change it up sometimes. For example, I would name all your Delta Dental of Washington plans with the same name. Don’t have some spelled WDS, while others are labeled as Washington Dental Service or Delta Dental of Washington. The report will let you search with a TO and a FROM and if one insurance plan is spelled different ways, you can’t produce a good report for that plan. Also, make sure all your procedure codes have a fee. Never leave any procedure codes you use with a $0 as this will skew the report.

For more information on the PPO Analyzer CLICK HERE.

For more information on using fee schedules in Dentrix, check out these other blog posts:

Monday, February 3, 2014

Take the initiative and educate yourself

Our boss, the dentist, must take a certain number of hours per year of continuing education in order to maintain his or her license. The dental hygienist is also required to keep his or her license current with continuing education every year … but what about the office manager, treatment coordinator, financial coordinator, or hygiene coordinator? We do not have these requirements to maintain our jobs in the dental practice, but we have one of the most important jobs in the office. What I find in many offices is a lack of training for the administrative team … so you need to take the bull by the horns and do it yourself. My goal today is to give you some resources that you can tap into so you can continue your education and be successful in the dental practice.

In no particular order, here are my top 5 ways you, as a member of the administrative team, can educate yourself in dentistry and Dentrix.
  1. The Dentrix Resource Center – Most of you using Dentrix in your office are paying for a Dentrix customer support plan, but the only thing you are using is phone support or updates. Tap into this amazing learning experience and elevate your knowledge about your practice management system. In the Resource Center, you have access to videos, an online knowledgebase, and tutorials. Even though I am an experienced trainer, I use the knowledgebase all the time for my client questions. From any Dentrix module, click on Help > Support Knowledgebase.
  2. AADOM – The American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) is the premier group of which you need to be a part. It will revolutionize you as an administrator in your dental practice. CLICK HERE to find out more about this organization and its annual conference (hint: it is always somewhere warm and fun J ).
  3. Dentrix Seminars and Workshops – If you prefer classroom or lecture style learning, this is for you. I have been teaching the Dentrix Insight Seminars for about 4 years now and everyone always leaves with some great pearls of knowledge and tips they can implement in their office right away. The Workshops are usually a 2- or 3-day course with hands-on learning. CLICK HERE for more information.
  4. Read, Read, Read – I will never reprimand a front office team member for reading dental journals and articles while on the job. This is definitely some of the easiest and most inexpensive educational material you can get. Here are some of my favorites:
    1. Dentrix Magazine – It comes out quarterly and if you are on a customer support plan you should receive it automatically.
    2. Dental Practice Management – There is an online version and a print version. CLICKHERE to check out the online version.
    3. Insurance Solutions Newsletter – This is one of the few paid subscriptions that I would recommend. It is fabulous! CLICK HERE to be directed to their website where you can subscribe.
  5. Business of Dentistry Conference – This is your conference! It is packed full of some of the best practice management consultants, Dentrix trainers, and speakers in the dental industry. You will find courses on leadership, motivation, social media, HIPAA, Dentrix, and so much more at this conference. Also, it is such a fun time for your entire team because you can go out dancing, shopping, or cruise the strip in Vegas. CLICK HERE for more information.