Tuesday, February 23, 2016

If you could save a ton of money and hours of time, would you be interested?

If you could save hundreds of dollars and hours of time per month, would you be interested? When I looked at how much money our office was spending on paper and the amount of hours I spent on busy work, it amazed me that I ever got anything productive done and that our office was actually profitable. One of the specific tasks I modified in my own practice (and I now teach to anyone that will listen) is how we run the billing statements in the practice.

I was working with a doctor in Anchorage, Alaska, many years ago and he asked me to skip over teaching his team how to send billing statements because his office was going to collect 100% at the time of service. At the time I honored his request, but about six weeks later, he was rethinking his decision because his accounts receivable was creeping up and needed to stop the bleeding. Sending patient billing statements is one of those necessary tasks, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming.

There are two things you can change with the way you send out billing statements to patients and it will change your life forever.

  1. Stop sending statements once a month and start sending them out a couple times a week. My recommendation would be to post the weekend mail and do a statement run on Monday then do a statement run before the weekend. Here are the benefits . . .
    • It spreads out the task into smaller pieces. So instead of spending days on your statements, you can spend a few minutes a couple times a week.
    • The doctor will like how it evens out the cash flow.
    • You will like how it evens out the phone calls.
    • You will get paid faster.
  2. Use Quickbill. This is where you will save a ton of money. The national average says it costs you about $5.00 per statement to send out a paper statement, but Quickbill is less than $1.00 per statement. I am a control freak so I was very skeptical when it came to having someone else send my statements, but the only thing you lose control of is the printing, folding, stuffing, stamping, and mailing. You keep all the control of writing a personal message on your statements, you still get to decide who gets one and who doesn’t, you can still have your logo on your statement, and your patients still get a return envelope. You eliminate the busy work.
Gain your time back and save your practice a ton of money.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Using visual tools to communicate the status of the treatment plan

How do you communicate the status of the treatment plan with your team? Does your team know if the patient has accepted treatment? Is the patient okay to do all the treatment this year or is he or she breaking it up into two benefit years?

What I see with most dental teams is that the clinical discussion happens in the consult room or the treatment room with the doctor or hygienist … and then the patient is brought up front to talk with the financial coordinator where the financial discussion can change everything. If the doctor looks at the treatment plan later in the day, will he or she be able to clearly see what the patient accepted? When the patient is scheduled for the first visit, will the clinical team be able to clearly see the path for completing treatment?

There are some tools you can use on the treatment plan that can greatly improve your communication with your team. These non-verbal tools can help your clinical team clearly understand the patient’s wishes when he or she is sitting in your operatory. Here are three key features that are easy to use and visually obvious for the back and front.
  • The Stop Light – aka: Case Severity.  If a patient has lots of stuff on his or her treatment plan and you want to separate the treatment by priority, the colored stop light is an easy way to show this. Here are some examples that I use in my practices.
    • Red – Stop! The patients says no at this time. Maybe this is esthetics or that nightguard they don’t want to do right now.
    • Yellow – Maybe! The patient wants you to wait for next benefit year or until he or she comes up with the money.
    • Green – Go! The patient is ready to schedule and wants to get all this treatment completed in this benefit year or as soon as possible. This can help if the patient is in the chair and the doctor has extra time to add more treatment today.
  • Rename the Case – I used this a lot in my practice because it was a way I could clearly define what the case is. You could rename it “Priorities” or “2016 Benefit Year” or “Upper arch rehab.” Whatever you want to rename it, this really helps your team understand what the case is.
  • Claim Status History - You can add a follow-up note on any of the treatment plan cases and these notes will show up on the Case Status History tab. This can help your team know if the case has been reprinted, proposed, followed up on, or accepted.

Non-verbal communication is so important for the back and the front teams so they can be in the know about patient care. I hope these visual tools help you relay that important information.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Doctors . . . take the roller skates off

Doctors, do you feel like you have roller skates on all day? Does your team complain because they never get a lunch? I see this more and more in the practice mainly due to a lack of structure in the appointment book. However, this scheduling crisis can be resolved with some planning and discipline.

Perfect Day Scheduling is one of the most underused but most powerful features in Dentrix. I have doctors call me and say, “Dayna, my daily production goal is $7,500 per day and our schedule is full every day but we are not meeting our goal. Maybe I just need to lower the goal.” No, you just need some structure in the scheduling process.

I agree that the most important thing that the front office team does is keep the schedule full. However, if all they are doing is putting warm bodies in the chair, this can create unnecessary chaos and unproductive days. Scheduling is like playing chess … it takes skill and patience.

The easiest way I have found to map out your schedule is start with a clean slate. In your appointment book, go out to a week next year and find completely empty days and print out these schedules. First, decide where your new patients will go. If your goal is 20 new patients per month, you will need about five blocks per week. Then block out your productive time for the doctor so that 75-80% of the production goal is met before lunch. Next, in the hygiene schedule across from the doctor’s productive time, I would block out SRP and perio maintenance. This will help have room in the hygiene chair and the doctor doesn’t have to step out to do too many exams. Finally, fill in the rest of the open time with crown seats, single tooth fillings, and other non-productive procedures.

The above recommendation, of course, is a very generalized guide and will need to be customized for your practice depending on how many treatment rooms and providers you have in your practice. This is a great place to start, plus you can tweak it as you go along your journey of productive scheduling and take those roller skates off.

CLICK HERE for more detailed instructions on mapping out your perfect day.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Printout for taxes . . . two options for you

Now that your patients have started receiving their W-2s from their employers and 1099s from their clients for tax purposes, you will start receiving phone calls from your patients asking you for a printout of what they paid last year for dentistry. Depending on exactly what patients need for tax reporting will depend on what printout works best. Do they need a printout with ADA codes? Do they just need a list of payments? Here are a couple of options for you, depending on what your patient needs.

The first option is if the patient does not need the year-end statement to have ADA codes. This will give you a nice clean list of just the payments the family has made in the date range you choose. Open the Ledger, click File and Search Payments. This will open a new window where you will select the parameters for your search (date range, guarantor name, payment types, etc.), then select Print.


The second option is if you need a payment history that includes ADA codes (most HSA plans want the ADA codes included). First, go to the Office Manager > Maintenance > Practice Setup > Preferences and make sure the “use ADA codes in description” is checked. Next, from the Office Manager > Reports > Billing, we are going to create a customized billing statement as a year-end printout.  Below is a list of parameters to choose.
  • Change the Beginning Balance Forward date to the beginning of the year reported and the Statement Date to the end of the report year
  • Select the Guarantor family
  • Set the Minimum Balance to Bill to 0
  • Uncheck all options
  • Clear out the Statement Message
  • Uncheck Save as Default