Tuesday, October 10, 2017

More tips for getting your claims paid faster

Last week, I attended the annual Dentrix Train the Trainer conference. At this conference, I get to be the student and learn about all the new features being release in the next year. Over the next few months, you will be reading about some of the amazing updates coming out with eServices, Dentrix Pay and your Dentrix software.

Today, I want to give you some things I learned about the current eClaims service and how you can increase the success of your claims getting paid faster.
  • Always batch your claims and send out in a group. What I learned at the conference is that if you send claims in real time or what might be called a “one off” claim, there is a greater chance of getting a duplicate claim.
    • You can turn off the option of sending claims in real time so it will stop asking you every time you create a claim on the ledger. Go to the Ledger > File > Direct Processing Options and uncheck the “Display Real Time Payor Notice”. The is very common with Metlife claims.
    • When you batch your claims, you will get one set of eClaims reports instead of a set of reports with every real time claim. This will save on the amount of reports that display on your Batch Processor. This is more of an annoyance than a tip for quicker payment.
  • If you are not sure of the Payor ID, the Payor Search tool on the Dentrix website is more up-to-date than the Payor ID list in the Insurance Info window. Remember that the Payor ID is the electronic address and, if you have the wrong Payor ID listed, it will slow down the payment of your claim. CLICK HERE to be directed to the Payor Search Tool on the Dentrix website.
  • You should NEVER have to resend a claim if you have a DC#. What is a DC#? It is the Document Control Number or the confirmation number that the insurance company has received your claim. With this number, you can always find your claim and hold the insurance company accountable to find it. For more info on this tip, CLICK HERE to read more about the reports and confirmation numbers.


If your office sends a lot of claims every day, I would recommend sending a batch of claims at lunch and then sending a batch of claims at the end of the day. This will break up the process and give you a smaller list of claims to go through each day. My recommendation is that claims get sent out within 24 hours of date of service.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Letter Merge vs. Quick Letters

In my last post, I talked about sending out a letter as a reminder to patients who have unused dental benefits and also have unscheduled treatment. After I wrote that blog, I started to think, “Does everyone know how to use the Dentrix Quick Letters and the Dentrix Letter Merge features?” Today, I would like to spell out the difference in the two features and also give you some instructions on how to customize your own letter.
  • Quick Letters works wonders when you want to send a customized letter to one patient. You can merge personalized patient information into the letter without having to manually type in the information. For example, you can merge patient name, address, remaining insurance benefits, patient balance, last payment date or last visit date.
  • The Letter Merge feature is amazing for sending out a bulk set of letters to a group of patients. This is a great way to target a list of patients who fit your specific parameters and you want to send them out a customized letter with the same content. For example, you could send a letter to patients with a specific medical alert, insurance company or who have had a particular procedure code set complete.

No matter which feature you use, the procedure of adding the letter into Dentrix is basically the same. The first thing to remember about adding a new letter into your system is that it must be saved in the Dentrix letter folder. You cannot just save it on your desktop or C: drive. How do you find your Dentrix letter folder? Go to the Office Manager > Maintenance > Practice Setup > Preferences > then click on the Paths tab. You will see the Letter Template Path and click on Open Folder. This will take you to where all your custom Dentrix letters reside. Now that you know where to save your letter, you are ready to create your own letter.

Now, if you have a letter already built, you could open it, add in the merge fields and then save it to your Dentrix letter folder or you could build a new letter from scratch, add the merge fields and save it in your Dentrix letter folder. In Dentrix G4 PP8 update, there was an add-in for Microsoft Word 2007 or higher to make it easier for you to add the merge fields into your letter. You will find this add-in under the Mailings tab in MS Word. The merge fields help take an ordinary letter and make it personal. After you have created your letter and saved it into the Dentrix letter folder, you are ready to add it to your Quick Letters or the Letter Merge.
  • For Quick Letters, open up the feature and click on New, select Browse and it will take you to the Dentrix Letter folder. Find your letter, highlight it and click on Open. Now just give your letter a name and you are good to go. It will show up in the list alphabetically by title. If you need to edit your template, click on Edit Template. When you are ready to mail your letter, click on Build View. NOTE: When you build a letter, make sure you do not click on Save because it will write over the top of your merge fields. My recommendation would be to print one copy of the letter to send to your patient and print one to the Dentrix Document Center to save a perfect copy.
  • To add your new customized letter into the Dentrix Letter Merge feature, go to the Office Manager > Letters & Custom Lists, select a category and click on New and it will open the Letter Merge window. Click on Browse in the upper right corner to find your letter, highlight it then click on Open. You can have your custom letter in both the Letter Merge and the Quick Letters. Now give your letter a name in the upper left corner and you are good to go. When you are ready to create a list of patients to send this letter to, you will come back here to the Letter Merge and select Edit instead of New. Then select your parameters for the patient list, click OK and then Create Letters.

I realize letters might seem old school, but in some cases, they can make an enormous impact. People these days don’t expect to receive a letter in the mail so, when they do, they open it because it might be important. It is so easy these days to ignore or delete emails but it is harder to ignore a letter sitting on the kitchen counter. It will get opened and read.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Putting a little pressure on your patients to schedule unscheduled treatment

My tip for September is to start adding some pressure to patients who have unscheduled treatment
and have remaining insurance benefits. Hopefully throughout the year, you are managing your Treatment Manager Report on a weekly basis so you are continually planting those seeds with patients about being proactive about their dental needs. However, there are always those patients who wait until the last minute to take action and might need a little more incentive.

One thing I have been hearing more and more is the dental practice doing a fee update regularly in January. I am happy to hear about doctors keeping their fees up to date and not waiting three to four years to update their fees. If you do a fee update each year, this is a good time to poke your patients with a stick who might be procrastinating to schedule their dental treatment. If you are sending out a campaign, either by mail or email, you could let your patients know that their treatment plan fees are good until January 1st and, at that time, you will be updating fees.

So we have two things happening in this article that I want to explain so you can implement it in your practice. First, filtering your list to find patients who have unscheduled treatment and still have remaining insurance benefits. Second, preparing your treatment plans so, when you do a fee increase, you can update your existing treatment plans to reflect the new office fees.

One of my favorite reports for managing unscheduled treatment is the Treatment Manager. You can filter this report by date, provider, patients and also whether they have remaining dental benefits. Usually during the year, I would not recommend filtering this report because I never advocate allowing dental insurance benefits to dictate your treatment decisions. However, when the national statistic states that only 5-8% of dental benefits are being used, we need to put some pressure on patients to maximize their benefits.

From the Appointment Book, open the Treatment Manager and select the parameters you want to select so you get a list of patients that fit your selections. Now you can call, send a letter or save this list in an Excel document if you want to export it out to your email system. My recommendation would be to let your patient know that he or she has dental benefits remaining to use up and, on January 1st, the treatment plan fees will be going up due to a regularly scheduled update.

In the treatment planner, you can assign an expiration date to your patient’s treatment plan so, when you do a fee update, you can include or exclude expiration dates so you can honor fees for some patients. From the treatment plan panel in the patient chart or the treatment plan module, click on the Supporting Information tab. Here you will find the settings for the expiration date where you can select one of the default settings or manually set the date to whatever you want it to be. Then, in January when you do a fee increase, you will have more control over whose treatment plan fees are updated and whose fees will remain the old fees.


At the end of December, I will write a more detailed article on how to update your fees and give screen shots to help you with this process. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Two tips for faster claims payment and benefit checks

Last week, I attended the AADOM (American Association of Dental Office Management) annual conference and I have learned about many new products and services that integrate with your Dentrix software. I will be writing about some of these in my upcoming posts and newsletter. On Saturday, I attended an insurance panel where my friend and fellow consultant, Teresa Duncan, was the moderator between the insurance industry and an audience of office managers.

On the panel of insurance industry representatives was a rep from GEHA, Dentegra, NEA and Unlock the PPO. One of the questions that Teresa posed to the panel was, “What can the office do, or stop doing, to help them be more successful in the claims processing arena?” 

Here was their recommendations . . .
  • Automation – There are many software solutions that you can use to help the office automate the process of collecting insurance benefit information and send the most complete dental claim possible. The dental team spends hours on the phone calling insurance companies to look up dental benefits when there are services that offer this type of information on an automated basis. Also, there are many dental claims that come into the processing center that are either incomplete or missing important diagnostic information.
    • My recommendation is to use the Dentrix eCentral Insurance Manager system for checking on benefits for your patients. It checks benefits automatically for patients on the schedule so you can have up-to-date information before the patient comes in or you can call the patient if the status has changed since the last time he or she was in. I realize that not every insurance company has chosen to participate in the eCentral program, but if you can get 80% from this automated system, it will still save you a ton of time.
    • When you use the Dentrix eClaims system, it will alert you of procedures that require some kind of documentation so you can make sure to attach an X-ray or perio chart of the image before the claim is sent.
  • STOP SENDING PAPER – I was surprised at this because I thought everyone was sending electronic claims at this point but the panelists said this is one of the top things on their list. It does not help your claim if you send your claim with items highlighted with a bright pink highlighter. You should know that every claim that comes into the processing center is scanned as soon as it comes in from the mail room. If you have bright pink (or any color highlighter), it will scan in black and your claim will get kicked out. Your best chance at getting your claim paid in the fastest way possible is to send it electronically.


I have talked about both of these things before and it was good to get validation from people working at the dental insurance companies and working in the dental insurance industry that the best option for dental insurance benefits and claims processing is via an electronic method. For more information on these topics, click below to be directed to other articles.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

It's that time of year again . . . being prepared for storm season

Last year at this time, I wrote a blog about Hurricane Matthew as I sat in my hotel room in Jacksonville, Florida. What we are experiencing now with Hurricane Harvey and Irma helps me realize that this blog article will need to be an annual post this time of year. 

I want to send my thoughts and prayers out to my friends and followers in the Texas and Florida areas.  

As we watch the news, people are reminded of how to be prepared to save their lives, their pets and the evacuation process. If you are a small business owner, you also need to prepare on how to save your business or at least have minimal damage. The dental practice is a small business and the most important piece of your business to try and save is your patient data. It is up to you to protect your patient data, even in the eye of a hurricane.  

Since what I wrote last year is still relevant, here are the important paragraphs from my post from October 3, 2016. If you would like to be re-directed and read it in it's entirety, CLICK HERE

Since Florida is on the verge of a Category 4 hurricane, I want to point out a few things that could potentially affect the confidentiality, integrity and accessibility of your patient’s protected health information.
  • Power outages are going to be a huge issue with this upcoming storm. If you are going to close the office and want to have access to some of your patients’ information for returning calls, phoning in medications or following up with your patients after some surgeries, I would recommend you using Dentrix Mobile. When you use Dentrix Mobile, you have the opportunity to remote in using a mobile device and having access to some of your patients’ critical information.
  • Make sure an authorized team member has access to the backup of all the patient data in case of flooding or destruction of the practice. The backup of the data might be on an external hard drive or in an online secure backup system. Dentrix has the option of using eBackup to store your patients’ information securely and safely. This would give your practice a good option to access patient data in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure you have your Business Associate Agreements in place with your outside contractors. What if you are working with a consultant, accountant, attorney or computer company who has access to your patients’ information and they are the ones who are affected by the storm which jeopardizes the confidentiality of your patients’ information?

You can never do too much to prepare for a disaster and you have an obligation to protect your patients’ health information. It is not something you want to take lightly. Seeing this storm and looking back on storms in the past makes me realize we should be prepared for anything. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Do I break the appointment or just deleted it?

The single biggest pain point in the dental practice is holes in the schedule. WhenWhat is the difference between breaking an appointment and deleting an appointment?” Just the other day I encountered an office that was leaving the missed appointments on the appointment book so they could track them. What happens in these situations is that the office has not had any formal training or been given any resources on the best practices for managing the appointment book so they just make up their own system for tracking missed appointments.
I write about keeping the schedule full, it is always a big clicker. One question I receive a lot is, “

Keeping your schedule full is a management system that needs to have a protocol in place so that the entire team knows what to do when a patient misses an appointment and what steps to take to fill that opening. Today, I would like to give you all some best practice tips on what to do with the appointment if the patient does not keep the scheduled appointment.

  • Move the appointment to the Unscheduled List if the patient does not reschedule and you want to follow up with the patient. If you do not want to lose the appointment details, then you can store the visit on the Unscheduled List for a short period of time so you can make a couple of follow-up calls. There are two ways to get an appointment onto the Unscheduled List
    • Wait/Will Call the appointment – Use this if the patient did not show and gave you adequate time to fill the open time. Some offices have a 24- to 48-hour no-show policy so, if the patient cancels outside of that policy, then I would use the wait/will call feature.
    • Break the appointment if the patient is a no-show or cancels inside of your cancellation policy. When you break the appointment, it will put a note on the Office Journal and track the missed appointment on the Family File for future reference.
  • Delete the appointment if you do not need to follow up with the patient and just want to remove the appointment off your appointment book. When you delete an appointment, it will only show up on the Audit Trail and this task can also be password-protected.


For more information on this topic and read other articles, click the links below . . . 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What's the best way to block out my Appointment Book?

“I need to make sure my team knows where to schedule appointments because I feel like there is no organization with the schedule,” said a doctor during one of our recent training sessions. “What is the best way to block out our schedule so my team know where to put the correct type of appointment so we can be more productive and less stressed out?”

These were the exact words from a doctor who was trying to create a system for scheduling and didn’t know where to begin with setting some standards for his team. We talked about the different methods for blocking out the schedule inside of the Dentrix software so that he could make the best decision for his practice.
I have seen offices use both the Perfect Day Scheduling feature and the Events feature for mapping their schedule. Today, I wanted to give you some pros and cons for using these tools to help you make the best decision for your appointment book.
  • Perfect Day Scheduling is designed to map out the schedule and give you a guideline for your team so they can easily see what type of appointment goes in that place. The great thing about this feature is that you can place multiple blocks throughout the day and, once you set it up, it will be set up every day until you change the setup. You can set up different colors to symbolize different appointment types. One complaint I get from doctors is that you can easily schedule over the top of the Perfect Day Scheduling blocks. In my opinion, this is more about the discipline of the team member scheduling to the system than the system itself. If you want to read up more about Perfect Day Scheduling, CLICK HERE.
  • Using Events to map out your schedule can be done and it will fix the issue of not being able to schedule over the top of the block. With an event, the team member would have to delete the event in order to schedule an appointment. Events can be created to span over multiple days and you can set them in your appointment book for up to a year time frame. Just right click on the appointment book and click on Create Event. You can also set the Events in different colors to symbolize different types of appointments. 

Our goal here in The Dentrix Office Manager blog is to not only give you great tips and tricks, but also give you resources to make the best decisions for your practice.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Medical Billing or Bust . . . spend your Friday afternoon with me at BDC

An office I have worked with up in the the Seattle area is coming down to the Business of Dentistry Conference to attend my Medical Billing or Bust course on Friday.  They will no doubt have a great time experiencing all that the BDC has to offer but I was honored that the main draw for them was learning about medical billing in the dental practice.

My mission in life is to be a voice, a resource and an advocate to those who are in need.  Before I was a certified Dentrix trainer, blog author and speaker I always tried to help my dental patients get the most out of their dental and medical insurance benefits.  I bring this passion into my Medical Billing or Bust course.



Here are some other articles about Medical Billing . . . 



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Top 3 tips from my BDC course . . . "15 Ways to Make Scheduling Easier"

It is Business of Dentistry month and the countdown to August 17th has started. Since transitioning my own office to Dentrix in 2003, becoming a Certified Dentrix Trainer in 2006 and then accepting the position of the Dentrix Office Manager blogger in 2011, attending the Business of Dentistry Conference is at the top of the list. I love networking with other Dentrix users and offering any resources I can. It is extremely fulfilling.

This year, I am slated to teach seven courses over the two-day event and I wanted to give you a sneaky peek into one of them today. On Saturday, I will be teaching “15 Ways to Make Scheduling Easier” and I have no doubt this will be a great topic. This article will not go through all 15 things for you, but give you my top three items from my course and point you to some blogs that I have written in these areas.
  • Appointment book shortcuts – Everybody loves a shortcut. If you will not be able to attend the BDC this year, here is a blog I wrote that you might like on this topic. CLICK HERE
  • Looking up family appointments – Do you ever have Mom on the phone and she asks, “When are my kids’ appointments?” or “My husband wants to know when he is due for his checkup.”?
  • Using your lists properly – This is a valuable resource to keeping your schedule full. CLICK HERE for an article that relates.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dealing with crazy insurance limitations

Insurance plans are driving us crazy! The benefit coverage creations that some of these plans are coming up with are just ridiculous. Because of that, you have to figure out how to enter it into the computer system so you can give your patients the most accurate treatment plan estimate possible. Some plans will cover only gold crowns on molar teeth while others won’t pay for gold crowns at all. I was in a pediatric office recently and one thing they struggle with on a regular basis is the sealant coverage because it is different and all over the board.

With these tips today, hopefully you can customize your treatment plan estimates for a patient and use your Dentrix software in a more efficient way.

First, let’s look at when an insurance plan will pay for a procedure on one tooth but not another because of plan limitations or patient frequency limitations. There is a way you can override the insurance plan coverage table and payment table directly. When you are in the patient chart or the treatment planner, double click on the procedure code and it will open up the edit window. As a note, this is also where you could put a procedure note or refer it out to a specialist.


In the upper right section of this window, you will see an Override Dental Insurance Benefits. You can put a check mark in the Prim Ins and then the insurance coverage. If they have secondary, you can do the same thing. This technique also works well if you are estimating over two benefit years or if the crown is paid on the seat date or if there is a missing tooth clause.



The next tip is if a procedure is not covered at all on this plan and would apply to any tooth number or any patient on this plan. The best way to handle these types of situations is by using the Payment Table. The Payment Table overrides the Coverage Table and is great for things like posterior composite downgrades, nightguard coverage, grafting, etc.



This type of data would apply to any patient that is on this plan and is not patient specific. Remember that the Payment Table will override the Coverage Table.

For more articles on insurance and estimating, click on the titles below . . .



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What happens if I back date a clinical note?

Your clinical note is part of your legal documentation for your patient’s chart. When I say, “legal documentation,” to me, this means that it cannot be deleted or altered without some kind of security feature in place. There are only a few places in Dentrix that I consider “part of the legal documentation” and the clinical note is one of those places. So what exactly happens to make it a secure place to make clinical notes and what happens if you need to edit a note or back date a note?

First, it is important to know that the clinical note will be locked into history if you sign the note or you run the month end process. If you need to alter the clinical note after it has been secured, the only way to do this is with an Addendum. The Addendum will attach itself directly to the original note with today’s date. After you have saved this Addendum, it is also locked up into history and cannot be altered or deleted. If you ever need to print out your patient’s clinical notes, you will see the date of entry and the date of the Addendum.

Now, there may be times when you will need to back date a note. For example, if the doctor comes in the office on the weekend to see a patient and he does not write up the clinical note on that day, he will need to back date the note. Another example might be if you forgot to write up your clinical note for a patient visit (we are all human) and you need to back date it. If you are back dating a clinical note into a month that has already been closed out, your note will automatically be secured into history. Also, if you back date a note, it will show the date it was created and the date it was backdated to. See image below.


Knowing how your clinical note documentation will present when printed is important to know if and when you need to show your clinical documentation. The Dentrix software does a great job to show the dates and times so you can feel confident in the integrity of your clinical documentation.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Give your patients freedom to fill out forms from anywhere

Last week’s blog titled “How wide open is the back door ofyour practice?” talked about patient
retention and how to track it using the Practice Advisor report. I think it is important to track and monitor your numbers to know the health of your practice, especially your patient retention. You invest a lot into attracting new patients and I would expect the same or more from you to keep your existing ones.

One thing that comes to mind with both new patients and existing patients is the topic of patient forms. Nobody likes to fill out a form these days and the office struggles with the time it takes and scanning paper. Making the task of filling out forms more convenient, easy and faster for both the patient and the practice will help create happy, loyal patients.

Image if your patients could fill out their new patient forms from their mobile phone while they are sitting on their couch watching the MLB All-Star game this week or a patient of record updating his or her health history while sitting on a train during the commute to work. You don’t have to image this. It is reality.

While I was working with a practice recently, the office Wi-Fi was down so we did not have the opportunity to test the new electronic forms from the office website. With no Wi-Fi, every team member got on her mobile phone and filled out the new patient forms from her phone. It was amazing! We had team members ranging in age from 23 to 60 typing in information to submit.


In the newest version of Dentrix, the Questionnaire forms have been redesigned in an HTML format. This gives the patient more accessibility to the forms and gives the office better management of the forms. Don’t make your patients print a PDF from home and bring in a paper form that your team must scan. Give your patients the freedom to fill out patient information from anywhere.

CLICK HERE for more information on how to integrate electronic forms from Dentrix into your website, mobile device or tablet.

Monday, July 3, 2017

How wide open is the back door of your practice?

How wide open is the back door to your practice? I asked this question to a doctor during one of our training sessions because he was so convinced that his patients did not leave his practice. He knew that his patients were scheduling their next visit and loyal to his practice. This practice was very successful and had very good production and collection numbers … but they were totally in the dark about what their patient retention number was.

I opened their eyes with the click of a button   . . . okay, maybe three clicks.

When we opened the Practice Advisor Report during the training session, our entire agenda went out the window and we started down a completely different path. Patients were pre-scheduling their next visit at a rate of 54% and the patient retention was at 66%. I thought the doctor was going to fall off his chair.

Numbers tell a story and monitoring your key performance indicators is a must when running a small business. Remember, your dental practice is a small business. Dentrix and a group of dental practice management consultants put their heads together many years ago and developed the Practice Advisor Report to help you monitor these KPIs. One of the most important numbers comes on page 3 of the report.

From the Office Manager, click on Analysis > Practice Advisor Report. Click on Practice Advisor Report and it will open up a new window. Here are my recommendations when you are ready to look at the numbers for your patient retention.
  1. Select the last day of the previous month in the Generate Report as of:
  2. Select Procedure Date for more accurate numbers
  3. Highlight your active providers
  4. In the Continuing Care section, select only your recare continuing care types (Prophy, Perio, Recare, etc). Do not select X-rays or anything that doesn’t relate to recare.
  5. Click Preview and it will launch the report

The Patient Retention is located on the third page titled Continuing Care. You can see the image below to get a visual of what it looks like. For more information on this topic, CLICK HERE to be directed.




Now if you have never set up this report before, I can send you an info sheet that outlines my recommendations or we can setup an online training session. Email me directly for either option. You can also check out other blogs about the Practice Advisor within this blog. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Don't get caught with outdated treatment plan fees

With today’s ever-changing dental insurance industry, employers are moving benefits from one company to another all the time. As you may know from my previous blog posts, I am a huge fan of using fee schedules in Dentrix to help your team provide accurate treatment plan estimates, collect better at the time of service and send out billing statements in real time. If you are using fee schedules and your practice is contracted with several reduced fee dental plans, you will want to have a plan in place to making sure your patients’ treatment plan fees are as accurate as possible.

We all know that patients sometimes drag their feet about accepting treatment and go out and purchase that Coach handbag instead . . . because they had to have it! So when you are following up on the unscheduled treatment or the patient is coming in again for his or her 6-month recare visit, I would recommend updating the treatment plan fees so that you are always quoting the most up-to-date fees.


It is super simple and worth the two clicks it takes to do it. My new rule of thumb is that if the procedures were not treatment planned today, then update it. The quickest way to do it is from the appointment book (since you probably already have that open anyway). Single click on the patient appointment and click on the Treatment Planner icon or right click on the appointment and select Treatment Planner. Then click on the Update Fees icon and click on Update. That’s it.


Now you can move ahead with printing, signing, presenting, scanning and saving the patient treatment plan as you normally would and knowing you have prepared the most up-to-date treatment plan possible.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Credit Card option for Insurance payments just added in Dentrix G6.4 release

If you haven’t heard already, Dentrix G6.4 was recently released and there are few new features that are worth bragging about. I upgraded my system a couple of weeks ago and checked out the new features in my demo database. I love how Dentrix is staying relevant to the changing industry and giving the team features that they are asking for.

There have been many improvements to the functionality of the Ledger. When you are dealing with money, insurance and A/R, it is always important to have the most efficient and user-friendly systems as possible. Here are the new highlights to the Ledger . . .
  1. You can now select Credit Card as a payment method for insurance payments. When you are applying an insurance payment to a claim, there is now a credit card option in the drop-down menu for payment type. Now, even though I recommend to all my offices to opt-out of credit card payments from insurance companies because you end up paying a 2.5 – 4% merchant fee which ultimately reduces your collections, Dentrix needed to add this feature to keep up with the ever-changing dental insurance landscape. I applaud them with this new feature. It will definitely help the practice balance the day sheet and keep the accounting straight.  Thank you Brad!
  2. There is a new Payment Agreement Manager and it is located on the Ledger not the Office Manager. For the dental practice that takes a lot of payments and wants a report to only show the payment agreements in the practice, this could be helpful. If your practice is going to allow for payments, you need a way to track them. My favorite report continues to be the Collection Manager Report for managing all accounts receivable, including Payment Agreements, so I will be on the lookout for feedback on how this new report is working in the office.
  3. The Payment Agreement Setup has also been updated so check that out as well. In my practice, we did about 25-30% of our practice production in ortho so we had many patients on Payment Agreements for their monthly ortho payment. This worked well. I created a special instruction sheet specifically on the ortho setup in Dentrix and if you would like a copy of it, please email me directly.


There are also many fixes from previous releases and little tweaks to features that had been released previously. For the complete rundown, there is a Dentrix 6.4 release guide that I can send you or you can find it in the Dentrix Resource Center.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Every patient has unique situations so let's chart them correctly

Every patient is unique and making sure his or her tooth chart accurately represents his or her uniqueness is important when you are transitioning from that paper document to the digital document. Patients have diastemas, missing teeth, unerupted teeth, retained primary teeth and lots of other situations that you want to document on the tooth chart. How do you keep it all straight and chart it as accurately and quickly as possible?

Using the Dentrix conditions is a way that you can chart all those unique features that you find and want to make note of. You can customize the conditions with different paint types, edit the description and add them to your quick buttons for faster charting. In this article, I am going to go through a few of the common conditions and show you some screen shots of what it might look like on the tooth chart.

  • Diastema – The default condition in Dentrix for Diastema is Open Contact. So if you look in your list of Conditions and find open contact, that is the best one to use. If you want to edit the description, you can go to the Office Manager > Maintenance > Practice Setup > Procedure Code Setup > select the Conditions category, select the Open Contact and click on Edit. Then you can edit the description to say Diastema if you want.
  • Missing tooth, closed space – If you have a patient who had a four-bi extraction as a kid and the orthodontist closed the space, you can use the Drifting Mesial condition to show that the space has been closed. This could also be used if a patient lost a tooth and the teeth have moved into the open spot.
  • Unerupted tooth – If your patient has a 3rd molar or another tooth that has not fully erupted yet, you can use the condition Unerupted tooth. I have seen offices either use the U on the tooth to mark it or circle the tooth. You can choose what works best for you. If you want to change how it paints on the tooth chart, go to the Office Manager > Maintenance > Practice Setup > Procedure Code Setup > select the Conditions category, select the Unerupted and click on Edit. Then there is a drop-down menu for Paint Type.


If you have a patient with a retained primary tooth, then you would highlight the tooth and click on the Primary/Permanent icon on the tool bar and click on Change Selected to just change that one tooth. Other options here would be changing all the teeth to primary or all to permanent.


I think having an accurate picture of your patient’s dentition helps with the visual aspect and makes the perio chart more accurate. Now that many offices are using the digital record instead of paper, it is important that you treat the digital chart with as much detail as the paper chart.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Avoid the awkward moment of not having the lab case

Joe walks in for his scheduled appointment to deliver his nightguard and your dental assistant escorts Joe to the treatment room, puts his bib on and lets him know she would be right back to deliver his nightguard. Ashley goes back to the lab area to locate Joe’s nightguard only to find that his nightguard is not at the office. She frantically calls the lab to find out where Joe’s nightguard is and the response is, “We can have it to you by tomorrow.” Well, that’s not good enough. You need it today. How did this happen? Where was the breakdown in communication?

This common situation can be avoided with a couple tweaks in your system. Your Dentrix software can help you track both the patient appointment and the lab case.

Any time the patient has an impression for something, there will need to be a delivery or seat appointment scheduled. Either the patient will be scheduled or the patient will wait for your call to schedule when the case comes in. When you create the appointment, make sure to include all the details of the appointment and attach the lab case to the appointment. For all the details of how to use the Lab Case Manager, refer back to my blog called “What is the Status of the Lab Case?”

If the patient is scheduling, you are good to go and you will see an icon with a blue L with a white background on the appointment so you can easily see if the case is in the office or still out. When the lab case is set as received, the icon will turn into a white L with a green background.

Now, if the patient is not scheduling, then I would recommend doing all the above steps … except put the appointment on the Wait/Will Call list so you have a way of tracking the appointment. This will hold the appointment on the Unscheduled List so you have a way of keeping track of it. For more information on the Unscheduled List, please click here.


Good tracking systems will ensure that your patients don’t walk in for an appointment when your team is not prepared and will avoid those awkward moments when you have to let Joe know that he will have to reschedule to another day. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Help your hygienists monitor their own goals

If you listen to a hygiene coach or consultant speak about numbers during a conference presentation, you may hear some industry standards like hygiene production needs to be 30% of practice production or they should be producing three times their salary. You will need to discover what the goals are for your hygiene department and help them reach those goals. Today, I want to help you with some tools inside Dentrix to help your hygienists monitor their goals.

Once you know what each hygienist’s individual monthly goal is, I would recommend entering those goals in the computer so your team can monitor those goals. You can enter the goal for each hygienist from the Office Manager > Analysis > Setup > Goals and select the provider ID to add the monthly goal. I would recommend adding in the goals for the entire year if you have that information available and you know everyone’s vacation schedule.

Now you can start using some of the amazing tools available in Dentrix to monitor the goals. One of my favorite ways is also a favorite for the hygienist because he or she doesn’t have to run a report. This is super easy and really helps to see the goal versus the scheduled versus the actual in a super easy to use view on the appointment book. From the appointment book, click on view at the top of the page then you can click on Add or Edit to change the view. You will need to change two things in order to see the production goal: Select the provider ID and make sure there is a check mark in View Amount. If you only want to show one provider’s goals at a time, then only select one provider for your view. Then when you click on the monthly calendar in the upper left corner of the appointment book, you will see it calculate the goal, scheduled production and actual production for that provider you selected in the view.

The next tool you can use is the Daily Huddle Report. This report will also add up the goal, scheduled production and actual production based on the provider IDs you select in your filters for the report. You can use this report as part of your morning huddle or each provider can look at it on a daily basis to see how he or she is doing for the month.


I strongly believe that the hygiene department is a highly integral part of the practice and should be held to the same accountability for production as the doctor. They just need some helpful tools to help bring awareness to the numbers.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Progress Notes vs. Clinical Notes

As you start to use the patient chart more and more, it is important to understand the difference between the Progress Notes tab and the Clinical Notes tab at the bottom of the patient chart module. The reason I feel it is important is because they show different things and sometimes offices get confused with the language. I also want to show you how these two modules work together and how you can make your chart review each day a lot easier.

  • Progress Notes: Progress Notes keeps track of procedure codes and the status of those procedure codes. You will also notice there are columns of information with symbols and things that I will explain. These symbols will help you visually to know if there is more information about that procedure code.
    • The Date, Tooth, Surface, Description and Provider columns are all pretty self-explanatory so I will not go into a lot of detail about these.
    • “N” column = If you see a musical note here, it means there is a note on the procedure code. I love this note box for the diagnosis and the reason why you are treatment planning that procedure. For information about this note box, CLICK HERE.
    •  “R” column = If you see a > in this box, it means this procedure has been referred out to a specialist. So it would be very common to see a musical note for the reason why along with a > for the referral. For more information about referring out treatment, CLICK HERE.
    • “D” column = If you see a D show up in this box, it means that someone has added a diagnostic code to this procedure code. Now this field is not being used very much yet because the dental industry has not yet adopted a universal diagnostic coding system and the insurance companies are not yet requiring it.
    •  “M” column = If you see a triangle in this field, it means that this procedure code has been flagged for medical cross-coding. If you see a solid triangle, it means that this code has been billed to medical. For more about medical billing, you can CLICK HERE.
    • Status = There are four statuses you will see here; EO = existing other, E = existing, TP = treatment plan and C = completed. Any procedure code that has a C in this column will match the ledger.
    • Amount = The amount you are charging the patient for the procedure.
  • Clinical Notes: The clinical notes tab is what happened today. This is where you will write up the materials used, anesthetic, next visit and anything else that happened during the appointment or anything that was discussed during the clinical portion of the visit. The clinical notes can be written using templates and signed with an electronic signature device. To read more about clinical note templates, please CLICK HERE.

One feature I think is really cool is that you can merge the Progress Notes with the Clinical Notes for an easy patient chart review. If you want to read more details on how to do this, please read my blog titled “Read your clinical notes like you used to” by CLICKING HERE.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Don't get caught with FOMO

I remember when I attended my very first Business of Dentistry conference in 2006.  It was the first year I was a certified Dentrix trainer and I was super excited because my doctor agreed to tag along with me because it happened to be held at his favorite ski resort (so he could bail out if he got bored).  I remember Dr. Gordon Christensen was the keynote speaker that year and my doctor was so impressed with the entire event he never made it to the slopes (at least during class time).

Since 2006 I have never missed a Business of Dentistry Conference  (I would have serious FOMO) and this year will be no different.  This year I am teaching six courses over two days and I am super excited to be such a big part of this amazing event.


CLICK HERE to learn more
Use my promo code when you register
BDC2017JOHNSON

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Appointment Book Shortcuts you will love

Everybody loves a shortcut. That sounds familiar, right? I wrote a blog about the keyboard shortcuts a while back that you may want to check out. CLICK HERE to open it.

Today, I want to talk about some more scheduling shortcuts. When I am working one-on-one with team members, I often watch as they click, click, click, click and click again just to find out when the next appointment is or find out when the next family members’ appointments are. It’s exhausting for me to watch, let alone for the person doing all the clicking. Let’s look at a couple shortcuts.
  •  More Information Button – This feature is located on all Dentrix toolbars and you can also find it in the lower left corner of the schedule appointment window. Have you ever been on the phone with a mom and she wants to know when her three kids and husband are scheduled next for all their future appointments … but you’re not sure what’s the most efficient way to find all these appointments for the entire family? Or are you working in the Patient Chart and your patient asks you when her husband is due for his checkup but you really don’t want to leave the chart and figure out how to look for that information? Both of these scenarios can be completed using the More Information button. See the image below of the More Information window.


  • Locate Existing Appointment - This seems to be a feature easily forgotten and so easy to use. It is, however, only found on the Appointment Book. Click on the icon and enter the first few letters of the last name and click on the >> to search. Then you will see a list for appointments for that patient or if he or she has a common last name, you may see other people listed here as well. You can click on one of the appointments and click on View. It will take you out to the appointment and highlight it for you to easily see.
  • Other Appointments – You will find this quick button inside of the appointment and can be helpful if you have the patient’s appointment open. This can be helpful if you are looking to see if the patient has his or her next visit scheduled.


Quick tips and shortcuts help all of us work smarter. If you have a quick tip or shortcut you would like to share, let me know by making a comment on this post. I would love to hear from you.




Saturday, April 22, 2017

Three options for treatment consents . . . PROS and CONS for each method

Any time you are trying to choose between option 1, option 2 and option 3, there are always pros and cons to think about. Your patients rely on you to provide the details between a bridge, implant and partial denture because they don’t always know what questions to ask. The same goes for trying to choose between option 1, option 2 and option 3 in your Dentrix software when deciding on how you are going to deal with consent forms for these treatment options. Yes, there are three different options for how you could deal with patient consent forms and I am going to give you some pros and cons for using each method.


Option 1 – Scan and shred using your existing paper consent forms
  • PROS – Your logo can be on the form so, when your patient takes it home, the branding for your office follows the patient home. The form can be as long as you want it to be. There is no character limit. Most likely the form is in a Word Document so you can edit it anytime you want. The forms would be nicely organized in the Document Center because your team would select the correct folder when they scan it.
  • CONS – This method uses paper. If you are trying to be paperless, this defeats the purpose. Your team will have to scan the form, which takes time. A scanned document becomes an image and uses more space on your server drive than an electronic form. The form does not automatically get locked up into history unless you sign it again in the Document Center.
Option 2 – Use the consent forms in the treatment plan module/panel
  • PROS – The consent forms are linked directly to the treatment plan case. The signature is captured electronically, creating an electronic form instead of a paper form. The details are automatically sent to the Document Center and put into their own folder.
  • CONS – It’s not very pretty. You do not have the formatting and branding options with these consent forms so you will have to compromise on style. There is a character limit so you will need to get creative if your consent forms are wordy. The form does not automatically get locked into history unless you sign the form in the Document Center.

Option 3 – Use the Questionnaire Module for consent forms.
  • PROS – This method is truly an electronic form because it is not saved as an image and uses electronic signatures. The formatting is much more customizable and looks like a nice form. You can capture up to three signatures if you need to and, when signed, the form is automatically locked into history. The forms are easy to use and nicely organized in the Questionnaire Module. You could upload these forms to your website or iPad for patients to fill out.
  • CONS – You still cannot put your logo on the questionnaire. The form is date stamped but not directly attached to the treatment plan.


Whichever option you choose in your practice, it is important to have that informed consent from the patient. The consent forms should be in a place that is easy for your team to use, edit and manage. It’s a personal choice. Hopefully this information will help you make the best choice for your office. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Take the anxiety and frustration out of scheduling

In a busy office, finding appointment time can be time-consuming and frustrating. Most scheduling coordinators I work with have created a system of using the day or week view, looking for open time. As you flip the red arrow moving forward and then forward again, the anxiety level starts to go up as your patient sits on the phone with you while you look for the first open time slot.

But what if you could narrow down your search and have the computer generate a list of the open time for you based on certain criteria instead of the endless clicking through the appointment book? Using the Dentrix search tool, you can customize your search for the patient you have on the phone and the conversation with your patient would be directed at exactly what they are looking for.

Here is how I would envision a conversation with a patient calling in to schedule an appointment with their favorite dental hygienist . . . .

Patient: Hi Dayna, this is Linda Jacobsen. I just received your email that I am due for my checkup.
Dayna: Great! Thank you for calling. Let’s find a time for you. Do you still want to schedule with Jenny? (I know she likes Jenny because I have noted it as her PROV2 in the Family File)
Linda: Yes, Jenny is the only person I want to see.
Dayna: Jenny works on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Which day works best for you?
Linda: A Wednesday afternoon would work best.
Dayna: Great, let me plug in that information and see what I can come up with for you.


Now I would open up my Scheduling search tool and see the list of dates and times that will work with Linda’s window. Select the parameters in the search tool that match your patient’s requests and click on Search/View. This will give you a list of available openings in your schedule and you can now go through the list with Linda and see which date she wants.



You have not only made it more personal for your patient but you have also eliminated the day to day or week to week endless search. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Five tips for improving your cash flow

How’s the cash flow in your practice? It could be better? Collections and cash flow is a multi-faceted
system and it requires the involvement of the entire team. Here are my top five tips to help you increase your cash flow and lower your accounts receivable.
  1. No one gets on your schedule without a financial arrangement. Your patients need to know what to budget for before they walk in for their appointment. I realize there are many consulting firms that advocate not to talk to patients about money. However, I feel you are putting your practice and your relationship with your patient at risk if you don’t. You must have the money conversation and allow your patients to make an educated decision on how they will pay for it. 
  2. Your entire team needs to know what that financial arrangement is. I have seen the clinical team dismiss a patient thinking they were free to go when only to find out that the patient had a co-pay for today’s visit. Then the front office is all in a tizzy because they did not collect from the patient. There are many ways you can communicate with your team about the patient’s co-pay for today’s visit. You can put it in the note box of the appointment, write it on the route slip or discuss it in the morning huddle. However you decide to relay the information, it must be done because the entire team is responsible for the collections in the practice.
  3. Anyone in the practice should be able to collect money. If your front office is shorthanded for the day or maybe the financial coordinator is on the phone with another patient, anyone on the team should have the skills to collect money. Create a protocol sheet for how to collect cash, credit cards and outside financing payments (i.e. Care Credit). If a patient owes money today, he or she should not walk out the door. It is costing you a ton of money.
  4. Send billing statements two or three times a week. This changed my life when I was working in a practice and it will yours too. I devoted an entire article to this topic and you can read all the details by CLICKING HERE.
  5. Use the Collection Manager to track your accounts receivable. In the past when I was doing Insight Seminars for Henry Schein and I would get to the section on the Collection Manager Report, I would ask the audience who was using it to manage their accounts receivable. Maybe a third of the hands would go up. I am still amazed at how many people do not use this report and are still using the Aging Report for accounts receivable management. You can read an entire article on this report by CLICKING HERE.


If you take these five tips to heart and put them into your regular routine, you will see an increase in your cash flow and a reduction in your stress level. It’s all about the systems and how you manage them because you don’t have a money tree growing in your backyard.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

No need to purchase a new scanner, your current one should work just fine

Are you interested in starting the process of going paperless but you have an older scanner that might not work with Dentrix? Or maybe you have a scanner that used to work with Dentrix but, since you have upgraded, some of the features have stopped working? Well, I have a solution for you.
The new File Acquisition Method Default will allow you to scan directly to your scanner without the interference of Dentrix and then automatically pull your document into Dentrix. There are so many different kinds of scanners out there now and we all know it can be challenging to make all this technology work seamlessly.

Here is how it works . . .

Open your Document Center and click on the Setup tab at the top. Now scroll to the bottom and go to Setup Acquisition Method Default. In the top drop down menu, select Auto File Acquisition, then select a default folder (don’t worry, you will have the opportunity to change it), then select a folder to pull the document from (I set up a Scans folder on the Desktop).

Now in your start menu in Windows, find your scanner program. What I did is click on Start > All Programs > Epson > and create a shortcut on your desktop, then pin it to your task bar. Or you can go to your Printers and Devices, find your scanner and drag it to your taskbar to create a quick button on your computer.

Now that you have both of those two things finished, open a patient’s Document Center. Click on the icon you pinned to your task bar for your scanner and make sure your scanner setup is set to save the document to the same folder you created on your desktop. Then scan a document and see what happens. Hopefully what will happen is that the Dentrix Auto File Acquisition will automatically pull the document into the patient’s Document Center. Now you can give the document a description and put it in a different folder if you want.


This took me a little bit to wrap my head around it in the beginning. However, once I got it set up and working, I loved it. The support department was great at answering my questions and, from them helping me, I was able to put this article together for you all. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

3 Ways for Effective Intra-Office Communications

Every office is unique. You might be a specialty practice, a group practice or a solo practitioner. You
may have a team of 5 or a team or 25, but you all have one thing in common … Post-it notes and messages everywhere. Almost every front office I walk into has colored Post-it notes all over the desk and almost every doctor has piles of charts on his or her desk. I hope you all have stock in the 3M company for all the colored sticky notes you use. Let’s figure out a way to clean this all up.

Let’s look three effective options for improving your Intra-Office Communications. This relates to how you all communicate with each other inside of your practice. Since you all live in your practice management software all day, I want you to create an Intra-Office Communication system within your Dentrix software because this will help you be as efficient and productive as possible.

  1. My favorite option is to use the Office Journal for communicating with your team. Did you know that not only every patient has an Office Journal but every team member as well? You can create your own TO-DO list or put a task on someone else’s TO-DO list. What if your doctor needs to write you a narrative or phone in a new RX for a patient? What if you need to remember to call a patient back in April or send in your doctor’s license renewal by June 1st. Putting a Reminder on the Office Journal will solve all of this.
    1. If it is regarding a patient, open the patient’s Office Journal and add a new entry. Add it as a Reminder, give it a due date, put in the provider ID that you are assigning this message to, enter a description and a note. Click OK. Now this message will show up on the patient’s Office Journal and the team member you assigned to.
    2. Now, if it is a message you just want to send to one of your team members, go to the Office Manager and open the Office Journal. Now it will ask you for a provider ID and you can select the team member you want to send a message to. Put it as a Reminder, enter a date, description and your message. Click OK.
    3. The Office Journal can be set up to open automatically when you log in your workstation in the morning. Go to the Office Manager > Maintenance> Practice Setup > Preferences > and then check mark Automatically Launch Office Journal. I would recommend filtering your Office Journal so it will load faster. To do this, click on View at the top of the Office Journal and click on Filters, then select Reminders and give it a beginning balance date and click on Save as Default.
  2. You can use the Appointment Note as a TO-DO list for the entire office. This note is located in the upper left corner of the Appointment Book and it is just a blank piece of paper you can make notes on. Think of it as a big sticky note.
  3. The third option for Intra-Office Communications is to use the Dentrix integrated IM system, Dentalink. You can set up Dentalink and send messages back and forth from workstations to alert team members of things happening. If the hygienist is running behind, he or she can send an IM up to the front alerting them. Or maybe the front office wants to send a message to the doctor’s office workstation. These IM messages show up as a “bubble” in the lower right of the workstation and are good for today only.  


Save on Post-it notes, clean up your desk and communicate better with your team with these three options for Intra-Office Communications.