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.