Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The New Patient Phone Call

When a new patient calls to schedule an appointment, I recommend getting as much information on that initial phone call as possible. I’ve found that this can help to provide the most comprehensive care to the patient at their initial appointment.

Here are some questions I like to ask a new patient on the phone and why:


  1. "How did you hear about our office?"
    This one’s easy. Tracking referrals can help the practice decide where best to spend advertising dollars. For example, if we placed an ad in a magazine, what was the return on investment? Internal marketing can also be beneficial for the office. Track which patients are referring their friends and family. Send them a thank you note. Some offices give a small gift or offer free teeth whitening to the patient with the most referrals.
    You can track referrals in Dentrix by entering in the Referred By source in the New Patient Information window in the Appointment Book.


  2. "When was the last time you had your teeth cleaned?" This helps to determine several things. If the patient had their teeth cleaned six months ago, it’s likely they will just need a prophy and not periodontal treatment. This helps to know how much time to allow for their appointment. Also, the patient may have had X-rays taken recently at their last dental office that can be transferred to your office.
    If it’s been ten years since their last cleaning, the patient may need scaling and root planing or more extensive periodontal treatment and the hygienist and doctor can be better prepared for that patient.
    Also, this question typically gives the patient an opportunity to tell you about their attitude toward the dentist. For example, they may say something like, “It’s been ten years since I had my teeth cleaned. I’m afraid of the dentist.” This lets you know up front that the patient has a fear and may require a little more TLC.

  3. Medical history questions such as: "Do you have any replaced joints? Do you have any heart problems like Mitrovalve Prolapse?"
    Getting this information ahead of time can help the office determine if this patient may have a need to pre-medicate prior to dental appointments. This avoids having to delay or reschedule the appointment which is annoying for the patient and lost production for the practice.

  4. What type of dental insurance do you have?
    There are so many types of insurance plans. It can be hard for dental professionals to keep up and understand all the requirements, let alone the patient. I recommend verifying a patient’s dental insurance benefits before they come to your office. This way you can find out if the patient’s plan allows them benefits at your office before they arrive for their appointment.

I’ve found spending the time to get this information before the patient comes to the office makes the patient’s new patient appointment go more smoothly. By asking these types of questions you can avoid the problems that may delay or cause the office to have to reschedule the patient’s appointment.

If you have questions or if you would like an example of a new patient call-in sheet, please e-mail me atvectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.



Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Dentrix G7 Health History - My Favorite New Feature

Dentrix G7 is here and it is awesome! It includes some exciting new features. One of my personal favorites is the new Dentrix Health History.

In previous versions of Dentrix we had medical alerts that could be edited in the Family File. Dentrix G7 has replaced medical alerts with a Health History module which is still accessible through the “red cross” button throughout Dentrix.

The new Dentrix Health History is much more comprehensive than what we had in the past. My favorite part of the Dentrix Health History is the ability to inactivate medical conditions. This is such a great improvement because you will have a comprehensive list of a patient’s past and present medical conditions. It’s important to have an accurate medical history for patients so that the doctor can see if the patient has a condition that could cause a contraindication with the treatment they are providing or a drug they are prescribing.

When you add a medical condition for a patient, you have the option to enter a both a reported date (when your practice became aware of the condition) and a start date (when the condition started) for the condition.


For example, if a patient has gestational diabetes, you can add that medical condition to their health history, with the start date of when they were diagnosed.

Then, once the condition has been resolved, you don’t want to simply delete the medical condition from their health history. It’s important for offices to keep a record of these medical conditions even if they no longer apply because they are a part of the patient’s medical record. Similar to when we had paper charts, we always wrote in pen, never pencil and we would never erase anything that was written in the chart.

With Dentrix G7, you can inactivate a medical condition, and doing so you still have a record that the patient had this medical condition in the past. If the condition were to reoccur, or a subsequent condition were to develop, you would have the date the condition was initially reported to your office.

To inactivate a medical condition, in the Health History module, highlight the condition, and then click the Inactivate button from the toolbar.


A warning message appears, letting you know that you this action cannot be undone. Click Yes to continue and inactivate the condition. The current date will be listed as the inactivation date for the condition, but this can be edited if needed.

Now you can keep a truly accurate record of the patient’s previous and current medical conditions. You can quickly identify inactive medical conditions by looking at the Status column for the patient.
The Health History module is just one of several new features in Dentrix G7. For more information, you can watch the Dentrix G7 new feature preview video titled Health History.

If you have any questions, you can contact me at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.


Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Maximizing a Provider's Time in the Schedule

It can be difficult for a new front office team member to learn the ins and outs of scheduling. It can be even more challenging if they have limited dental experience. To effectively schedule patient appointments, it’s important to understand where the doctor and assistant are during an operative procedure.

Scheduling is such an important task in the dental office. I’ve seen offices that are very busy but unproductive. The goal is to maximize the doctor’s time and be as productive as possible.

In Dentrix you can schedule provider time and assistant time. This can help a new front office team member to understand where a doctor can be double-booked to maximize their schedule and where they can’t. Using this system can also help a new doctor to know where they need to be and when to effectively manage their time.

You can adjust provider, assistant, and chair time within a patient’s appointment.
When scheduling a new appointment select the search button (>) next to Appt Length in the Appointment Information window.



The Appointment Pattern Time window will appear.  Select the time units, then whether those time units should be designated as Provider, Assistant or Chair Time.



In this example, the fist 10 minutes of the appointment is designated as assistant time for the assistant to seat the patient and place topical anesthetic. The next 10 mins is designated as provider time for the doctor to anesthetize. The next 10 minutes is assistant time while the patient gets numb, and the final two 10 minute time frames are provider time for the doctor to perform the procedure.

Scheduling using dedicated time units allows the doctor to be most productive because instead of waiting for the assistant to finish their part of the procedure they can be working in another operatory. For example, doctor could anesthetize a patient in one operatory and while waiting for that patient to get numb, they can work on another patient. I’ve seen this work well in offices, especially during procedures that require a lot of assistant time, such as a crown prep. While the assistant is making the temporary, the doctor can work on another patient in another operatory to be most productive. Time is money as they say, so it’s important for dental offices to be as productive as possible.

Time units dedicated to a provider (X) can’t be booked in more than two appointments at a time. This eliminates the doctor being booked in more than two operatories at once.

Not only can you can adjust appointment time patterns within an individual appointment, but you can also set them for specific procedure codes, so they will be pre-set when you are scheduling an appointment for that procedure code in the future.

Let’s take the crown code D2740, for example. In the Procedure Code Editor, you can select how the time units are set up for this procedure code.



Once you have allocated the Provider, Assistant, and Chair Time for the procedure, save your changes. And the next time you schedule that procedure for patients, it will be easy for your providers to know where they need to be, and you can better manage their time.

Scheduling appointments and properly assigning provider, assistant, and chair time can help the front office team to schedule more effectively. It gives them the ability to know where they can double-book a provider, and more importantly, where they can’t.

For questions on this topic or others, please email me at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.



Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Presenting Alternate Treatment Plans

When I was growing up, my dad worked for a company that produced high performance sports cars. The cars had a Lamborghini engine and cost about $200,000. My dad took me on a sales trip once that taught me a very valuable lesson. 

Two prospective buyers came to look at the car which we had brought to a high-end car dealership in Houston. The first prospective buyer was a well-dressed man with an expensive looking watch who already owned an earlier year model of the car. The second prospective buyer was a man in dirty overalls and a cowboy hat who drove a beat-up pickup truck. At the end of the day my dad asked me who I thought was going to buy the car. I answered naively, “The first man, he’s the one who can afford it.” 

My dad informed me that the man in the overalls was in fact one of the wealthiest land owners in Texas. That was a lesson in sales and about people in general that I have carried with me ever since. 

I’ve referred to that experience many times over my dental career. It taught me to never assume what a patient may want or be able to afford. It’s our job as the dental office to offer every patient all available treatment options. Present the cost for each treatment option and discuss the pros and cons. Allow the patient to make an informed decision about their dental care. 

The Dentrix Treatment Planner allows you to create different treatment options for a patient by creating multiple treatment cases. For example, a patient may have a missing tooth. They have several options to replace the missing tooth. A partial, a bridge, or an implant. When creating a treatment plan, I like to use the Treatment Planner Layout within the Patient Chart because it allows me to do multiple tasks from one screen. To switch to the Treatment Planner Layout, in the Patient Chart select the View Menu, then Chart Layout, then Treatment Planner.


First, you should treatment plan all of the options for the patient in the Patient Chart. These procedures will automatically go into the default treatment case in the Treatment Planner. The default case will be the one with the bold title.


Create a new treatment case by choosing the New Case icon in the Treatment Planner Case Setup panel. 



Click on the partial procedure within the default case, and drag and drop it into the new case folder. You can right-click on the word Treatment Plan next to the folder and select Rename Case. Rename this case “Partial”. 


Next create another new case and move all procedures associated with the bridge option from the default case to the new folder and rename it “Bridge.”

Repeat these steps for the remaining procedures associated with the implant option, renaming the new case “Implant.”

Dentrix gives the option to link these cases. Select the Link Alternate Cases icon on the tool bar and a menu will appear for you to choose which cases you want to link together.



When one or more cases are linked together, one of the cases is designated as the recommended case. The recommended case is shown with a yellow star on the link symbol. You can change the recommended case as needed by right-clicking any case, and then selecting Set as Recommended Case.

Once you have presented the options to the patient you can accept the patient’s chosen treatment plan. To accept a treatment case, select the folder and then click the Update Case Status button and choose the Accepted option. 



My favorite part about linking alternate cases is that when you accept one treatment case that is linked to other treatment cases, Dentrix will give you a warning message that this case is linked to others and it will automatically reject the other treatment options. Select OK to accept the selected case and reject the others.

Rejected cases no longer show in the graphic chart or in the treatment planner unless you check the box to include rejected cases. 



I like this feature because although we may not want to always view rejected cases, Dentrix has kept a record in the Patient Chart that additional options were presented to the patient. Rejected cases will not show on unscheduled treatment plan reports.

Linking cases is a great feature when presenting a patient with more than one treatment option.  If you have questions or comments on this topic, or any other, please E-mail me at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.



Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Value in Using Insurance Claim Status Notes

Dealing with dental insurance is a necessary evil in our profession. Tracking outstanding insurance claims is an important, on-going task in all offices that accept insurance payments. Having an organized tracking system can make this job easier.

A general goal for offices, except for ortho, is not to have any outstanding insurance claims over 60 days past due. To obtain this goal you must dedicate time daily to follow up on insurance claims. Once you have contacted an insurance company to find out the status of an outstanding claim, Dentrix has a specific place to record this information.

In the patient’s Ledger, double-click the insurance claim to open the insurance claim window.


Dentrix will automatically enter the date the claim was created and sent. Double-click the Status block to open the Insurance Claim Status window. There are fields available for you to make detailed notes regarding the status of this insurance claim. For example, you could make a note explaining that the insurance carrier is requesting X-ray, sent X-ray today. By adding notes in the Claim Status Note field, you or anyone else in the office can see when the last time the claim status was updated and what action was taken. You also have the option to check the box and enter the applicable date if Tracer Sent (meaning you attempted to track the claim), if the claim is On-Hold, if it was Re-Sent or Voided.



The advantage to making claim status notes within the insurance claim is that when you run the Insurance Aging Report (Office Manager > Reports > Ledger > Insurance Aging Report) you have an option to view the status notes on this report. 


Printing claim status notes on the Insurance Aging report is beneficial because if you can see that a claim that was resent yesterday, you may not want to contact the insurance company again regarding this claim. This can save you a lot of valuable time. 


Example of how claim status notes print on the Insurance Aging Report.
If you have questions about this topic or others, please contact me by e-mail at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.


Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer
Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.