Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Filling Last-Minute Cancellations

During this challenging time, it may be harder to keep your practice schedule full. Your patients may be home-schooling their children or returning to work themselves, and you may find that your office has more holes in the schedule and more last-minute cancellations.

Dentrix offers a feature that your office can use to offer available appointment times to patients. It’s called Fill Appointment*. You can use this feature to send a text message to a select group of patients letting them know you have an appointment time available. This is a great feature to fill an appointment time that became available today or tomorrow and that you would like to offer to other patients. Patients are notified about an opening, and they'll call YOU to schedule an appointment!

There are several filtering options available to help you find specific patients who are likely to respond to fill the opening, and send them a text message. You can filter by provider, date range, or by appointment type.  For example, if you are trying to fill an appointment on your hygiene schedule, you can filter by Continuing Care. You also have the option to fill the appointment by looking at patients with the status of ASAP or who have appointments on the Broken, Will Call, or Pinboard lists.


When you send the text message to the patient, I would suggest writing a text that explains that you have an appointment available today, without mentioning the specific time, and to call the office if they are interested. In my experience, if your text message says that there is an appointment available at 2:00 pm today, you may have several patients just show up for that appointment, without calling to let you know. This could result in your office not being able to see all the patients, which could cause a negative experience for the patient.


Using the Fill Appointment feature can give your office the ability to contact several patients all at once regarding an available appointment, and you may have multiple patients call to claim the opening. Schedule the first patient to call you back in the opening you advertised, and then you can work with the other responders to fill other holes in your schedule, since you’ve already got them on the phone.

Making full use of the Fill Appointment feature is beneficial for your office because your staff doesn’t have to spend their time calling patients individually to fill openings. It’s also beneficial for the patient as a quick text message may be easier for them to read and answer versus listening to a voicemail and returning a phone call while they are at work, or home-schooling children.

For additional information on using this feature, read the A Faster Way to Fill Appointments article in the Dentrix Magazine online archive.

*The Fill Appointment feature requires Patient Engage.  If you don’t currently have Patient Engage, your office can contact the eServices team at (833) 471-7253 for more information.

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, May 13, 2020

Finding Patients to Schedule After Reopening

Now that many dental offices have been able to re-open, it’s time to get patients scheduled. For many offices, looking at an empty Appointment Book, this may seem like a daunting task. I have some recommendations on how you can not only start scheduling appointments again, but where you can find these patients in Dentrix.

First, reschedule the existing appointments that had to be canceled due to COVID-19. Most likely, you either broke those appointments in Dentrix, or used Wait/Will call to move the appointments to the Unscheduled List.  Either way, you can easily find these patients by viewing the Unscheduled List. You can sort the Unscheduled List by date to find patients that appointments were cancelled during the last couple of months. You can reschedule these patients directly from the Unscheduled List—all of the information you need to contact the patients is stored right there in the list, including phone numbers. You can even drag and drop appointments from the list right to the Appointment Book. Use the Unscheduled List to find patients who were scheduled for an appointment for hygiene as well as patients who were scheduled for treatment with the doctor.

Next, contact patients due for continuing care procedures. This will help to fill your hygiene schedule and often times, restorative treatment is diagnosed during the hygiene visit, so it will help fill your doctor’s schedule too. I would recommend starting with patients that were due for continuing care over the last three months. You can create a new Continuing Care View to find these patients. You can create a view that includes patients who are due for the prophy continuing care type, without an appointment. You can set the due date range for 3/1/20-5/31/20.


Once you click OK to generate the Continuing Care List, you can contact patients directly and access the Office Journal to make notes about contact with the patients. You’re also able to schedule the appointment directly from the Continuing Care List. Once you have found and contacted all patients who are due for a Prophy, I would also suggest creating a second Continuing Care View and find those patients overdue for Perio, in order to contact and schedule your perio maintenance patients. 

As you work to fill your schedule, make sure you are following your state guidelines regarding length of appointments and how many patients can be seen in the office at a time. 

Lastly, contact patients with outstanding treatment plans to fill your doctor’s schedule. A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the Treatment Manager to find patients with outstanding treatment plans. I would recommend using the Treatment Manager to find patients with a treatment plan date range from January 1st, 2020 to the current date. This will provide you with a list of patients with procedures diagnosed three months prior to dental offices closing.

Using a methodical approach to schedule patients can help you to fill both your hygiene and your doctor schedules as your office is re-opening. Follow your state guidelines and use the American Dental Association guidelines for safe back to work practices. If you have questions, 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, May 6, 2020

Returning to Work - 4 Recommendations and How to Implement Them Using Dentrix

As many states are preparing to re-open dental practices for non-emergency procedures, the American Dental Association has released a Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit. Here are some of their recommendations and how you can implement them using Dentrix.

Send Patients a Welcome back Reassurance Letter

This letter should describe your office’s procedures for infection control which will ease patient’s minds and give them confidence to come to the office for their appointments. The American Dental Association has provided a sample letter for offices to use. The letter could be mailed or e-mailed to patients. If you want to mail a physical letter, you can create a letter template in Microsoft Word and use Dentrix data fields to enter patient information (such as names and addresses). Then you can use Letters and Custom Lists in the Office Manager to create and print the letters. I would recommend sending the letter to all patients that have been seen in your office in the last twelve months.

If you are using Dentrix Patient Engage, you can create a letter template and e-mail it to patients. If possible, e-mailing may be a more convenient way to communicate because the patients will receive the letter immediately.

Pre-Appointment Screening Process

The American Dental Association is recommending asking patients a list of questions to screen them prior to their appointment. This can be done over the phone during the appointment confirmation call. You can also create a questionnaire in Dentrix with the screening questions. A link to this questionnaire can be put on your office website and you can direct patients to fill it out prior to their appointment. 

Limit Patient Traffic

In order to limit the number of people in your office, have patients wait in their cars until you are ready to bring them in to the operatory. You can text them using Dentrix Patient Engage when you’re ready for them to enter the practice. Bring them directly to the operatory to avoid patients being in close contact with each other. For patients who are minors, speak to their parent/guardian prior to the appointment, during the confirmation call. Let them know for the health and safety of all patients, you are limiting the number of people in the office. Therefore, only one family member can accompany the patient to the appointment. 

Employee Screening

Keep a daily log of employee health screenings. Keep this in a folder for future reference. If any employee isn't feeling well, send them home right away.

Use the American Dental Association Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit to help plan and implement strategies so you can re-open your dental practice in a way that ensures the health of your patients and staff. 

If you have questions, 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, April 29, 2020

Spend Time on Updating Outstanding Treatment Plans

As we look forward to re-opening our dental practices, it's a good time to concentrate on updating outstanding treatment plans. Use this time to clean up old treatment plans which tend to clutter your database. I would consider an “old treatment plan” to be any procedure within a treatment case that was diagnosed over a year ago. After a year, the treatment required has probably changed. For example, if a tooth needed a MOD filling over a year ago, at this point, it may need a crown. You can also use this time to check on the status of insurance pre-authorizations and to contact patients to get them scheduled when your office re-opens.

The first step is to find patients who have outstanding treatment. When searching for patients with outstanding treatment plans, I like to use the Treatment Manager. You can access the Treatment Manager from the Appointment Book. There are two reasons I prefer using this report. First, there are so many options to filter the report! You can completely customize it to display the types of patients you want to view.


The second reason I like using the Treatment Manager is because you can easily access other Dentrix modules right from the list.


While viewing the list, you can highlight a patient and go directly to their Treatment Planner to view their case. If the treatment plan is old or if you know the patient is not going to proceed with their treatment-planned procedures, you can update the case status in the Treatment Planner to Rejected. The reason you should reject treatment plans instead of deleting them is to keep a record of the procedures having been treatment planned.

Once you have worked to clean up patient outstanding treatment plans, refresh the Treatment Manager so patients with rejected cases are removed from the list. You can easily do this from the Treatment Manager by clicking File > Refresh. Once you are looking at an updated Treatment Manager list, you can highlight a patient on the list, open their Ledger, and go to Options > Treatment Plan to see if a pre-authorization was sent.



If your office uses eServices for claims, you can also check the status of the pre-authorization by clicking the red “e” within the claim status.


Once you’ve cleaned up old treatment plans and checked on the pre-authorization status (as needed), you can begin to contact patients and schedule appointment(s) for their outstanding treatment. Remember to make detailed notes regarding contact with patients in the Office Journal.

When you are ready to schedule an appointment for outstanding treatment, you can access the Appointment Book from the Treatment Manager. When scheduling outstanding treatment plans select Tx in the Appointment Information dialog box to schedule their treatment-planned procedures.

The task of cleaning up outstanding treatment plans is much easier when you use the Treatment Manager because you can access the Treatment Planner to reject cases, access the Ledger to check on pre-authorization status, access the Office Journal to record patient contact, and getting their appointments scheduled for when your office is able to re-open.

For additional information, read Mining for Gold: Three Reports for Searching Out Unscheduled Treatment in the Dentrix Magazine online archive.

If you have questions on this topic 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, April 22, 2020

Take Time Now to Update Fee Schedules

If you haven’t negotiated increased fee schedules with your contracted insurance companies recently, now would be a good time to do so. Requesting updates and entering the new fees into Dentrix can be a time-consuming process. While your office is closed, it may be a good time to take on such a  time-intensive project. You can use the increased fees as soon as your office is able to open which will result in higher production.

The first thing you should do is contact the insurance company and inquire how often they will allow you to request a fee increase. Different insurance companies have different frequency limitations on when this can be done. Also find out the method in which it needs to be done. Some companies will allow you to send an e-mail request, while others will require you do this by mail.

Once you have received the updated fee schedule you can either import it into Dentrix, if you have it in an Excel format, or you can manually enter the new fees. This is done in the Office Manager > Maintenance > Reference > Fee Schedule Maintenance. Select the fee schedule you want to update, then select View/Edit.


After you have updated the fee schedule, you can update the fees for procedures that have been previously treatment planned. In the Treatment Planner, click the Update Treatment Fees button. You can update treatment fees for all patients, or just the currently selected patient. You can also choose to update fees for procedures treatment planned before a specific date. For example, if you wanted to honor fees on treatment plans that were presented within the last three months, select the procedure date before 01/20/20.
  • If you are using expiration dates on treatment plans, you can select to update treatment fees with an expiration date before today’s date. That way you will be honoring all fees that have an expiration date in the future. 
  • If you aren’t currently using fee expiration dates on treatment plans, you can set up a default case expiration in the settings in the Treatment Planner. I recommend using an expiration date to clearly communicate to patients how long the treatment fees will apply.
Once you have applied your setting and clicked Update to update patient treatment plan fees, be patient. This can take some time because Dentrix is searching your entire database and changing fees based on the settings you chose.

Once the increased fees have been updated and you have worked to update the fees on treatment plans, you will be ready to go when your practice is able to re-open. Your production will be increased as you are able to charge a higher fee for some procedures. Requesting fee schedules and entering them into Dentrix can be a time-consuming process that is difficult to do when you are busy seeing patients. Doing this while your office is closed can save time for when the practice is busy again. 

If you have questions 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, April 15, 2020

Communicating With Patients During This Time

Dental practices have strong relationships with their patients. You get the opportunity to see patients frequently over the course of recall and restorative appointments.

Over my last twenty years working in a dental office, I’ve had the privilege of developing strong relationships with our patients. I’ve celebrated with them as they’ve experienced joys in their lives and sadness as they’ve experienced sorrows. I’ve watched children grow up in the practice. I feel honored to have shared our patient’s lives in this way and feel that these patients are a part of our practice family. As a dental office manager, I’m sure you feel the same way about your patients.

People all over the world are experiencing difficulties at this time and communicating to your patients that you are thinking of them and wishing them well, can help your practice to re-connect with them and develop an even stronger relationship.



Here are a few ways you can communicate with your patients during this time.

Handwritten Cards

You could send a handwritten note or card letting your patients know you are wishing them and their families well. Your patients are struggling too, and receiving a handwritten note could help to make someone’s day a little better. This method of communication would also allow you to write a personal message to each patient or family.

Custom Letters

You could also create a custom letter in Dentrix, if you would prefer to send a letter in the mail. You would need to create the letter template in Microsoft Word and insert Dentrix Letter Merge Fields. This letter can then be sent to a customized list of patients using the Patient Report (by filters) option within Letters and Custom Lists in the Office Manager. I would recommend sending the letter to all patients who have a Last Visit Date within the last twelve months.

E-mail Newsletter

Using Dentrix Patient Engage, you could send an e-mail newsletter to your patients. Let them know you are thinking of them during this difficult time and that you are there to help, should a dental emergency arise. You can give them information on how to contact you if they do experience a dental emergency. Let patients know when you are hoping to re-open and that you are looking forward to seeing them. 

Reach out to your practice family during these tough times. Let them know you are thinking of them and looking forward to seeing them when the office is able to re-open. Communicating with your patients can help to reconnect and strengthen your relationship with them. 

If you have questions, 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, April 8, 2020

Rescheduling Appointments Due to Office Closures

Due the pandemic crisis, dental practices around the country have been closed for non-emergency procedures since last month. Most will have to remain closed until the end of April, and some until mid-May. I’ve had many questions about what to do when it comes to rescheduling appointments that were missed while the office was closed.

Here are my recommendations:

Let’s assume that you have been closed since March 24th, and that you have already contacted your patients to tell them that you would not be open, and that you would be rescheduling their appointments over the coming weeks and months.

Now, you are beginning to work through your Appointment Book to reschedule those appointments. Starting on March 24th, you should start with the patients that were scheduled that day and remove their appointments from the Appointment Book. To do that, double-click each individual appointment to open the Appointment Information window, and select Wait/Will Call. By selecting Wait/Will Call, the appointment will be removed from the Appointment Book and added to the Unscheduled List--and all of the appointment information (procedures, providers, etc) are still attached to the appointment.

Note: You don’t want to simply delete appointments from the Appointment Book. If you delete an appointment, there will be no way to track it or the procedures that were attached to it.

Then, when you are ready to reschedule those March 24th appointments, you can open the Unscheduled List, and sort it by date, easily identifying those appointments that were originally on that date. You can use the Unscheduled List to contact patients to reschedule because the list contains all the information you need: patient name, procedures and providers attached to the appointment, and the patient’s phone number to call. Rescheduling the appointment from the Unscheduled List is easy because you can simply drag the appointment directly to the new appointment time in the Appointment Book, or to the Pinboard to reschedule it.



Once you have moved all the appointments from March 24th to the Unscheduled List, I would suggest you edit your practice schedule and close the practice in the Dentrix Appointment Book for that date. The purpose of closing the practice in Dentrix is for accurate reporting. The Dentrix Practice Advisor Report calculates unfilled hours and the value of those unfilled hours so you can track lost revenue. Unfilled hours are calculated by looking at the hours/days that the practice is open, and that the provider is available, but not seeing a patient. Since your office is not open, you won’t want Dentrix to include these hours in the report. Click HERE for information on how you can close the office on selected dates in the Appointment Book.

Repeat these steps for each day your office has been closed.

When it comes to rescheduling those patient appointments, I plan to wait to reschedule any appointments until closer to our official re-open date. For now, in Florida, dental practices have to wait until at least May 8th to resume routine procedures. But, since those recommendations are changing constantly, I plan to wait until closer to that date to begin contacting patients about rescheduling. That way I’ll avoid having to reschedule the appointment again, should those recommendations change.

Using the Wait/Will Call status within the Unscheduled List can help you to reschedule patients once your office is open again. Closing the office to reflect the practice schedule can help with future reporting.

For additional resources during this time, see the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources For Your Practice article on the Dentrix Magazine online site.


Please e-mail me with any questions 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.