Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Tips for Using the Health History Module More Effectively

Updating and entering a patient's health history is a very important part of what your assistants and hygienists do during a patient’s appointment. Here are some tips you can share with them so that they can use the Dentrix Health History module more efficiently.

For your clinical team to be able to enter medical conditions, allergies, and medications, your office must first have a database of these items to select from. You’ll find that medical conditions and allergies are typically already in your system. Patient-reported medications will need to be entered in Health History. This gives your office the opportunity to decide how medications should be entered. For example, you could enter the brand name of the drug and use that for generic forms of the drug as well, or you could enter both brand name and generic drug names. Create a database for your practice based on the needs of your office and your doctors' preferences.

Assigning Health History Items to Patients

You can enter medical conditions, allergies, and patient-reported medications individually by selecting the Health History item you want to attach to the patient from this list of options; or you can attach multiple Health History items to a patient at once by selecting the Add Multiple option. 


Selecting to add an individual medical condition, allergy, or medication is a good option when you only have one item to enter.

But if you need to enter more than one medical condition, allergy, or patient-reported medication, use the Add Multiple option. This would be the best way to enter health history information for a new patient or a patient who has had a lot of medical changes that need to be entered. By using the Add Multiple option, your assistant and hygienist can save time by selecting all applicable medical conditions, allergies, and/or patient reported medications from a single location at once. 


It’s important to note that if a patient has already been assigned a medical condition, allergy, or medication in their Health History, it will no longer be available on the list of medical conditions, allergies, and medications to choose from.

Inactivating Health History Items That No Longer Apply

You should work towards having a comprehensive health history for your patients. Train your clinical team to inactivate medical conditions, allergies, and medications that no longer apply to the patient instead of deleting them. This way you'll have a record that this condition did apply to the patient in the past. When inactivating a medical condition, allergy, or medication, you have an option to add a note, which I would recommend. An example of a note on an inactivated patient-reported medication could be “Patient no longer takes blood pressure medication. Blood pressure is controlled through diet and exercise.” Be sure to include the date of the note and the initials of the staff member making the note.

Copying Health History Items to Clinical Notes

There is an option to copy the patient’s Health History to their clinical notes. This is a time saver for your clinical team when writing their notes because they don’t have to type in all the patient’s medical conditions, allergies, and/or medications. It also ensures accurate clinical notes because they won’t forget to enter anything into the clinical note. When copying Heath History items to a clinical note, you have the option of including only current items, or including inactive items as well.


Having an accurate health history for your patients is a critical part of their care. Share these health history tips with your clinical team so that they can enter health histories more efficiently. Email me with 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.  

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Alternate Ways to Use Procedure Notes in Your Practice

In past blog posts I’ve written about clinical notes and why having accurate clinical notes is critical for your office, but I haven’t written much about procedure notes. You can use procedure notes in conjunction with clinical notes, and I wanted to give you some ideas on how to use procedure notes in your office.

A procedure note is specific to a procedure, and you can enter the note manually or have it post to a procedure automatically.

Here are a couple of scenarios when you may want to add a procedure note manually.  

Communicate Information About a Procedure for Insurance Claims - If you are treatment planning a crown on tooth #14 and the tooth has an existing crown, the clinical team could ask the patient the age of the existing crown and record that information in the procedure note. Once recorded, that information is easily available to the administrative team to view after the procedure is completed and they file the patient’s insurance claim. The age of an existing crown is important because most insurance companies have a replacement period for crowns of five to ten years. You can even add procedure notes to the remarks for unusual services within an insurance claim. And it’s easy to delete the parts of the procedure note that aren’t needed for the claim.


Communicate Information About a Procedure to a Patient - You can use a procedure note to communicate information to the patient regarding a procedure. For example, if a patient needs a replacement crown on tooth #14 due to recurrent decay you could make a procedure note that conveys this information. There is an option to include procedure notes when printing a treatment case, so patients are aware of why a procedure needs to be completed. 


Record Information About a Procedure for Future Reference - I recently worked with an office that wanted a quick way to record the shade used for a filling. They didn’t want to have to read through the clinical notes to find this information, so they entered the shade in the procedure note. That way, the next time the patient comes in for another filling, they can quickly see which shade was used last time. 

Copying Procedure Notes Automatically

You can set up procedure notes in the Dentrix Office Manager for individual procedure codes. Once set up, you can choose to copy the note to the procedure note, copy the note to the clinical note, or not to copy it at all.
 
Copying the procedure note to the clinical note can be a good option in some situations. I would recommend using it when there isn’t any part of the clinical note that could vary by patient. For example, you may make the same clinical note every time you deliver an occlusal guard, so you may want to copy the procedure note to the clinical note automatically whenever the procedure is set complete. This saves you time from having to type the same information in both notes, and ensures accuracy by having consistent wording in your notes.

To set this up, in the Office Manager, select Maintenance > Practice Setup > Procedure Code Setup, and select the category and code for an occlusal guard (D9944). Then click Edit to open the Procedure Code Editor. Click the Edit Note button, enter the note you will use for this code in the Procedure Code Progress Note field, and select Copy to Clinical Note. When you click OK, any time you complete that code, the procedure note is automatically copied to the clinical note.


On the other hand, I would not recommend using the Copy to Clinical Note option for procedures that do vary by patient and procedure; for example, in a clinical note for a filling, the type of anesthetic and number of carpules will vary by patient. 

You can use procedure notes in several ways in your office: to communicate information about procedures for insurance claims, to communicate with a patient about a procedure, and to record information about a procedure for future reference.

You can also save time and ensure accuracy by choosing to copy procedure notes to the clinical notes, which may be helpful for some procedures in your office that are the same for each patient. 

If you have questions, 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, April 14, 2021

Four Dentrix Tasks You Can Schedule to Run Automatically

The Reports and Tasks Scheduler is not only a great tool to help you close out the month in Dentrix, but you can also set it up to run tasks and reports automatically. It's very easy to use. Most offices know how to use the Task Scheduler, but I want to take a moment to talk about why some of these tasks are so important.


Closing Transactions 

Closing transactions is an important task to be done on a monthly basis for a couple of reasons.

First, when transactions are closed, they are locked and can no longer be edited or deleted. Prohibiting these changes on completed procedures and posted payments can help to prevent fraud in your office.

Second, the process of closing transactions will age patient accounts, moving balances through the aging process: current to over 30 days past due, 30 days past due to over 60 days past due, and so forth. Aging account balances correctly is important to keep your accounts receivables accurate. 

Finally, by closing transactions, your practice’s month-to-date and year-to-date production, collections, and adjustments totals are more accurate. 

Moving Clinical Notes to History

By moving clinical notes to history, you are locking them so they can’t be edited or deleted. This is for the protection of the practice. It’s very important to protect the integrity of clinical notes as it is a part of the patient’s medical record. If the clinical notes are ever subpoenaed, it is in the practice’s best interest for them to be unedited. Kind of like when we had paper charts, we would always write clinical notes in pen, never in pencil which could be erased.  

It’s important to note that if your doctors and hygienists sign their clinical notes in the patient Chart, they will be moved to history automatically when signed. You can use the Task Scheduler to move any, unsigned notes in to history. 

Recalculating Totals

Recalculating totals will ensure that your month-to-date and year-to-date production and collections numbers are most accurate. Most offices have this task set to run automatically, daily, in the Task Scheduler. 

Resetting Insurance Benefits

When you use the Task Scheduler to reset a patient’s insurance benefits, you are resetting their dental insurance maximums and deductibles.  This is based on the renewal month you entered when setting up the patient’s insurance plan. Having insurance benefits that have been correctly reset is very important so that when you create treatment plans, the estimates Dentrix calculates are more accurate. Resetting a patient’s benefits used and deductibles met also affects patient portions of balances, which if incorrect, will cause the statements you send to patients to be inaccurate. 

This is an especially critical task in January, because many plan maximums and deductibles are based on a calendar year.

The tasks I mentioned are just a few available tasks in the Task Scheduler, but they are tasks that are important for every office to understand, know how they affect a patient’s account, and why they should use them. 

For additional information on setting up and using the Reports and Tasks Scheduler, see the various topics listed under the Reports and Tasks Scheduler Overview in Dentrix Help.

If you have questions about the Reports and Tasks Scheduler, 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, April 7, 2021

Dentrix G7.4 Features to Help Clean Up Your Database

Spring has arrived and brings with it a fresh start. It also makes me think of spring cleaning and beginning with a clean slate. You can apply this in your dental practice by spring cleaning your Dentrix database. Some of the new features in Dentrix G7.4 make these tasks even easier! 

Inactivating Providers

Inactivating providers and staff that no longer work at your office used to be a tedious task because all your computers had to be out of Dentrix. In Dentrix G7.4, that is no longer the case. You also have the ability to transfer balances and credits from the provider you are inactivating to a replacement provider. This eliminates another tedious task of allocating credit balances among your remaining providers. 

Why should you inactivate providers and staff that no longer work at your office?  It is beneficial to do so because those providers will no longer be available from the list of providers when scheduling an appointment, which can become long and cumbersome for team members to scroll through while searching for a current provider. 

Also, if you use the Dentrix Time Clock, it’s helpful to not have staff members who no longer work in your office included in the Time Clock Reports. 

Cleaning Up Families

The process of combining and separating family members in Dentrix is important. Account balances include all family members, so you wouldn’t want a husband and wife to have two separate Family File accounts. This would result in them receiving two billing statements, and neither account would indicate there is a family balance so you could collect when either patient comes into the office.
 
On the other hand, you wouldn’t want a divorced husband and wife to share the same Family File account, because in that situation, you would want them to have separate balances, receive separate billing statements, etc.
 
In Dentrix G7.4 the process of combining and separating families has become easier by allowing you to indicate how you want account balances to be handled and then posting them automatically for you.
 
Another reason it’s important to have family members correctly assigned in the Family File is that many reports, such as the Patient Route Slip and Walkout, list other family member information, such as continuing care due dates and upcoming appointments. This information can be helpful for your team when scheduling and also for the patient as a reminder. 

Joining or Purging Duplicate Insurance Plans and Employers

It’s common for offices to have duplicate insurance plans and employers. This is the result of team members not searching properly to see if a plan or employer already exists in your Dentrix database before entering a new one. Duplicate insurance plans and employers can be joined, and insurance plans and employers that aren’t attached to a patient can be purged (deleted). This task can be done in Insurance Maintenance and Employer Maintenance in the Dentrix Office Manager. 

Spring cleaning your Dentrix database is a task I would recommend doing on an annual basis for the following reasons:
  • Inactivating providers will make scheduling appointments easier and can help with the process of allocating provider balances and credits. 
  • Inactivating staff makes generating Time Punch and Payroll Reports easier in the Dentrix Time Clock.
  • Combining and separating family members can help to keep patient accounts more accurate. 
  • Joining and/or purging insurance plans and employers will eliminate duplicates, which will result in reports being more accurate. 

If you have questions about these topics, 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.