More than you’d like to know…
If you’re like most dental offices, you have one, two, or more people up front who “do everything”—answer the phone, greet patients, schedule, file insurance, accept payments, etc.
And sure, cross-training is great. But in most cases, everyone does a little of everything with no assigned areas of responsibility.
The usual outcome? Regardless of their competence, this lack of organizational structure creates bottlenecks and “dropped balls” that can choke productivity.
If you think about it, in order to produce dentistry, your dental office needs to guide patients through the entire process of:
- Scheduling an appointment
- Arriving and signing in
- Sitting in the chair (with any needed x-rays, etc, done)
- Diagnosis, treatment plan presentation, and acceptance, to
- Scheduling for said treatment,
- Delivering the treatment, and then
- Appointing in recall (retention).
- There’s also the matter of recovering patients that fall off of recall.
There are exact steps to doing this well, and you could draw it out as a flow chart to visually represent each step a person takes.
With that in mind, there are a few key places where things often “go wrong,” such as:
- Mishandling the initial phone call – failing to schedule the potential new patient (more on that here)
- Patients canceling last-minute and not being gotten into the practice
- Waiting too long to get in for an appointment (or the schedule running behind)
- Patients not understanding their treatment plans, deciding not to move ahead
- Mishandling the financial discussion
- Failing to schedule a patient before they leave
- Lack of activity to retain patients, such as getting overdue patients back on the recall schedule (a fair share of which normally have outstanding treatment plans).
Generally, this quick list of how patients “fall through the cracks” is what’s behind production problems.
As an aside, you’ll notice “sales” or treatment acceptance weighs heavy in this equation – and to that end, the MGE Communication & Sales Seminars, teach you and your team the exact steps to handle this process effectively so that these things don’t “go wrong.” It’s one of the reasons why attendees see an average increase of $288,000 a year in collections.
That being said, let’s have a look at how to immediately improve the level of organization and efficiency upfront:
1. Appoint an Office Manager
If you don’t have an Office Manager – you need one – regardless of the size of your practice. In a smaller office, the OM might also be responsible for other functions (e.g. collections or scheduling, etc.).
As a dentist, you should be chairside as much as possible. When this is happening who’s running the business? If you have no OM, then…no one. To learn more about this, see this article “What is an Office Manager and Why Do You Need One?”
2. Split Up Areas of Responsibility Duties in the Front Office
When you have one, two, or more staff who “do everything” and share duties, there is no accountability or coordination.
Likewise, they can only do one thing at a time—and can only see one patient at a time. The problem with this is if you have a lot of traffic in your office, while that one person is handing one patient, there are 15 others behind them who will drop off because no one is taking care of them.
So, split up the duties and have each employee accountable and responsible for one thing.
Ideally, with a full complement of staff, it would look like this:
- Receptionist, responsible for answering the phones, checking patients in and out, etc.
- Scheduling Coordinator, responsible for scheduling patients, monitoring the schedule and production, reactivating patients that are overdue or inactive, etc.
- Financial Coordinator, responsible for financial arrangements, collections, handling insurances, patient accounts, etc.
- Office Manager, responsible for managing the team, implementing policy and planning for the office, and overseeing the day-to-day operations.
In a larger office, you could divide up the duties even further. With three people, you’d probably start with Scheduling and Reception, with the OM handling collections. Then as the office grows, maybe add a Financial Coordinator and the OM focuses on the OM job as well as handling Treatment Coordinator. If the OM ends up bogged down for too much of the day in treatment presentations, then you’d add a Treatment Coordinator (learn more here). You might also have a ton of patients that need to be reactivated and/or a busy Hygiene Department with several Hygienists, along with you and one or two associates; well then, you may have a Scheduling Coordinator for the doctor’s schedule and a Hygiene Coordinator for the hygiene schedule. There’s a method to all of this that we cover in the MGE Power Program Training. The key being how to organize as you grow to maximize customer service, efficiency and profitability.
Oftentimes, I see dentists try to get by understaffed in order to save money—and in some cases, they are actually costing themselves a lot more than they’re saving in missed production
And to clarify – I’m not saying “go out and hire a bunch of people” if your production doesn’t warrant it. Ideally, you’re staffed in such a way that promotes growth, and you hire as you go. I’m also not saying you sholdn’t cross-train. Sure the Schedule Coordinator can do a walkout statement for a patient while the Financial Coordinator is on the phone with an insurance company. Or you someone may cover for someone else while they are on vacation. That’s fine. But ideally, you want a clear division of duties/responsibilities.
And for training, your team, I’d highly recommend our on-demand team training platform, DDS Success. We have complete job training for each front office position. You can do a free demo here to check it out.
3. If you only have one or two people up front and production levels don’t justify hiring more (i.e. you’re not understaffed), then each of these roles should still be understood and performed.
Split up the duties as much as you can.
One person may be the Receptionist and the Scheduling Coordinator, and the OM might also hold Financial Coordinator.
You can also designate time slots each day for doing different job duties. For example, an hour each day for reaching out to patients that are overdue for hygiene or have outstanding treatment; or two hours for filing and following up on insurance claims and patients with balances.
At any rate, ensure you’ve outlined all the duties required in order to get patients arrived in the office and completed on their treatment plans. The team members need to understand that they have multiple roles and how each of them contributes to patients getting healthy and practice success.
Then you’ll see that patients aren’t “falling through the cracks” anymore.
So, really, it’s a simple solution. Simply split up the duties of your font office and you’ll start to see an increase of patients who schedule for their treatment to get healthy again – because after all, that’s what this is all about!
And keep in mind, there’s a LOT to know about all this – we cover it fully on the MGE Power Program. If you’d like to know more, give us a call here at MGE!
I hope this tip helps. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 800-640-1140. Until next time!