Q: What is the best way to organize my front office to be as efficient as possible?
A: Thank you for your question! Especially right now with the labor market making it difficult to find new employees and costs rising, it’s time to focus on being efficient.
There are many different ways to set up your front office (depending on the size of your office, patient volume, types of procedures you do, how the doctor likes doing dentistry, and so on)—so it’s nearly impossible to tell you, “This is how many front desk employees you should have and this is exactly how you should divide up their duties,” without doing an individual practice analysis.
(By the way, we would be happy to do a free analysis for your practice, if you’d like. Click here to request a free practice analysis so we can give you a full answer to this question.)
Having said that, though, there is one massively important thing to consider when organizing your front desk and assigning job duties—and this can help you improve efficiency in your front office tremendously:
Focus on outcomes rather than tasks
What do I mean by that?
Here’s where many dental offices go wrong:
There are a number of tasks that need to be done in a dental office—checking patients in/out, answering phones, scheduling appointments, confirmations, billing, etc—and so you hire people to do these tasks.
This can be a situation where the front office staffs’ job descriptions are essentially, “helping the doctor” or “helping the office manager” with whatever tasks are needed.
The problem is that the staff wind up doing tasks with no consideration for the desired outcome.
Imagine if a restaurant was preparing a meal and the cooks were just chopping vegetables, adding things to a pot, cleaning dishes, etc., but no one was actually responsible for making sure you got the outcome: a meal that tastes good. You’d get to the end and go, “Wait, there’s no sauce on this! And the salmon is burned! What happened?” The only responses you’ll get are shrugs, “I don’t know, I chopped the vegetables like I was supposed to…” “Well, I put it in the oven. Someone else was supposed to take it out afterward. Not my fault…”
It goes the same way in a dental office. Suzy is scheduling some patients, Mary is scheduling some patients, and they’re both also doing recall and answering the phones…and then nobody notices that a bunch of patients left without their next appointment scheduled.
So when you give someone a job, you are making them responsible for an outcome. And then it will be easier to align the specific tasks that go into achieving that outcome.
Here are a few examples:
The Scheduling Coordinator’s “outcome” is a productive schedule every day. Now you can see the tasks that go into this, such as scheduling patients, confirmations, handling cancelations, filling holes in the schedule, reactivating overdue patients, etc. The Scheduling Coordinator needs to be able to do these tasks themselves or oversee whoever else is helping with them to ensure they get done right.
The Financial Coordinator’s “outcome” would be patients’ bills paid in full and a low accounts receivable.
The Treatment Coordinator’s “outcome” would be accepted treatment plans.
And any other important outcomes in your practice, like new patients, referrals, etc., need to be assigned to one person to be ultimately responsible.
(You can and should get more precise with these outcomes, by the way. These are the broad strokes, but on the MGE Power Program you learn how to manage by statistics, including assigning specific statistics and graphing them over time so you can precisely evaluate practice health and employee performance.)
Avoid overlapping duties
As the saying goes, “If everybody is responsible, no one is responsible.”
You can have one person be responsible for multiple outcomes. If you have a smaller office, then an employee may be the Receptionist and the Scheduling Coordinator. Or one person may be the Office Manager and the Treatment Coordinator. They will be responsible for both outcomes.
But you can’t have two people responsible for the same thing. Overlapping duties like that just results in “I thought they were handling that…” or “It’s not my fault the schedule is empty, I scheduled the patients I saw…”
Other team members can certainly help with certain tasks, but the one person who’s responsible for that outcome will be accountable for it. Perhaps the hygienist schedules patients’ next recall appointment in the back, but the Scheduling Coordinator still needs to ensure that this is being done properly.
Each team member is responsible for achieving this outcome, not just reporting on it
It is crucial that every team member understands that their job is to ensure the outcome is achieved properly—and do whatever tasks are necessary to make that happen.
This may seem like an obvious statement, but I’ve seen it go wrong where a team member thinks they are just supposed to keep an eye on it and then tell the OM or doctor what happened.
For instance, the Financial Coordinator tracks the collections percentage and then tells the Office Manager, “The collections percentage is down.” Meaning now it’s the OM’s problem to figure out.
No, the Financial Coordinator’s job is not just to do the tasks they’re assigned and then report to the Office Manager about whether or not the outcome was achieved. Their job is to make that outcome happen. If they need help, they can certainly ask the OM for assistance, but they need to be looking to solve that problem, not just pass it on to someone else.
How should you divide up duties in your office?
This article will still leave you with a bit of figuring out to do. How many staff do you need? Who should be assigned what? If you give one employee two functions, which two should be paired together?
I can’t give you these answers without speaking to you, but if you follow the guidelines I laid out here, it should help you come up with an intelligent structure.
And if you request a free consultation here, we can get the information we need to help you answer these questions and come up with a plan. I highly recommend doing so. This is a free service we offer, so there’s no risk or expense.
I hope this helps!