Last updated on February 12th, 2022 at 02:04 pm
Q: We’ve been shorthanded and it’s difficult to find employees recently. Should I consider outsourcing front office functions?
A: This is a very timely question! In past years, I’ve tended to avoid outsourcing because I prefer to keep vital operations under my direct control. In general, I don’t like to have my business’s success dependent on an outside source that I can’t control or direct.
But…with recent times, rising costs, and labor market issues, it may be something some dentists will need to consider.
Let’s look at the pros and cons. And I’ll start with the negative side of the equation.
With outsourcing, there is definitely a tendency to “set it and forget it.” “Oh, we’re paying them to take care of it, so it’s not my problem.” But then guess what, if these external companies/contractors handle things poorly or it leads to a loss in production and income, then suddenly it is your problem.
- Train them on how things should be done in your office
- Hold regular coordination meetings
- Have open intra-office communication between team members
- Monitor employees’ production and statistics
- Provide assistance and answer questions as needed
- Do all the little things for teambuilding, ensuring everyone is aligned with the overall purpose of your business, prioritizing patient care, team spirit, achieving short-term and long-term goals, etc.
When you outsource to an external company or contractor, it can become difficult if not impossible to do all these things.
In my experience, most dental practice owners already tend to have difficulty with staff management and oversight, even when the employee is 25 feet away at the front desk! So, if they outsource a function, it’s worse with potential for disaster unless extra effort is made to ensure proper oversight.
And with all of that said, there are some things I would never outsource – especially functions that are vital to business operations: e.g. my in-office Treatment Coordinator functions, the office schedule, and a few other things.
What you do and don’t outsource is extremely scenario-dependent. To give you a definitive answer I’d need to speak to you personally—and by the way that offers goes for anyone reading this Q&A—I’d be happy to speak with you if you have questions about this. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And with that, let’s look at the other side of the equation…
Outsourcing is common in the business world as a way to lower overhead and improve efficiency. If it’s something that doesn’t need to be done in-house, sometimes it can be cheaper to outsource it to someone else that specializes in it.
There are certain functions that don’t necessarily need to be done in-house, such as insurance verification, insurance filing, marketing (mailings, web design, Google PPC, SEO, etc.). So, if someone else can handle it competently at a lower cost and do a great job because they specialize in it—great!
I’ve even seen some clients of ours successfully outsource limited reception duties, where an external company handles new patient phone calls for a particular marketing campaign. There is a big qualifier here though: you really MUST do your due diligence with this and hire a fantastic company in order for this to work. (See our other blog post 3 Ways to Improve New Patient Conversion to see just how much the quality of your receptionist impacts your overall practice success.)
Ultimately, I think outsourcing can be a good idea in certain scenarios. If you are not able to find the employees you need and you’ll save a lot of money by outsourcing it, then it may be the most sensible solution. It can also be nice when some of the tedious/logistical duties are handled elsewhere so your team can focus on filling up the schedule, providing great patient care, and driving practice growth.
The only practices I’ve seen be successful with outsourcing, though, are the ones that make a strong effort to maintain all those things they’d normally do for an employee with the external contractor. I.e. they hold regular coordination meetings with the contractor, train them on how things should be done for their office, maintain regular communication, monitor statistics, and production, etc. So do all of those things and maintain oversight just like you would for an internal team member.
The last point I’ll make is that just because you outsource a function doesn’t mean that you don’t need to know how to do it effectively yourself or have policy on how it should be done.
If you don’t know how to do something well, then what happens if your contractor disappears or does a bad job? Then you’re in trouble! So, the first step is to create effective systems for all front office systems in your practice and policy on how things should be done in order to be successful and create growth. And then you can hand that function off to someone else, whether that’s an internal employee or external contractor, and know that it’ll be done properly. You’ll be able to train them on how to do it correctly and evaluate whether or not they are doing a good job.
The MGE Power Program teaches you how to organize your practice for success and set up efficient systems that will work whether it’s done internally or outsourced. And if you haven’t been to MGE yet, attend one of our free CE seminars or request a free consultation here to see if we’re a good fit.