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10.07.05 Issue #187  
   
E-Scheduling Made EZ


Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company
sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com

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Are you trying to attract and keep 21st century patients using 20th century techniques? Sure, you have the computers, the intraoral camera, you’re dabbling in digital radiography, and maybe you’re considering a microscope for the operatory so it’s not that you’re averse to new tools. Once patients are in your office, the technologies that you have available will benefit them considerably. But most dentists give little thought to how they can use technology to bring patients into the practice and keep them returning. 

Like you, your patients are running nonstop from dawn past dusk, and like you, they’ve integrated new technologies to better manage the multiple tasks they are juggling day-in and day-out. They have their computers, their cell phones, their text messaging, their personal digital assistants, their email accounts, etc. And they are relying on these communication tools more and more, particularly email. Use of email and the Internet has exploded in the last few years. In fact, 85% of today’s patients prefer communicating via email. They are shopping online, banking online, managing their lives online. They are pointing, clicking, and scrolling through their to-do lists.

But if they want to schedule an appointment with their dentists, most have to pick up the phone, dial the number, wait on hold, barter back and forth with the Scheduling Coordinator for a convenient time, etcetera, etcetera. And if they would like to complete necessary paperwork in advance or if they desire any additional information on whitening, implants, veneers, or anything else they either have to wait until they come in or sit tight until snail mail crawls to their mailbox.

Today’s patients are looking for convenience in every aspect of their lives, including scheduling their dental appointments. When the process is quick and convenient for the patient, it further increases patient satisfaction with the doctor and team, which inherently benefits the practice. One of the best tools on the market to achieve this is electronic scheduling. I’ve found the UAppoint services, which are fully HIPAA-compliant and integrate seamlessly with your existing practice management software, to be among the most patient and practice friendly. The electronic scheduling service enables patients to schedule or reschedule their appointments via email – no phone calls, no waiting on hold, no telephone tag.

Now stop shaking your head and saying to yourself, “There is NO WAY I will ever relinquish control of my schedule.” You are absolutely right. You definitely should not surrender control of your day. But you should be willing to hand off the multiple frustrations that trying to manage the schedule can bring, and electronic scheduling can go along way in helping you do so.   For those willing to try this 21st century approach, the results are truly impressive both in terms of the staff time saved and the reduction in no-shows. The UAppoint system uses a “smart appointment request” whereby the practice sends an email notice to patients informing them that it is time to schedule their appointment or the patient indicates that they need to reschedule. The program allows the patient to view three possible appointment options based on the scheduling “rules” established by the practice, so the practice has control. The patient selects one of the available times or requests additional options.

After the patient selects the desired appointment, the front desk confirms the request and enters the patient into the practice software. Shortly thereafter, the patient will receive the electronic appointment card and reminder notices. The staff isn’t sitting on the phone with the patient, paging through the schedule, trying to find the right appointment time and date for the patient. The patient determines what will work best for them in just a few clicks and books it.

Another excellent feature that can be a huge money saver for practices allows you to quickly fill last minute cancellations. Rather than panicking when faced with a two-hour opening in your afternoon and posting all employees on deck desperately calling patients one-by-one to fill the production crater, you can instantaneously contact specific patients on an “As Soon as Possible” list via email or text messaging and alert them to the opportunity to come in for their appointment. The first patient to respond is given the appointment. And just as fast as that unexpected cancellation splinters your ideal day you have another patient meeting the specific appointment criteria coming in.

For more information on e-mail Scheduling go here

 Next week, E-Recall “E-fficient” and “E-ffective.”

If you have any question or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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Your Computer-Your Team

Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant McKenzie Management

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You have all heard the saying, “There is no I in Team or Teamwork,” Well, I tried to look up the word team player in two different dictionaries and neither one of them listed a definition for team player. However, The American Heritage Dictionary did have the definition for Team, which is: a group of people organized to work together. And team mate which is a fellow member of the team, and they had teamwork a cooperative effort. Or in Webster’s New World Dictionary teamwork was defined as, “Joint action by a group of people; coordinated effort”. I feel the last definition describes dental offices the best when it comes to being a team player. To be a part of that team you must cross train in order to be able to help with the cooperative effort. Which should be to make the office a success by helping patients obtain a healthy oral cavity.

We are a service-based industry and the quality of care and the service provided is what really separates good offices from stellar offices. Many people today are crying for better customer service. Their time is important to them and they want to have their appointments on time and get out of the office as quickly as possible with all of their questions answered and feel like they were taken care of.

Do you know how to use the computer in your office? I am not talking about the computer with your digital x-rays, probings, or intra oral camera. I am talking about the operating system that the front desk uses in your office. By being able to utilize the operating system in your office you will be able to provide better customer service for your patients. I know many hygienists are scheduling their own appointments now and loving it. However, I am talking more about teamwork and being able to help when you are able to in all areas of the office. Just think how this looks on a resume too. Not only are you a good hygienist but you are also a team player that is trained on a computer operating system. Resumes are not just about what you learned in college. They also show the type of person you are when it comes to your initiative to educate yourself and be a team player.

More importantly, knowing how to function the operating system in your office will help lead you to being more independent and viewed as a team player amongst your peers. At the bare minimum you should be able to:

  1. Make appointments and attach it to the patient’s recall record
  2. Know where to put a missed or last minute canceled appointment
  3. Look up insurance benefits
  4. Put in a treatment plan
  5. Print a route slip
  6. Open a patient’s file in order to look up phone numbers, age, or any pertinent information about a patient. It is much faster than pulling a chart
  7. Find and read patient and appointment notes
  8. Look up information about other family members and when they are due for their continuing care appointment or treatment with doctor
  9. See if the patient was confirmed

Being able to do all of this enables you, as a hygienist to pick up the phone if it is ringing. Let’s face it, there are times when you are in between patients and the front desk is busy dismissing patients and the phone rings, but you are unable to help that patient on the phone because you don’t know how to operate the computer system in your office. Wouldn’t it really show the team player you are if you were able to do this to help your fellow team member? There is also the time when the patient no shows and you have to ask the front desk to write letters and make notations in the computer for you, because you do not know how. Yet, you are not with a patient and you have the time to do it.

Being a team player is helping everybody and being able to help everybody. Just make sure you know how to do the job, and do it right. So, if you are not able to operate the computer software in your office you may be selling you and your team short.

Jean conducts 2 day Hygiene Performance Enrichment Programs  for The Center for Dental Career Development and McKenzie Management in La Jolla/San Diego, CA. Contact her at Jean@mckenziemgmt.com  or call 1-877-777-6151 for more information on her Advanced Hygiene Training Programs.

Interested in having Jean speak to your dental group? Email us at info@mckenziemgmt.com or call 1-877-777-6151

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Six Steps to a Chartless Practice


Lorne Levine, DMD
President, Dental Technology
Consultants
drlavine@thedigitaldentist.com

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There is no doubt that the modern dental practice has changed rapidly over the past ten years. Dentists have come to realize that with new technology, they can create a practice that is more efficient, costs less to run, and allows for decentralization of the front office. Records that were primarily paper and film-based are being replaced by digital radiography, electronic records, and a move towards a paperless, or at the very least, chartless practice.

The challenge for most offices is to develop the best plan on how to evaluate their current and future purchases to ensure that all the systems will integrate properly together. While many dentists are visually oriented and thus tend to focus on the criteria that they can actually see and touch, some of the most important decisions are related to more abstract standards. I have therefore developed a six-point checklist that I feel is mandatory for any dentists who are adding new technologies to their office, and I recommend that each step be completed in order:

  1. Practice Management Software. It all starts with the administrative software that is running the practice. To develop a chartless practice, this software must be capable of some very basic functions, such as the ability to enter charting, treatment plans, handle insurance estimation and processing with e-claims, ongoing patient retention and recall activation, scheduling, and about dozens of other functions that are used on a daily basis. It is also vitally important that the software provide security measures to address patient concerns over privacy. Many older programs do not have these features and if an office wants to move forward, they will have to look at more modern practice software.

  2. Image Management Software. This is probably the most challenging decision for any office. Most of the practice management programs will offer an image management module: Eaglesoft has Advanced Imaging, Dentrix has Image 4.0, and so on. These modules are tightly integrated with the practice management software and will tend to work best with digital systems sold by the company. However, there are also many third-party image programs that will bridge very easily to the practice management software and offer more flexibility and choices, although with slightly less integration. Just as with the practice management software, protecting patient privacy should be a key feature. Some of the better known image programs include Apteryx XRayVision, XDR, and Tigerview.

  3. Operatory Design. The days of a single intraoral camera and a TV in the upper corner are being replaced by more modern systems. The majority of offices are placing two monitors in the operatories, one for the patient to view images or patient education or entertainment, and one for the dentist and staff to use for charting and treatment planning and any HIPAA-sensitive information.. There are numerous ergonomic issues that must be addressed when placing the monitors, keyboards, and mice. For example, a keyboard that is placed in a position that requires the dentist to twist his or her back around will cause problems, as will a monitor that is improperly positioned. So, not only do we need to properly place the monitor, keyboard, and mouse, but there are a number of issues related to the infrastructure that must also be addressed. These include the dimension and ventilation of the 12 o’clock cabinet for the CPU, cable conduits in the floor and ceiling, and power requirements for all the devices.

  4. Computer hardware. After the software has been chosen and the operatories designed, it’s time to add the computers. Most offices will require a dedicated server in order to protect their data as well as having the necessary horsepower to run the network, and the workstations must be configured to handle the higher graphical needs of the office. The computers placed in the operatories are often different from the front desk computers in many ways: they’ll have dual display capabilities, better video cards to handle digital imaging, smaller cases to fit inside the cabinets, and wireless keyboards and mice.

  5. Digital systems. The choice of image software will dictate which systems are compatible. Digital radiography is the hot technology at this time, due to the benefits of faster times to view images, higher resolution, and the ability to easily enhance the image but intraoral cameras are still an excellent addition to any office since they allow patients to see the things that typically only a practitioner could see. Most dentists are using or considering use of a digital camera as well since these are superior to intraoral cameras for case documentation and lab communications. All systems have pros and cons and dentists will have to evaluate each system based on a set of standards that are important to that practice.

  6. Data Protection. With a chartless practice, protecting the data is absolutely crucial to prevent data loss due to malware or user errors. Every office, at a minimum, should be using antivirus software to protect against the multitude of known viruses and worms, a firewall to protect against hackers who try to infiltrate the network, and have an easy-to-verify backup protocol in place to be able to recover from any disaster. The different backup protocols are as varied as the number of offices, but it is crucial that the backup is taken offsite daily and can be restored in a quick manner.
Dr. Lorne Lavine, founder and president of Dental Technology Consultants, has over 20 years invested in the dental and dental technology fields. Dr. Lavine has vast experience with dental technology systems. He is a CompTia Certified A+ Computer Repair Technician, CompTia Network+ certified and will soon be a Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator.  As a consultant and integrator, he has extensive hands-on experience with most practice management software, image management software, digital cameras, intraoral cameras, computers, networks, and digital radiography systems. Dr. Lavine, also writes for many well-known industry publications and lectures across the country.  Dr. Lavine can be reached at 866-204-3398 DrLavine@TheDigitalDentist.com www.thedigitaldentist.com.

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