Want to Know Why You're Losing Money? Read the Directions
I suspect that we all know someone who never – or seemingly never – reads the directions. They buy a new computer, technical device, or household item, and because they see themselves as pretty smart individuals, they don’t think they need to read the directions. They start hooking up components, attaching this piece to that, pushing buttons, clicking here and there, and then they become frustrated when it doesn’t perform as expected. It’s not until there are problems that they resign themselves to consulting that handy little instruction manual.
I dare say that dentists, many of whom pride themselves on their meticulous attention to detail, are similarly guilty of this, particularly when it comes to reviewing important practice stats. Many give little more than a cursory glance at key computer reports. Some will quietly confess that they are not entirely sure what any of them really mean. But they are convinced that if there were a problem with a system, they wouldn’t need a report to direct them - they would certainly be able to spot it without the “directions.”
Truth is, until problems develop and they start feeling the pinch of dwindling production, or until they are sweating the proliferation of hygiene openings or are panicked because they don’t have the money to pay their bills, those reports are of little importance. Yet if they are used correctly and routinely, those reports are the directions - your personal guide to a successful practice. And if you actually read them carefully, you can ensure that critical steps in your systems are never overlooked or disregarded in the rush of the day-to-day routine.
I strongly encourage doctors to regularly review key reports including the Accounts Receivables and Outstanding Insurance Claims Reports to monitor exactly how much money is owed your practice. In addition, watch the details of your production, new patient flow, and patient retention using the Production Report. Depending on your software system this report may be called Production by Provider, Practice Analysis, or Production by ADA Code. It is very useful for tracking new patient comprehensive exams. Just be sure those members of your team who are responsible for posting procedures to a patient ledger use the ADA code 00150 for new comprehensive examinations.
Each month, run the report for exactly the last 12 months. It should show specifically how many new patient exams were performed in your practice in the last year. Write that number down. Next, run an Overdue Recall/Continuing Care Report for the same timeframe. You’re looking for every patient who was due back into the practice during the past 12 months. Write that number down. Your results may show 300 new patients and 200 existing patients overdue for recall. You’ve effectively calculated patient flow ratio. What’s more, you now know exactly who has not been scheduled and you can immediately implement a patient reactivation strategy.
The Production by Provider Report should also enable you to monitor individual provider production for each dentist and hygienist. It is important to track individual production numbers to determine productivity. Next, get treatment out of the patient record and on the schedule. Monitor the Unscheduled Treatment Plan Report or similar report. To ensure that this report is accurate, all treatment plans must be entered into the system by the treatment coordinator.
If your Unscheduled Treatment Plan Report indicates that treatment acceptance is below 85%, consider treatment acceptance training and scripts. In addition, evaluate whether your practice makes it easy for patients to pursue the treatment they want and need. Certain software programs allow you to determine almost immediately if a patient is eligible for treatment financing through CareCredit, which can eliminate the money barrier almost instantly. Some systems will allow you to run a Production Forecast Report that can be an excellent tool in determining slow periods, so that you can develop a plan of action to address the potential production shortfalls.
Take time to read the “directions” to your practice - i.e. the computer reports. If you do this you will be well-prepared to pinpoint problems before they become crises, tweak systems well before they collapse, and enable everyone to see in black and white exactly how their job affects the productivity of the entire practice.
Hiring Techniques for Dental Managers
Staffing issues are still the number one concern for dental practices, with the recession woes of lost production coming in a close second. Even with fewer jobs available offering full-time hours and benefits, the average turnover in dental offices continues to be about every two years. Because it costs thousands of dollars to recruit, train and assimilate the new hire into the practice environment, it is critical that dentists and managers use diligence in hiring right.
Working closely with many dental practices across the U.S., patterns are observed of repeated errors that can easily be prevented if the time is taken to change old habits in hiring. After analyzing hiring practices, the following represent a sampling of a common thread in many practices.
Alter this course by communicating with your Business Coordinator about your philosophy regarding your patients and money. In Dr. Brown’s case, he had instructed all of the front office people to work on the overdue AR and “get the money” instead of setting up treatment plans and payment options for patients to follow. If the accounts are overdue, research the amounts to make sure the charges are legitimate and that there are signed treatment plans on file that show the patient understood what their cost would be and how it was expected to be paid. Do not threaten patients with collections, rather, create a billing system that patients understand before treatment is performed and stick to that. Collections are a last resort and not for every patient who has a balance. Many newly hired business coordinators leave the practice early in their positions because they are overwhelmed with negative feedback from disgruntled patients.
Alter this course by having a written job description for all staff and especially for a new hire with a position that was just created in the practice. Spell out specifically in the job description what the duties and hours spent at each task will be. Goals for training and learning new tasks should have a time line so that the new hire can become accountable and not say “no one showed me that.” When job duties are not spelled out it gives the new hire a feeling that they can choose.
Alter this course by knowing the employment laws in your state and adhering to them in your practice. If not, it is only a matter of time before someone will report the unfair practices. Be realistic in the expectations of your staff’s ability to perform well, and respect the law in regard to nutrition breaks. Ask each team member in private if they are willing to work overtime, and if so how often.
If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training Programs to improve the performance of your team, email email@example.com.
How To Survive When Your Employee Leaves
Dr. Jake Black– Case Study #222
The telephone rings in the office of McKenzie Management. Dr. Black is on the line, obviously anxious and unsure of where to start his conversation. “Hello. My name is Jake Black and my front desk person just turned in her notice today. I have no idea what she does up there or how she does it. What am I going to do?”
All employers have had a key employee leave. Some leave because of a personal relocation, others because of “better offers” and many because of a change in their family status. And let’s not forget those that finally get on the doctor’s last nerve and he/she finally snaps and asks the employee to leave. None of these scenarios are pleasant but systems should be in place for the practice to continue without too many hiccups through the transition period to a new employee.
This article is intended to address a departing business employee. It is not to imply that the clinical team members are not key employees, as all team members are vital to the success of the practice.
The “Must Have” Checklist
The “How To” Checklist
For an orderly and easy-to-read format, create a “form” for each of the above tasks and keep in a 3-ringed notebook, along with an example of each report when applicable. Using the “Print Screen” option on your computer can also be very helpful when describing various menus and windows that must be completed.
Don’t get caught!
As a side note, these checklists also make wonderful training tools should you find yourself needing to add additional business team members to your existing team.
A word about the clinical team
If you feel it would be helpful to invite a McKenzie Management Consultant into your practice to help you and your business team to establish these checklists so you will survive the inevitable, please contact us!
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