Waste Not, Want Not… Especially Insurance $$$
I hate to waste money. I get irritated when I have to throw food away because the expiration date has come and gone. Parking tickets infuriate me because I should have made it a point to move my car before the time expired. Rebates, annoying as they are, hang over my head until I take action because if I don’t, it’s money down the drain. I’m willing to bet that most of you dislike wasting money as much as I do - and so too do your patients.
Consider this - what if you knew one of your patients was going to lose $500, another $350, still another $200. Wouldn’t you feel a responsibility to tell them? And wouldn’t you want someone to tell you if you were going to lose a few hundred bucks? Well, I’m telling you: You could lose several hundred, possibly thousands, of dollars in production this fall. How? Unused insurance benefits.
Many, many patients have dental insurance plans with benefits unused and poised to go to waste come year’s end. In fact, dental insurance companies count on making millions of dollars off of patients who never use their insurance benefits because unbeknownst to the consumer, many of these plans provide coverage up to a certain dollar amount annually. But insurance companies certainly aren’t going to encourage customers to use benefits, and most patients are too busy to sift through their policies to determine what might remain on them. So it’s up to dental practices to get the word out to patients, and fast.
September is the perfect time to start talking about unused benefits. It gives your practice plenty of time to compile the data, notify the patients, and get the appointments scheduled. Now, to get the ball rolling, take these steps:
Remember, you are doing your patients a favor by helping them to take full advantage of their insurance coverage. I can virtually guarantee that every patient you notify will thank you for calling this to their attention. Whether they take advantage of the opportunity or not, they will appreciate the fact that you took the time to educate them on this important insurance detail. Patients do not want to lose money any more than you do.
Below is a suggested letter that you can customize to best fit your practice.
Dear Mrs. Patient:
Each year insurance companies make millions of dollars off patients who forego necessary and preventive dental treatment. Many individuals who are paying for dental insurance do not realize that their plans provide coverage up to a certain dollar amount annually.
Consequently, some patients are not scheduling the dental procedures they need, deserve, and have insurance to cover. Thus, the insurance money available to pay dental claims on many patients is never used, and, unfortunately, those dollars cannot be carried over year-to-year. The bottom line: What you don’t use, you lose.
We are here to help you secure the insurance coverage available to you on every dental procedure you schedule. Give (name of appointment scheduler) a call at 555-1234. I look forward to seeing you again and addressing your dental care needs promptly.
P.S. Find out about additional zero interest financing options for dental care. Check with Jessica in my office for all the details.
Next week, the letter is just the beginning.
Why Do We Say Those Numbers?
Once again we are gathered for our morning meeting. Carol always brings the production goals to the morning meeting. Sometimes they are for the month, the week, the year, the entire practice, the doctor, and me - the hygienist. The goals are read to the entire team and that is that. But what exactly do those numbers mean, and why should the entire team be interested? Do you know your individual hourly and daily goals? What exactly makes a perfect day of scheduling – a day where you reach your goal without running around like a chicken with its head cut off?
McKenzie Management clients are aware that practice goals are based on the amount that is needed in order to pay the bills. The office has to make enough money in order to pay the lab, taxes and benefits, dental supplies, office supplies, utilities and facility expenses, miscellaneous and of course, employee salaries. Those numbers are what help to determine what new equipment will be purchased and whether or not raises will be given to the staff.
One good month does not pay the bills for the entire year. The next month may be slow and any monies the office got ahead may need to be used to pay the bills that month or the following month. So instead of just anybody reading the numbers and then everybody just moving on to the next thing at the meeting, there should be more time spent looking at how to increase production in the hygienist and doctor’s schedule, and how to fill open time in both.
All providers should know how much their hourly and daily production goals are. It is best if the individual providers bring their own goal amounts to the meeting. Not only should they bring the prospective numbers for that day, they should also bring the numbers from the day before that they actually ended up producing. The provider should say if they are scheduled over or under their goal for that day, and where they ended up the day before. When you go over the day before, talk about why the goal was hit or why the goal was missed. What was scheduled the day before that made it an easier day of patient care, while still hitting your production goal? Days that allow the providers to hit goal and not “run around like a chicken” is what would be considered a perfect day. For instance, many times 2 quadrants of root planing is a much easier day than 5 periodontal maintenance appointments with x-rays.
I can’t tell you how many times I have started the day out under goal and have gone on to meet or exceed my goal for the day. Knowing in the morning that I am already behind in my goal helps to motivate the entire staff to add treatment into my schedule, and when filling a last minute opening they go for the higher production patients that are on our “change of schedule list” or “as soon as possible list.”
If there is open time in the schedule at the morning meeting, look for ways to fill the schedule with the existing patients that are already scheduled for that day. This may be done for both doctor and hygiene. Look to see if there are any patients in the schedule that may be in need of a full mouth series, patients that you may be able to extend treatment on, or patients that are due or will be due for hygiene and whose insurance may allow them to be a couple of days early.
When presenting it to the patient, make it a benefit to them. Explain how it will save them a trip or possibly keep them from taking another day off from work. The patient is usually much more willing to stay longer if there is an advantage in it for them. And when it comes to the office, it not only increases production but also reduces the cost of set up and tear down. At times, if you know the patients well enough and the time allotted is not enough for a prep, you may be able to move another patient up or down in the schedule to allow for the time to do a prep. See if you are able to make this happen.
Hygienists, would it benefit that patient to do a fluoride? Most patients do benefit from fluoride. Are the patients scheduled correctly with the right code? For instance, there are times that the patient will be put on a 3-month recall and be linked to a prophylaxis recall when they should be linked to a perio recall in the computer. This is very common and is an easy mistake to make. The most important thing is to catch these mistakes and make them right, so the office collects the fee they deserve for the service being rendered.
Making the most of those morning meetings is a valuable asset to the practice and has the potential to increase daily production – thus causing the year to date collections to go up and possibly allowing salary increases the next year.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email email@example.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program.
The Show Must Go On
It was a day of terror at the Discovery Channel. A sole gunman with explosives took hostages at the network’s headquarters outside Washington, D.C. Locked down for hours on September 1st, amidst chaos and uncertainty, the channel never blinked. Throughout the whole scary afternoon, programming went on uninterrupted. When the crisis was defused after many harrowing hours, viewers never knew what was happening behind the broadcast scene.
As I watched the evening news and listened to this horrific event, I thought about the drama that often accompanies emergencies in dental offices. Walk-ins and “must-be-seen-today” patients don’t bring guns with them, but the reactions to them might suggest otherwise. Have you ever stopped to think about how viewers would assess your ability to handle a crisis? Do patients see the emotion or, like Discovery, does your “show” go on without a hitch?
Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and unexpected demands. And it takes work to deal with that kind of stress effectively. Gradually it makes you a stronger person. If you frequently feel frazzled and overwhelmed, it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system back into balance. As the dental practice leader, you have to realize that you’re in a position to feed into the drama or to calm the team.
You can’t control what happens to you but you have a choice about how you respond. Learning how to calm and soothe yourself – and/or helping your employees do so – is the key to restoring equilibrium. Your employees will model your behavior, so be calm and optimistic. Whatever the emotional tone is at the top, it tends to ripple down through all the levels of the practice. What you as the leader do (or don’t do) will determine the functionality of the group when there are high stakes.
Research by the Center for Creative Leadership has found that the primary causes of derailment in executives involve deficits in emotional competence. The three primary ones are difficulty in handling change, not being able to work well in a team, and poor interpersonal relations.
Daniel Goleman recognizes this in his work, Working with Emotional Intelligence, when he estimates that 90% of success in business leadership is directly attributable to "soft skills." Problems inevitably result when a company focuses too exclusively on technology skills. Emotions, when used correctly, can make us smarter than intellect alone.
Goleman describes why an effective emergency response requires “the intelligent application of emotion.” Cognitive intelligence is often rendered irrelevant in our response to highly stressful situations. During these events, the brain’s decision-making center shifts from the left prefrontal cortex (which usually governs logical and analytical thinking) to the amygdala, the brain’s emergency response center. Since they are rooted in deep-seeded biological survival tactics, reactions typically generated by the amygdala are strong, sudden and emotional, and they often lead to poor decisions. In order to be effective in emergency situations, leaders must learn to resist the “amygdala hijack” and remain calm and focused enough to draw on necessary expertise to devise an innovative solution.
There are four domains in Goleman’s model of leadership. Each area is essential for effective crisis management.
3. Social Awareness and Empathy
4. Relationship Management
"The show must go on" is a well-known phrase in show business - meaning that regardless of what happens the show must still be put on for the waiting patrons. Improve your emotional intelligence and improve your business. And like the Discovery Channel, in crisis situations, never skip a beat.
If you’re having trouble managing your emotions, contact Dr. Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll assist you in learning the skills to navigate around the amygdala hijack.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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