6 Mistakes You Likely Made in 2015
As 2015 comes to a close, perhaps you’re a little disappointed with your practice’s performance. This was going to be the year you finally met your full potential, but unfortunately that isn’t how it played out. Instead of enjoying success, you found yourself dealing with underperforming employees, staff turnover, up and down production numbers and skyrocketing overhead.
Perhaps it’s safe to say 2015 wasn’t your year? That maybe there were a few obstacles keeping you from having the profitable, thriving practice of your dreams. Here’s a look at some of the most common weaknesses found in struggling practices that may help you turn things around in 2016.
1. Patient Focus. If patient retention rates and production numbers fell in 2015, it might be because patients didn’t feel a connection to your practice – sending them looking for a new dental home. Patients want to feel like the team cares about them and their oral health, and that you always have their best interest at heart.
How do you make this happen in your practice? First, focus on customer service. Make patients feel comfortable as soon as they walk through the door. Train team members to greet patients with a warm smile, offer to help them in any way they can, and let them know they’re in good hands.
Once they’re in the chair, focus on educating your patients as well as building a rapport. Talk to them about any problems you find, and provide education about the importance of maintaining their oral health. Let them know about the services you provide that can help meet their oral health goals. Ask about their families and jobs. Bottom line, show patients you value them and they’ll be more likely to stay loyal.
Focus on providing exceptional customer service, look at every patient interaction as an opportunity to educate, and make an effort to build relationships. You’ll soon notice your patient base begin to grow – leading to increased production and a healthier bottom line.
2. Raises were given…just because. This is a great way to send overhead costs soaring. Raises simply can’t be given on emotions, they should be based on clearly defined performance measurements.
Why? Giving your employees a bump in pay just because a year has passed since their last pay raise or because they asked for more money does nothing to motivate them to improve performance. In fact, it does the opposite. In their mind, if you’re willing to give them a raise they must be doing something right, so underperforming employees continue to underperform, yet take home bigger paychecks.
In 2016, make it clear how performance will be measured and under what circumstances raises will be discussed. Hold performance reviews to help keep employees on track to meet their goals. You’ll find your employees will be much more motivated to excel, leading to increased production and revenues.
3. Employees didn’t get clear direction. If your employees are going to help your practice succeed, they need clear direction from you. This comes in the form of detailed job descriptions that outline your expectations, performance measurements and job duties.
Most dentists think developing job descriptions is a waste of time. Trust me, it’s not. They give employees the roadmap needed to succeed, and leave no doubt about their responsibilities and your expectations.
It’s also important to provide training. Make sure new team members get the training they need to perform their jobs effectively, and provide training every time you implement a new technology. Proper training makes team members more efficient and confident in their skills, and that translates into increased production.
4. Little focus on recall. The recall system represents one of the best ways to grow practice production and revenues, yet it’s also one of the most forgotten systems.
Empower your Patient Coordinator to take control of the recall system. Task this employee with calling and scheduling a specific number of past due patients a day. Make sure he or she is trained in sales and is armed with all necessary patient information before making these calls. This will give a big boost to your production numbers and your bottom line.
5. Ignoring staff conflict. I know you’d rather not deal with problems that come up among team members, but ignoring conflict will only hurt your practice. When there’s unresolved conflict, team morale drops, production falls and customer service suffers. Address conflict right away, and work with your team members to find a resolution so they can once again work together toward one common goal: helping your practice succeed.
6. Lack of follow up. Most patients don’t say yes to treatment right away. They usually need time to think about their options, and to talk it over with their spouse. That’s why you have to follow up.
I suggest following up with patients two days after the initial presentation. That way, the presentation is still fresh in their mind. Make sure the team member who calls – ideally your Treatment Coordinator – is prepared to discuss any perceived barriers to care, as well as the possible consequences of not going forward with treatment.
2015 might not have been a great year for your practice, but I can help you turn it around. If you’d like more guidance, email me and I’ll send you a link to my Practice Potential Assessment. Together, we can determine what changes you need to make to ensure practice success in 2016 and beyond.
Next week, 7 ways to grow your practice in 2016.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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CDT Coding Changes Ring in the New Year
If you aren’t already using the ADA 2012 version of the dental insurance claim, you should start in 2016. Very few insurance companies will still accept the 2006 claim form, no matter how comfortable you are with using it. There are changes on the 2012 form that are necessary to support claim adjudication, especially when it comes to diagnosis coding.
Many general dentists shake their heads and say “this won’t affect me.” There are more policies coming into the marketplace that have an embedded dental policy in the medical policy, giving the patient the benefit of both for their dental care. There are also policies that, with the use of certain codes, trigger a denial asking the provider to bill the medical carrier first. That is why it’s necessary to indicate the existence of medical coverage on the claim, whether you intend to bill it or not. When filing these claims, it will be necessary to understand the ICD-10-CM diagnostic codes. These codes were just introduced on October 1, 2015 to replace the ICD-9 codes.
Let’s put that aside for a moment and look at the Current Dental Terminology for 2016. Some dental software will update your standard fee schedule to include the new codes, but will not inactivate the deleted codes or make revisions to existing codes. For the most part, updating code changes in your database is a manual task. Studies show that only a fraction of the available dental codes are used because the dental team just isn’t aware of the changes. While dental plans are required to recognize the current CDT codes, they are not required to pay them. Because of the proprietary nature of the ADA codes, I am not at liberty to list them in this article; please go to the ADA website and purchase the CDT for 2016.
Insurance companies will start paying for new codes when they see they are actually being used and there is a demand that they pay from the consumer. It is important to know there are 39 new changes to the Current Dental Terminology in 2016. These changes include 19 new codes added to the CDT.
There is now a code for an occlusal guard adjustment (for treatment of bruxism). In past versions of the CDT there was never a specific code for this procedure, which resulted in many dentists either billing with a report code “999” that requires a narrative, or not billing at all and it was a courtesy to the patient. The new code can be reported when adjusting any type of occlusal guard, but not on the day of delivery. Usually after the delivery of the occlusal guard there are a certain number of adjustments that are included in the initial purchase. The number is determined by the dentist, or if in-network with the insurance company, there will be policy limitations. After that period of time is over, the adjustment can be billed with the new code. It is important to remember any appointment that takes a sterile setting, a chair in a room, trained staff, time and materials should be charged to the consumer.
Another exciting addition to coding is the new code for “Interim caries arresting medicament application.” The use of silver nitrate in combination with fluoride varnish and silver diamine fluoride are two common medicaments used today to arrest active asymptomatic carious lesions without the removal of sound tooth structure. Previous to this new code, there wasn’t any code available to use. Please note to not use this new code to report fluoride varnish.
There is also a new code for “Extra-oral posterior dental radiographic image” for both dental arches. For patients who cannot tolerate intra-oral placement of the sensor for bitewing images, this may be necessary. There previously wasn’t a code available to accurately describe this procedure.
According to Insurance Solutions Newsletter September/October edition, “an average of 25 procedure codes represents 95% of the practice revenue for most practices.” Learning to make even modest use of newer codes or using the existing codes correctly can add to the practice revenue without having to increase most used codes beyond market acceptance.
Need help navigating in the precarious world of dental insurance? Call McKenzie Management today for our 2-day customized business training course.
Does Your Practice Need A Makeover In 2016?
When patients walk into a dental practice, they want to feel comfortable. They want a clean, relaxing atmosphere that puts them at ease. When you look around your dental practice, is that what you see? Take some time to really look at your practice from a patient’s perspective – both inside and outside. Do you see a comfortable, attractive environment or are you starting to realize your practice just might be a little out of date?
As 2015 comes to a close, now is a good time to think about updates you can make to help attract and keep patients. Look for ways to create a relaxing environment that will make more patients want to call your practice their dental home.
Not sure where to get started? Here are a few tips to help you update your practice and grow your patient base.
Consider investing in a new sign. If your sign is old and unattractive, patients will judge your practice before they even walk in. They’ll assume the practice is outdated too. Make sure your new sign features your logo, and is illuminated so patients can see it at night.
Make sure the front of your building is clean and attractive. Spider webs, peeling paint and even a worn doormat could make patients leery about entrusting you with their care. Make sure the outside of your building is clean, inviting and properly maintained.
Give whoever cleans the office a checklist of what to look for both inside and outside, including spider webs and fingerprints. This might seem small, but a clean, well maintained building will help put patients at ease from the start, and will give them a positive first impression before they even walk into the reception area.
Model your reception area after a living room. Patients don’t want to sit in a cold, stiff environment while they wait for their appointment, yet I’ve seen so many practices set their reception area up this way. These practices have white tile floors that echo when you walk, and old plastic chairs lined up against the wall. If this describes your practice waiting area, you have to admit it isn’t exactly warm and inviting, and could be enough to send patients to the practice down the street.
If you’re ready for an update, I suggest you start by placing a noise-absorbing area rug on the floor, and replacing those stiff plastic chairs with a comfortable sofa and arm chairs that are easy for patients to get out of. Add tables and lamps, and switch out any plastic trees for live plants. This will make your reception area feel more like a cozy living room than a sterile medical environment and will help put patients at ease as they wait to see the doctor.
Adding a refreshment center is another way you can make patients more comfortable as they wait for their appointment. Offer patients coffee, tea, water or juice to help them relax.
Create an atmosphere that gets patients thinking about dentistry. While images of beautiful outdoor landscapes might add a nice touch to the reception area, consider putting photos of patients and families with beautiful smiles on your walls instead. This will help set the tone for every patient who visits your practice, and will show patients what you can do to help them improve their smile and reach their oral health goals. It may even prompt them to ask about cosmetic services and how you can help them improve their smile.
Dress the part. Patients don’t just judge you based on how your practice looks and feels. The way the team dresses also makes an impression. I suggest telling your business team members to come to work dressed in business attire. Remember, these team members talk with patients about accepting thousands of dollars in dental treatment, and it’s important for them to look professional during these conversations.
Updating your practice won’t cost you much, but the changes you make will impress your patients and even help build team morale. Loyal patients will notice your beautiful new sign, the more comfortable reception area and how clean the outside of the building is – and they might even mention all the updates to their family and friends. New patients will also feel more comfortable when they first walk in, no matter how nervous they are, and that goes a long way in growing your patient base and your production numbers.
I encourage you to stop for a minute and take a look at your practice through your patients’ eyes. If you don’t like what you see, make the necessary changes. You’ll be amazed by how much a few updates can benefit your practice.
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