Production Numbers Down? Start Focusing on Recall
You do your best to help ensure your practice meets daily production goals, but lately it seems like no matter what you do, it just isn’t enough. Patients aren’t accepting treatment and in many cases they’re not even coming back for recall visits. This lackluster production has led to frustration and low team morale – and of course, concerns about the future of the practice.
If production numbers are down in your practice, it might be time to take a look at your recall system. While most dentists choose to ignore recall, this system has the most potential to increase practice production, thus increasing revenues.
Ignoring recall does nothing but hurt your practice, while investing in this important system will take your practice from struggling to thriving. Not sure how? Don’t worry. I can help guide you. Here’s how to put the focus on recall so you can grow practice production and your bottom line.
Stop Relying on Generic Recall Reminders
To get more patients on the schedule, you need a more effective form of communication. I suggest sending out professional Educational Recall Reminders. They might cost more and take a little more time to create, but they go well beyond a generic form letter. They enable you and your team members to write personal notes to patients, reminding them of the treatment they need while also forming a deeper connection with your practice.
Of course, you don’t want to only rely on snail mail. Sending email and text message reminders are also effective ways to get patients back to your practice.
Think About Hiring a Patient Coordinator
Now you’re probably thinking, Sally, how can I do that? My practice is struggling, I can’t afford to hire another employee. I understand your hesitation, but this addition isn’t as costly as you might think.
A good Patient Coordinator should be able to handle a patient base of 500 to 1,000 in about 15 hours a week. Trust me, the salary you pay this new team member will be well worth it when you’re reaping the benefits of increased production and growing revenues.
Set the Patient Coordinator up for Success
Through a detailed job description, make it clear how many recall patients you expect the Patient Coordinator to contact each day and how many of those you expect to see on the schedule. Provide any necessary scripts and updated patient information so the Patient Coordinator is properly prepared for each phone call. It’s also important to train your Patient Coordinator on the practice management software so reminders can easily be sent via text and email as well.
Provide Patient Education
Reinforce the Same Message
Before talking with patients, communicate with your hygienist. Find out what was found and what education has already been provided. Then talk with patients about the trouble spots the hygienist identified. Remind them how important it is to monitor those spots, and make it clear you’d like to re-evaluate them during their next recall visit. This shows patients you care, and helps them see just how important regular visits are to maintaining their oral health.
If you’ve been ignoring recall, it’s time to make a few changes. Following these tips will help get you out of the slump, boosting production numbers and your bottom line.
Next week: 5 benefits of focusing on recall
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Why You Should Offer Evening and Weekend Hours
There’s no doubt your patients are busy people. They’re always on the go with commitments to work, family and friends, making it difficult for them to find time for a dental appointment. To make matters worse, most dental offices only offer appointments from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with some even closing their doors over the lunch hour. This might seem like the best schedule for your office to keep, but these hours simply aren’t convenient for many of your patients.
Those with day jobs often find it difficult to take time off work, so if they do make an appointment, they end up cancelling or not showing up, leaving you with last-minute holes to fill and hurting your production. Others won’t make an appointment with you at all and instead opt to look for a practice with more flexible hours.
Dentistry is competitive and if you want a successful practice, you need to find ways to differentiate yourself from other dentists in your community. Offering more flexible hours is one way you can do that. It’s also a great way to attract new patients and boost production numbers if your practice is struggling. Adding alternative hours will increase profits in your hygiene department and show patients you’re willing to do what it takes to provide them with the care they need, whether that means opening early, staying late or coming in on the weekends.
How to Get Started
You also can talk with patients about your office hours over the phone. For example, when your Patient Coordinator is calling past due patients to let them know it’s time for their professional cleaning and a patient says it’s just not possible to take time off work right now, don’t hang up the phone and move on to the next patient. Instead, take the opportunity to ask what time would work for the patient. Here’s an example of what to say:
“Mr. Hopkins, we are concerned that because of our current office hours, you are limited to the time you have for your doctor and dental appointments. If we considered offering alternative hours, what would work best for you?”
Adjustments to Consider
If your practice is struggling, offering alternative office hours just might give you the boost you need. I know many dentists who have adjusted their schedules and found high demand for their evening and Saturday appointment times, leaving them with very few unscheduled units. If you work later or open earlier just a few days a week, you’ll set your practice apart from others that don’t offer flexible hours and you’ll attract busy patients who don’t have time to schedule appointments during the workday. By simply adjusting your schedule, you’ll grow your practice and your bottom line.
Read the Fine Print
Dental offices focus on policy benefits and exclusions when verifying coverage for their dental patients, because that is the standard operation for determining estimated insurance coverage and out-of-pocket responsibilities of patients. What often is the bane of getting paid is the Processing Policy Provision, or as some say “the fine print” in the policy plan.
A little known fact is that every PPO has a Processing Policy Manual. The dentist who signs the contract agrees to abide by and comply with all of the provisions in the manual. Most dentists don’t have the time or take the time to actually read “the fine print” until they are forced to write off a procedure that was denied.
Dentists and their managers often look at the intended fee schedule for each plan when determining whether it is feasible for the practice. It is usually determined that volume in patient numbers will be necessary to offset the lower than profitable dollars paid. Management of internal costs including payroll are the key to being profitable in a PPO or HMO dental market.
The group or individual dental plan contract (plan document) and the processing policy manual are two separate documents, and the plan document will overrule the processing policy. To be proactive in preventing unnecessary write-offs, be aware of the following by reading the “fine print” in the Processing Policy or Plan Document.
Some clauses that may be found in Processing Policy Manuals (can be found on the insurance company’s website or you should have one issued at the time of signing contract):
1. You may have taken x-rays of a patient who made it difficult to get a great exposure because of movement, gagging or complaining. But if it is not of diagnostic quality determined by the insurance company consultant, you won’t be paid – or if you were paid, you will now have to refund the insurance company. X-rays can also be denied if “medical necessity” documentation isn’t provided.
2. When the insurance company asks for a refund within a certain time period and you don’t comply, they can subtract that amount from a patient’s benefits in the same group or from the same family.
3. There are policy provisions in some plans that state you cannot perform four quadrants of root planing in the same appointment. They can deny the entire visit and you cannot bill the patient.
5. Some policies require a pre-determination and if you treat the patient without one there will be zero benefits.
6. Payments from the insurance company can be issued in any form they see fit without your approval, such as virtual credit card payments, and some require EFT to your bank account. Some will work with you on this and some won’t.
7. Each plan determines its “incurred liability date” and that could be the date of preparation or the date of seat. If the plan pays on the seat date, the procedure must be billed on or after that date.
8. Each policy has a claim filing statute of limitation. Some are 90 days and some up to a year. A claim filed after the date will not be paid unless there were circumstances that affected the office operations such as a tornado, flood or earthquake.
9. Some policies have restrictions and will not pay and also will not allow you to bill the patient. Among those are pulp caps on the same date as the filling, core build-ups on the same day as the crown prep, x-rays without evaluations, one restoration on each tooth per 24 month interval, every 24 months periodontal assessment or a decline for a D4910 – and the list can vary from one plan to another.
10. Some plans (varied from state to state) will not allow you to bill the patient for a non-covered service or will direct you in what you can charge for the service if it is not a covered benefit.
11. Benefits may say implants are covered but if there is a “missing tooth clause” on the contract and the tooth was extracted prior to coverage, there will be no benefit at all.
It is prudent to be knowledgeable in the in-network dental plan arena to save you headaches in patient care, customer service and administrative costs. McKenzie Management offers Front Desk Training and Office Manager Training customized to your needs, with dental insurance processing as an important part of the training.
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