Your Technology Implementation Plan
This truly is an exciting time to be part of the dental industry. The technology just continues to get better, enabling clinicians to improve their workflows and provide the best patient care – and best patient experience – possible.
The challenge is, simply investing in these technologies isn’t enough. Dentists need to put a plan in place to ensure they not only purchase the right technology for their practice, but they successfully incorporate it into their office. This, of course, means providing proper training – a step many dentists opt to skip. They convince themselves the new device or software is intuitive and their team members will have no problem learning as they go.
The result? A lot of frustration. Instead of helping the practice grow, the technology ends up sitting on a shelf or hidden away in a back corner. The practice doesn’t benefit from the expected ROI, and the dentist is out whatever the once promising equipment cost.
If you’re going to invest in new technology for your practice, you really can’t skip out on training. Team members won’t be comfortable with the technology, so they won’t use it. Training provides the skills and confidence needed to effectively integrate the technology into the practice workflow – and that’s how you get the best return on your investment.
While training is important, it isn’t the only piece required for successful technology integration. It’s also a good idea to put a technology implementation plan in place. This plan should guide you through the process, helping to ensure you make the best decisions for your practice and maximize every technology purchase you make.
Not sure what should be in such a plan? That’s where I come in. Here’s my step-by-step approach to successful technology integration:
1. Develop a technology vision for your practice. Let’s say you just decided to invest in a laser. You’ve done your research, including talking with colleagues and reading journal articles, and know which laser you want to purchase. You’re ready to become a laser dentist, and can’t wait to start marketing the technology to current and potential patients.
That’s great, but before you pull out the checkbook, make sure you know exactly how you plan to use your new piece of equipment. Will it enable you to add new services? How will it benefit your patients? These are questions you should consider no matter what technology you want to add to your practice.
2. Think about how the technology will improve your systems. What areas do you see benefiting from that new CAD/CAM system, or that intraoral scanner? Make a note of all the systems the technology should improve, whether it’s scheduling, financing, collections or case acceptance, and the steps you plan to take to help ensure those improvements are actually made.
3. Take inventory of your current technology. Look at what you already have, including hardware, software and networking capabilities. Then determine what you need to invest in before you purchase that technology you’ve been eyeing.
4. Don’t rush it. I know it might be tempting, but trying to make every technology upgrade you’ve ever wanted all at once isn’t a good idea. This will just be overwhelming – to both your team members and your checkbook. Instead, make a plan to integrate technology in stages.
5. Offer proper training. I really can’t stress this enough. If you expect your team members to learn new processes or how to use new technology on the fly, it’s only going to lead to stress and confusion. Take advantage of any manufacturer training that’s offered and then add to that as necessary. The more proficient you and your team are at using the new technology, the more beneficial it will be for your bottom line.
Remember, every technology is different, and a training method that might work for one new device won’t work for another. In some cases, it might be better to complete training in phases, rather than trying to get through everything over the course of one or two full days. If team members learn a bit at a time, they won’t feel overwhelmed. They’ll have the opportunity to master one element of the technology or software before moving on to something new.
6. Put it in the budget. Dental technologies can be pretty expensive, but they’re necessary to keep your practice up-to-date and competitive. Make upgrades part of your budget so it won’t be a financial burden when it’s time to make the next investment.
Technology can do great things for your practice, from enhancing patient care to improving practice efficiencies to increasing case acceptance – but you’ll only enjoy these benefits if you properly implement the technology into your practice. With the right implementation plan in place, you’ll maximize your investments and ultimately grow your practice.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Avoiding Coding Calamities
A couple decades ago, the Current Dental Terminology codes didn’t change frequently and you could memorize them to speed up processing claims. New computer technology and newer evidence in healthcare has not only created the need for more codes and nomenclature, it has afforded a “better mousetrap” in how we can create claims and store the codes.
For the last few years we have seen an increase in updating the American Dental Association’s code on dental procedures and nomenclature. 2016 saw 19 new codes, 12 revised codes, and eight deleted codes; 2017 saw 16 code changes, which include an addition of 11 new procedure codes, five revisions of existing codes and one deletion. 2018 will usher in 18 new code changes. It is no longer a great idea to memorize codes because of yearly changes. It is imperative that practices become familiar with these changes every year, particularly those that impact the type of practice – such as whether general or specialty.
Though this information about yearly coding changes has been around for many years, it is still very common to see practices using outdated coding books to create dental claims. Some practices that do not update to the latest version of their software will also not benefit from the software updating the codes to the latest version. If you think the insurance company will help you when you file a claim with a deleted code, think again. One of the top reasons for claim denials is the use of deleted codes, followed by using codes that have been revised to be used differently than they were before.
A patient’s treatment plan should always be based on their clinical needs, not their particular plan’s covered procedures. If a code is not a covered benefit of the policy but is exactly what was performed as treatment, changing the code to a covered code so it gets paid may be considered fraudulent. It is important to know that not all procedures are covered under every plan – some have annual or lifetime limitations and exclusions, and limitations vary greatly from plan to plan. For instance, you file a claim using a deleted code that was once a benefit of the policy. When you refile the claim you use the proper code but it is not a benefit of the policy. This can result in not only a claim that isn’t paid but a very unhappy patient. Patients are looking to the practice for expert care in the area of dental insurance filing.
Dental plans may not allow benefits for all treatment options. A least expensive alternative may be the choice of the insurance company. This is called “downgrading” or LEAT, Least Expensive Alternative Treatment. At first glance the patient may feel that the claim was submitted improperly. For instance, the patient had treatment for a three unit fixed bridge which was listed as a benefit of the policy, only to have the insurance company downgrade the charge to that of a removable partial denture for half the cost. This is not an example of choosing the wrong code, and the dentist did not do anything improper. It is now up to the dental practice to support the treatment with a strong appeal backed by unquestionable clinical evidence as to the reason for the care provided.
If the Insurance Coordinator does not see a procedure listed in the coding book that matches the services delivered, the use of 9999 codes is often the choice. There have been many changes recently that have provided codes to replace what used to be a “by report code”. This is another reason to have the most current CDT Manual available. The use of “by report” or 9999 codes always requires a detailed narrative, and they are often not covered benefits. When choosing the proper code, always ask whether the most appropriate code has been chosen. That includes reading the nomenclature and the code descriptor provided in the latest CDT Manual.
Insurance claim filing still continues to be where many practices struggle to receive payment for services rendered in the best interest of the patient. Many rules affecting adjudication have come about because some practices have been lax in filing claims with enough information and correct information for the insurance companies to pay the claim. Eliminating coding calamities by having the latest coding books and newest software version installed is the best insurance to help avoid denials and delays in payment.
Want help with this critical issue? Call McKenzie Management today and schedule a Business Training Course to review your insurance systems.
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