Employees Come and Go - Your Systems Stay
By Nancy Caudill
How many times have you asked yourself this question: “Why don’t we do it the way we used to do it a few years ago?” It could be related to something as simple as answering the telephone or entering clinical notes in the patient’s paper or digital record. And the answer is: “Your system has changed.”
I was speaking with a dentist recently about why systems are so important to a successful practice. One word comes to mind - CONSISTANCY. Other words would be Effectiveness, Profitability, Productivity, etc. You get the picture.
- Tray setups for the various procedures
- Room designs and setups for all the various supplies and instruments
- Clinical progress notes
- New patient exams
- Room turnovers
- Inventory and ordering of supplies
- Dismissal of patients
All of the above items should have a specific and written “system” that includes photos when applicable to explain how the system works. If the system is changed due to changes with products, techniques or a more efficient way of doing something, the written “system” should be edited.
Written systems are very helpful when training a new clinical team member or working with a temporary employee.
McKenzie Management consultants review 10-20 + business “systems” when we are consulting with a dentist and their team. The number of “systems” is actually irrelevant because you could easily say that we analyze 1 BIG business system, or we analyze 40 systems because many of our 20 systems could be broken down into smaller systems. It all boils down to this: we look at everything that will increase profitability, improve efficiency, decrease overhead and add to the bottom line.
Let’s review a few of the basic business “systems” of a dental practice and discuss why it is so important to have a system that works.
Every practice that has a hygiene program must have a recall system. This includes but is not limited to the following:
- How are patients scheduled for their next hygiene appointment?
- How are patients contacted to “remind” them of their upcoming appointment?
- How are patients contacted to “schedule” their hygiene appointment that is due?
- How are patients contacted that are “past due” for their hygiene appointment?
- Who is assigned to perform these tasks?
- How do you, the practice owner, hold this person accountable to know that the tasks are being performed?
- When do you determine that it is okay to stop chasing your hygiene patients?
- How do you handle patients that arrive late?
- How do you handle patients that cancel their appointments frequently?
Each one of these items should have a specific protocol on how it should be handled and it should be in writing. Should the protocol change, it should also be changed in writing. Do you have a “manual” that was written 10 years ago and nothing in it is applicable anymore? There was no “system” in place to keep it updated!
If your practice accepts the “assignment of benefits” then it is imperative you have a written system on how to handle the insurance process:
- Which insurance companies are you participating with?
- How do you determine the patient’s portion of the appointment?
- Are claims sent manually or electronically, and how?
- What do you say on the phone when a new patient calls relative to insurance?
- What is your procedure for managing “pre-authorizations”?
- How are outstanding claims followed up on and when?
- Who writes the narratives?
- How are radiographs, photos and charts attached to the claims?
- What happens when the claim is denied?
- Who is responsible for the above items?
- How do you hold this person accountable?
Accounts Receivable System
If you work with insurance opposed to all of your patients paying 100% at the time of service, you need a “system” to manage the balances:
- Is there a Financial Agreement Form used?
- Do you offer long-term payment options?
- When do you send statements?
- How are statements sent?
- When are calls placed to delinquent accounts and what is said?
- Do you use a collection agency to collect your delinquent account balances?
- What percentage of your total AR is written off in bad debt each year?
- What is your AR to Net Production ratio?
- How much do you have in credit balances?
- What are your plans for sending refunds?
Why Are They Important?
If you have your systems written down AND they are current, effective, productive and efficient, anyone can follow the instructions and implement the system with very little training. If you have a business employee that elects to work closer to home, your systems stay with you. If your Financial Coordinator decides to stay home with her newborn instead of returning to work, the systems are still in the office.
The most important statement I can make in this article is this: YOU must know your systems and YOU should know the answers to all the questions listed above. If YOU don't know, then how can you hold someone else accountable? After all - it is your practice and no one will take as much interest in it as you do.
To establish systems in your practice, contact McKenzie Management today at 877-777-6151.
If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Consulting Coaching Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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