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10.14.05 Issue #188  
E-Recall: Cost-effective, Time-efficient

Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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Recall. You remember, it’s the system that is the number one moneymaker for your practice and the most often overlooked or ignored. Some of you see it as dialing through the drudgery to keep the schedule full and the doctor happy. Others rank this task right up there with making delinquent account calls. Then you have those who bubble over with enthusiasm about how practical their recall system is because Barb, the hygienist, makes as many calls as she can whenever she has a cancellation or no show, which is pretty regularly – surprise, surprise. And how much are you paying her an hour to make those calls? Who’s counting? Which is my point, exactly. No one is counting or collecting for that matter when there are holes in the schedule.

While a few have recall down to a moneymaking science, too many practices keep it firmly on the back burner until production is teetering between troubling and downright alarming. Oftentimes, doctors and teams perceive they don’t have the time or resources to invest in an effective system. Interestingly, there is a 21st century answer to this age-old problem. It’s e-recall.

Your patients are wired. They are connected to the Internet, email, text messaging, personal digital assistants (PDA), MP3 players and the list goes on and on. They are using technology to simplify their lives; tell them where they are supposed to be; stay connected with family, friends, work, school; and help them manage the numerous demands of day-to-day life. It’s that technology that could very well be your best answer to rebuilding a fledgling recall system and getting practice production firmly on track.

I’m particularly impressed with the e-recall services provided through UAppoint. This system is truly patient and practice friendly. It allows practices to quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively remind patients of upcoming appointments, without ever picking up the phone. It’s the no pain, plenty of gain answer to those who dread dealing with tedium of recall or feel they don’t have the human resources to park someone on the landline for a few hours a day.

UAppoint services, which are fully HIPAA-compliant and integrate seamlessly with your existing practice management software, enable you to easily incorporate a new email reminder service for patients that are due for upcoming appointments. Through the service, your office is able to contact the patient via email two weeks in advance of the appointment and again three days prior to the scheduled visit. One of the best features is that the patient can confirm they will make the appointment with a single click on either reminder. For the few patients who do not electronically confirm, the practice has a manageable list of patients to follow-up with by phone, which can be done two days before the appointment.

Another nice component of the system is the electronic appointment card or E-Card that is sent to the patient detailing their scheduled appointment. The patient just saves the date on their electronic calendar on their computer and their personal digital assistant (PDA). And you too are “wired in” to the patient’s electronic time-management system. 

Your patients don’t have time for phone tag anymore than you do. In fact, a recent study by surveyed 10,000 people and found that 85% prefer communicating by email rather than by phone. It’s fast, efficient, and the vast majority of patients access it regularly. And speaking of efficiency, how much more productive could you be if you knew that 85% of your patients would be in the chair at the designated time and your business team could focus their efforts on shoring up that remaining 15%. E-recall - no phone calls, no waiting on hold, no telephone tag – it’s “E-fficient”and “E-ffective.”

For more information on e-mail Scheduling go here

If you have any question or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at

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Educating Your Patients About Dental Plan Limitations

Belle M. DuCharme
RDA, CDPMA. Director
The Center for
Dental Career Development

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Dear Belle,
     “In our office, we provide services that we feel are necessary for our patients’ complete dental health.  When the insurance company does not cover the services, patients think that I have not billed correctly or that we are doing something “illegal”.  I have been asked by the patient to “word it a certain way or to change the code to get it covered.”  What can I do to stop this from happening?

Theresa, Insurance Coordinator

Dear Theresa,
     This scenario can put you and the dental team in an awkward position. Suddenly you are defending treatment that was diagnosed by the doctor as necessary for the health of the patient.  When dental insurance plans deny payment, patients sometimes think we did something to them instead of for them.  We are seeing more dental services excluded from plans in order to keep premiums competitive.  You can expect to answer more of these questions from patients who are disappointed with the lack of coverage.  My recommendation is for you to get pro-active in educating your patients about insurance just as you educate them about periodontal disease.  Medical insurance is designed to pay out large sums to cover illnesses until the patient is well.  Dental insurance has a per calendar year cap that has not been changed for some twenty plus years thus allowing limited benefits to help a patient with initial steps to get healthy.  Never claim to be an “expert” on dental insurance plans because you will be held accountable if the coverage is denied.  Instead, ask the patient to bring the coverage booklet in to the office so that you can “discover” the limitations at the same time.  If they do not have a booklet then have them witness a call to the insurance company and let them hear the information that you are gathering.

     One of the most common areas of insurance frustration is the prophy or “cleaning” versus periodontal disease. Insurance companies emphasize the benefit of two cleanings a year or one in a six-month period.  The patient believes that this is all that they need because any more are paid “out of pocket”.  Because of this many dental practices do not have active “interceptive periodontal programs” for fear of losing the patient.  These offices let the insurance companies dictate treatment to the detriment of the patient’s dental health. Certainly we cannot ignore a bacterial infection because of insurance limitations.

    In regards to changing a code so that the insurance will pay, The Health Care False Claims Act states “No person shall knowingly make a false statement or false representation of a material fact to a health care payer for use in determining rights to a health care payment.”  Dentists and dental hygienists are bound by legal responsibilities to choose a dental code that most accurately reflects the treatment rendered.  If this code is not a covered benefit of the policy you may ask for an “alternate benefit” from the insurance company. If none exists, then the patient is responsible for payment.  Dental insurance representatives that inform patients of their coverage over the phone are not aware of the penalties that dentists and hygienists can suffer by manipulating treatment codes in order to obtain benefits. Tell the patient to speak to their employer about increasing benefits or adding coverage for periodontal disease and maintenance to the policy.

Learn more about navigating the insurance maze by enrolling in our Advanced Business Training through The Center for Dental Career Development.

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"But Demographics Are Free! Right?"

Scott McDonald

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Occasionally the question is asked “Why should I pay for demographic information about potential patients in my area when data is free on the Internet?”

The source of demographic information is like everything else in life: you get what you pay for except when it’s free. That can REALLY cost you.

The primary sources for free demographic information are the U.S. Census Bureau, Chambers of Commerce, and published articles.

U.S. Census Bureau
Let’s face it: the Bureau is the original source of most information demographers use. The problem is that the information comes in a format the only an expert can interpret. Want to know how many Asian girls, 14 to 15 years of age, live in a single-family home in a given Census Tract? GREAT! Unfortunately, it can take more time that most of us have in a lifetime to boil down all the data and combine them into the variables we want to know from these factors.

For this reason, the natural alternative to the U.S. Census is to purchase data from a “data compiler.”  Their job is to gather relevant, site-specific data and package it in such a way that it has meaning to an end user.

Chambers of Commerce (and other Semi-Public Bodies Cities, Convention & Visitor’s Bureaus, and Planning Commissions)
In almost every case, the area that is being studied does not relate to the size and scope of a professional practice. Gearhart, Oregon may look like the picture of the perfect place to practice but it doesn’t take into account neighboring Seaside. On the other hand, the Oakland Chamber of Commerce data will reflect an area many times larger than a practice can reasonably cover.

While we wholly endorse joining a Chamber of Commerce, the data they present often comes with an agenda.  In most cases, they want to present as perfect a picture of their community as possible. That is why many chambers will “forget” to put ALL the data in their reports. This often includes Historical and Projected Growth, Unemployment, Home Vacancy, and Per Capita Income.

Published Articles
While we love the CBS Market Watch, Census Bureau News Releases, and Wall Street Journal (and I really mean it), articles tend to focus upon a single statistic or a series of trends to provide insights into a location. As an example, Market Watch published (Nov. 21, 2003) a great article on job growth in several regions. Idaho was one such market. They discussed specialty trades (plumbing and masonry) that were hiring in large numbers. What they don’t say is that this entire growth was found in Boise and Meridian. So what does this mean if you are in Idaho Falls?

What is missing in every case is a relevant connection to a specific site. Now, this is particularly important because some locations look great from the point of view of a map (i.e., Interstate highway connection, close proximity, desirable demographics) but physical and psychological barriers cannot be so easily overcome. That is why a site-specific report that will tell you about every practice area in the United States will be most useful.

Demographic information is invaluable in understanding a practice area for site selection, marketing, and practice development.

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