4.14.07 - Issue # 266 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Insurance Coding
Dental Coaching

Eliminate the #1 Barrier to Change
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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No matter how logical your reasoning, no matter how well delivered your directive, no matter how sincere your motives, getting people on your team to change the way they do things is one of the most difficult challenges dentists face.

The reality of human nature is that we resist change. Even the most sensible ideas can be shot down – overtly or covertly – if they require fundamental changes to work processes and especially if an employee feels they are losing control. Control, after all, means power, job security, prestige, and the safety of familiarity. The individual who perceives they are losing control will likely fight the change vigorously. 

Something as seemingly innocuous as suggesting a change in the way the telephone is answered may be met with puzzled looks and questions as to why any modification would be necessary. Asking an employee to take on new duties may be greeted by strong resistance, particularly if this person enjoys the comfort of routine. She/he will probably make excuses – everything from “I don’t know how to do that,” to “I don’t have time to do that,” to “Patients won’t like that,” and more.

Take the case of Dr. Jordon. He has asked one of his business employees, Nichole, to make follow-up phone calls to patients to remind them of their appointments 48-hours in advance. He also wants her to begin auditing the patient records to identify unscheduled treatment and follow-up with those patients as well. 

Dr. Jordon’s goal is to improve patient retention and get treatment out of the records and on to the schedule. Currently, the office sends reminder cards prior to patients’ appointments. However, there are far too many no shows in both the doctor’s schedule and in hygiene.

The office also sends letters to patients encouraging them to schedule an appointment for recommended treatment. From Nichole’s point of view, the office is already following-up with patients. She sees phone calls as “overkill” and says it will seem like the practice is “pestering” the patients. 

While some may contend that Nichole needs to be reminded just whose practice this is, in fairness, her resistance may be rooted more in fear than obstinacy. She is uncertain what to say. She feels awkward and vulnerable. It’s a new area that she does not have experience in, and she is concerned that if she doesn’t know how to make the phone calls properly, it will leave a negative impression with the patient. Consequently, her job security may be in jeopardy, particularly if the doctor plans to evaluate her based on her ability to get patients in the chair. All of those are valid concerns for an employee taking on new responsibilities or being asked to change the way they do things.

Nonetheless, the practice still needs Nichole to follow-up with patients. The best way to increase her comfort level is to provide her with scripts so that she is not left struggling to  figure out how to approach patients. But be prepared for some resistance. Say the word “script” to the dental team and you may well be greeted with a chorus of groans, a fair number of “you-must-be-kidding,” as well as a smattering of sneers and sideways glances. Somewhere along the way, the idea of the script became taboo. The typical response to the mere suggestion of scripting is, “We’ll sound canned.” Or, “It won’t sound natural.” “What if I mess up my ‘lines’?”

Not a surprising reaction; after all, scripts are often mistakenly viewed as barriers to natural conversation when, in reality, they are tools for effective communication that build patient relationships and keep systems on track.

Next week, script your success.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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Carol Tekavec
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Three Insurance Coding Tips

The ADA coding system undergoes revision every two years.  Because of the national Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a mandate exists that requires dentists and insurers to use the most recent version of the ADA code.  Right now this is the Current Dental Terminology-CDT-2007-2008, a copyrighted publication. Those of us who publish guidance and coding manuals must acquire a license to do so from the ADA.  My guidance manual, the Dental Insurance Coding Handbook-2005-2008 is printed under such a license. The current code includes 23 new codes, 33 revised codes and three deletions. 

What follows are three coding tips for common coding problems.

  1. “Difficult” prophys

  2. Coding and billing for “difficult” prophys has always been a problem. Dentists have few choices, none of them completely accurate. There is no designated code for a “difficult” prophy, although D4355-Full Mouth Debridement to Enable Comprehensive Evaluation and Diagnosis is believed by some to apply. However, D4355 is defined as a “gross removal of plaque and calculus that interferes with the ability of the dentist to perform a comprehensive oral evaluation. This preliminary procedure does not preclude the need for additional procedures.” This definition points to the procedure being preliminary in order to facilitate an exam, and makes no mention of “difficulty”. Even so, if the dentist thinks that the patient’s circumstances apply, D4355 may be used. However, it will probably be paid by the dental plan at the D1110-Adult Prophy fee, and it will be after the deductible because it is a Perio Code, not a Diagnostic or Preventive Code. The patient will end up being responsible for a substantial portion of the cost of the service.

    It is possible to use D1110-Adult Prophy with a longer appointment time and a higher fee. The problem with this is that if the dentist is a network provider his/her contract may not allow for a higher fee than has been agreed upon (filed fee) or the plan’s maximum allowable benefit. Plus the dentist may not be able to charge the patient the difference as per his/her contract agreement. If this is the case, the dentist has another choice; charge out the D1110 at the “normal” fee, and include D4999-Unspecified Periodontal Procedure, by Report on the claim form with the additional charge. A narrative explaining why the additional time and procedures were required should be listed in section #35 of the claim form. The claim will likely be delayed for a consultant to review the case, and the D4999 will likely still be denied, however, the network dentist may then charge the patient the difference. He/she does not have to absorb the cost.

    The simplest way may be to schedule the patient for two appointments under code D1110-Adult Prophy. The network dentist charges the “normal” fee for each visit. The first D1110 will likely be covered by the plan. If the plan requires six months and one day to pass between D1110 appointments, the second D1110 will likely not be paid by the plan, however, the dentist may bill the patient. The patient’s next D1110 in six months will still be covered. This method is also the easiest to explain. Patients can understand that more time is necessary and that two visits are required.

    If patients need more than a “difficult” prophy, or are undergoing scaling and root planing, a brochure explaining the differences is most helpful. Go here to see brochure “What is the difference between a “cleaning”, a root planing, and periodontal maintenance”

  1. Coding exams
    There are seven codes describing exams or “clinical oral evaluations”. All evaluation codes are equally valid for dentists to report. A dentist should perform and report whichever evaluation code he/she decides is appropriate; and bill accordingly. For payment, however, most carriers follow an industry guideline. That is; any comprehensive evaluation, such as a D0150-Comprehensive Oral Evaluation-New or Established Patient, or D0180-Comprehensive Periodontal Evaluation-New or Established Patient, will be covered once every 3 to 5 years. If it is reported more frequently, the fee for a D0120-Periodic Evaluation is typically paid. Most carriers pay for a D0120 twice annually.

  2. How does an office get “veneers” paid for by insurance?
    As most dentists and staff know, cosmetic treatments are frequently denied by dental plans. However, a few plans offer a “lifetime” maximum benefit for certain conditions such as enamel hypoplasia, and pegged laterals. Plans will likely cover anterior veneers that are required for decay, to replace existing defective restorations (2-5 years old), and to restore open or decayed margins of existing restorations, crowns, or veneers. Rather than giving up on helping a patient receive reimbursement for a veneer, supply the insurance carrier with a detailed narrative, radiographs, if appropriate, and photographs to explain and illustrate recommended treatment. Don’t wait for the carrier to ask for “more information”. Supply all the information that you can with the initial claim.

Dealing with dental insurance can be a challenge.  However, patients who have insurance have more treatment and more complete treatment than those without.  Helping patients with their insurance plans can be a practice builder.

Carol Tekavec CDA RDH is the president of Stepping Stones to Success, and a nationally known author and lecturer.  She is a consultant to the ADA Council on Dental Practice and a practicing dental hygienist.  She may be contacted at www.steppingstonestosuccess.com or 800-548-2164,


Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Why Should a Dentist Hire a Coach?

You’ve heard the term ‘coach’ before. If you grew up playing sports, you had a coach. He or she was there with the team. That person didn’t play in the game but helped you and your teammates improve the way you played. The coach challenged you to do things differently, to be better.

Similarly, leadership coaching is designed to help individuals and teams get out of their comfort zone…to make changes and reach new levels of achievement.

Not so long ago, there was a stigma attached to working with a coach. In corporate circles, coaching was seen as a last ditch effort to fix a problem manager or executive. That perception has changed. In the business arena, having a coach now means that you are ‘high potential’ and the company is willing to invest significant dollars in developing your skill set. It is likely you will be promoted. 

Unfortunately that new perspective on coaching has not spread into the dental world. While curious, dentists for the most part are skeptical of working with a coach. The presumption is that the “patient” has something wrong with him/her and the coach’s job is to “fix” them. But that is not the purpose or goal of coaching.

From the viewpoint of corporate leaders and shareholders, the real reason that organizations use coaching is to improve business results. Whether it is increasing customer loyalty, retaining valuable employees, or managing the change that is inherent in business today, coaching enables leaders to impact bottom-line benefits - growth in revenues and profits. 

So too, in the dental world, running a practice is complex. Competition, declining labor pools, diverse employees, and demanding patient populations require a much more extensive interpersonal skill set if you are going to succeed.

One of the primary benefits in coaching is the ability to step back and get a new PERSPECTIVE. This only occurs when you have OBJECTIVITY. This comes from not being too emotionally involved in what is happening. Once you gain access to those processes, you will find solutions to issues that never seemed obvious before.

Here are a few examples of the coaching clients with whom I have worked.

Dr. A. was being held ‘hostage’ by his seven year employee, Jessica. She had good relationships with patients and strong collection skills, but she was repeatedly disrespectful and defensive toward the doctor. There were no indications of her willingness to change, even with written performance appraisals. Through coaching Dr. A became more assertive. He searched for another front office staff then asked for Jessica’s resignation. The morale of the team improved and Dr. A enjoys going to work again.

Dr. B was a cosmetic dentist with an abundance of patient inquiries but a low conversion rate. She recognized the importance of establishing rapport with patients but noted that a deterrent was her drive to be efficient in office – i.e. not listening enough and being too task-oriented. Coaching helped to broaden her communication skills in order identify emotional motivators. By improving her ability to build relationships with patients from the get-go, she is more successful in selling her services.

Despite many years in practice, Dr. C still struggled with a fear of going broke. There was insidious erosion in his confidence level. The coaching goal was to be more resilient in his thinking. We worked on modifying ‘what if I can’t pay the bills’ to ‘how will I build a million dollar practice’. Last we talked, Dr. C. was well on his way.

Drs. D and E have a successful practice, mutual admiration for one another, and matching values. However differences in age, gender, background, and styles have lead to significant disruptions in the office and with staff. Both were committed to improving the way they interact and lead the practice. Coaching helped them to establish a structure for conversations and rules for how to engage with one another.

Coaching is really about doing things differently, about honing your abilities to the utmost.

  • Is there a gap between where you are now and where you want to be?
  • Would you like to grow your practice and yourself to the next level?
  • Could you benefit from having a coach to help you with: time management; employee problems; using strategic thinking and planning?
While it's certainly true that you don't have to have a coach, consider for a moment what you might do if you did have a coach.

Dr. Haller can be reached at coach@mckenziemgmt.com. Contact her to find out how you can develop your leadership skills and grow your practice.

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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