3 Steps to Get You and Your Team Exactly Where You Should Be
There are few things as satisfying as setting a goal and achieving it, whether it’s simply completing a mile on the treadmill or qualifying to run the Boston marathon, whether it’s learning to boil water or fixing a fabulous gourmet meal for friends. There is great satisfaction in identifying your own personal summit and setting a course to reach it.
That couldn’t be truer than in the workplace. Yet too many people don’t enjoy their jobs in the dental practice; they are bored or unchallenged. It’s a symptom that I believe is a direct result of an inability to establish achievable practice goals and set out on a course to reach those goals. My advice: examine each position in your practice and together with your team establish specific job-related goals that will enable your practice to move forward and your team members to grow both personally and professionally. Take these steps:
For example, your dental assistant’s job description should include points such as attending beginning of the day meetings, completing case presentations, reinforcing to patients the quality of care delivered in the practice, directing the doctor to check hygiene patients, completing post treatment care calls, converting emergency patients to new patients, turning the treatment room around promptly, etc.
Avoid the common yet dangerous pitfall of overlapping job duties. Instead, cross-train so that each area has coverage when the point person is out ill or is unavailable. If you overlap duties, employees are given tasks but not responsibility. Consequently, the team member trying to fulfill her/his job duties effectively quickly becomes frustrated. S/he wants to take ownership for a particular system, but can’t because it’s not her or his “system” to oversee. It’s simply not in the practice’s best interest to have multiple people responsible for areas such as collections or scheduling.
For example, if you are measuring the performance of your dental assistant, you should be able to see the distal of the cuspid on every bitewing X-ray, you should never have to reach for an instrument on any setup, and the molds the assistant pours should be free of defects. In addition, if you expect your assistant to achieve an 85% case acceptance, that person needs to know this. If it’s your expectation that the assistant give a daily report on post-treatment calls, this needs to be said. If you expect her or him to convert 75% of emergency patients to comprehensive exam patients and keep the cost of dental supplies at no more than 5% of practice collections, make sure that direction is abundantly clear to the employee.
When you provide your team with clear direction and guidance, they have the opportunity to do more than just perform a task. They can excel at what they are doing. Remember, the vast majority of employees want to deliver a quality work product, and they want to know that they are heading down the right path to achieve individual and overall practice success.
Give the team a little direction and you’ll find the road to success doesn’t have to be a circuitous journey after all.Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
Reactivating Patients and When a Patient Declines Treatment
It has been said that it is five times the cost to attract a new patient versus keeping a current one satisfied. If a patient has not returned to your practice during a twelve month period, that patient is now considered inactive. These patients are often the easiest to appoint because most have just forgotten to call or were too busy to notice that it was time to come back for the professional teeth cleaning and exam. Many offices wait too long to call these patients or some offices don’t call at all. This is a missed opportunity to show that you care and that you believe the services that you provide are important to maintaining optimum health.
If the new-patient experience left the patient feeling unimpressed and the only thing worth remembering, and not in a positive way, is the $7,300 treatment plan presented haphazardly at the front desk, then failing to follow up will probably cost you the patient. Think for a moment what brought that patient to your practice in the first place. Was their chief concern addressed, was time taken with the patient to build rapport and trust? What kind of marketing motivated the patient to call - direct mail, signage, drive by, personal or professional referral? Whatever motivated the patient to contact you could get chalked up as a big mistake if the patient is less than satisfied with your services.
What will motivate practices to follow-up on unscheduled patients are unfilled appointment blocks in the schedule or what we often refer to as “holes in the schedule.” The calls made are outbound calls similar to cold calling or telemarketing and are not pleasant to make unless there are some good notes in the chart about the patient that can be used to build phone rapport. If it has been a long time since you tried to contact the patient, the patient may think that you are not interested in them so much as getting business in the door.
If you contact a former patient who tells you that they have decided to go to another dentist or that they are not interested in coming back to your practice, make sure to carefully note the call in the patient record along with a summary of the conversation. If the patient sounds receptive you may ask this question: “Mrs. Patient, may I ask why you have decided to leave our practice?” If you do not ask, most patients will not tell you the real reason for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or they don’t want to make trouble for anyone. Often patients feel that it doesn’t do any good because nothing will change.
If the patient is in the middle of treatment such as endodontic therapy and chooses not to return for treatment, send a certified letter with a return-receipt request stating the risks for not completing treatment and an offer to send them a copy of their records or to a dentist of their choice. Make notes in the chart and make sure to save or scan in any correspondence to the patient. Offer to refer the patient to another dentist or to the local dental society for a referral. Also note this in the patients’ record to reduce the likelihood of the patient claiming abandonment
Have a system of making 5 outbound calls a day to unscheduled patients. Even if you have to leave a message, it will plant a seed in the mind of the patient that you do care and you have not forgotten them. Make this call monthly until you hear from the patient. At some point the patient will call to appoint or will call to let you know what is keeping them from appointing.
If the patient does tell you why they are not returning to your practice and it has something to do with a communication or issue with a staff member or the dentist, don’t cast it off as an isolated incident, it could be indicative of a chronic condition that can cause the practice to suffer with loss of many patients. Take action to address the concern so that changes can be made for better communication and stop the loss of your valuable patients.
Why Are ‘Net’ $ So Important?
Case Study #443
Dr. George contacted McKenzie Management for the same reasons that so many of our wonderful clients do – he needs more income! It is as simple as that. Obviously, the solution is not as simple and involves every aspect of the practice. This article is written to shed light on the word “net” - as in production and collections.
Dr. George’s practice statistics:
At first glance, you would say that he made his daily production goal for the month on average. However, statistics can be deceiving if you are not comparing apples to apples. How many of your dentist friends comment to you about how much they are producing a month? It is always a topic of discussion. What is more important is how much are they collecting? And to take it a step further, how much are they collecting after adjustments?
These figures are all considered “gross” production because an adjustment has not been applied to it by the Financial Coordinator.
Office Y also receives payment from the insurance company and the EOB indicates that the submitted amount was $68 and the allowed amount was $68. Therefore, no adjustment is posted. In this case, the NET production for this office is still $68.
Office Z’s EOB with the insurance payment indicates that the submitted amount of $80 and allowed amount is the same so there is no adjustment made. The NET production is $80.
Now let’s look at the gross collections for this same scenario. We are going to assume that the insurance paid 100% for this procedure in their plan.
The above collection dollars are ALL gross collections. No adjustments have been posted to them. However, let’s say that office Z’s family balance was only $68 before the insurance paid. Now the insurance is paying $80 and there is a credit balance of $12 that needs to be returned to the account. A check is written for $12 at the end of the month, bringing Office Z’s net collections to $68.
What does all this mean? Gross production means nothing! Even net production means nothing other than this is the amount that the collections are based on. Gross collections mean nothing because the refunds and NSF checks have not been factored in yet. It is all about NET COLLECTIONS!
In many states, it is required by law that this credit be returned to the patient within 30 days. Unfortunately for Dr. George, he had over $14,000 in credit balances that had accrued over the 18 years in practice and had not returned these overpayments unless the patient requested it.
As a side note – it is VERY important that credit balances be excluded from the Accounts Receivable Report. In Dr. George’s case, this $14,000 reduced his A/R to $53,800 when it really was $67,800 or 1.01x his net production instead of .80x, which he was misled to believe.
Bottom Line for Dr. George
He also incurred $356 in refunds for the month because a patient elected not to complete treatment that was already paid for. Therefore, his NET collections for the month were $65,144.
$66,880 net produced
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