Overcome Scheduling Challenges to Meet Your Full Potential
You want to make it easy for patients to schedule appointments with your practice, especially new patients looking to visit your office for the first time. If your scheduling process isn’t convenient, they’ll quickly move on to the next dentist on their list – which hurts practice productivity and eats into your bottom line.
Your patients are busy people, and it can be difficult for them to find time to call your practice during the work day. Many would rather schedule appointments online. With this option, patients can use their smartphone, tablet or home computer whenever it’s convenient for them to select an available appointment. There are no worries about being put on hold or not getting through when they try to call over their lunch hour (which can be pretty frustrating).
Online scheduling is becoming more common in the health industry and is something patients will come to expect their dentist to offer (if they don’t already). According to a study published by management consulting firm Accenture, 66% of U.S. health systems will offer digital self-scheduling and 64% of patients will book appointments using digital tools by the end of 2019. The firm estimates that about 38% of appointments will be self-scheduled (that’s almost 986 million appointments!) to create $3.2 billion in value.
Still not convinced you need to incorporate online scheduling into your practice? Here are some of the challenges online scheduling can help you overcome to get more patients in the chair and start meeting your full potential.
Team members are constantly on the phone. In most practices I visit, team members spend a lot of time making and taking phone calls. When scheduling is handled mostly online, team members have more time to focus on the patients who are in the practice, thus improving their overall experience. They can offer the kind of exceptional customer service that makes patients want to come back, fostering loyalty and maybe even leading to referrals.
Patients never actually get to schedule. All too often, patients find a few minutes to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment but are put on hold before they can even say why they’re calling. This can be pretty irritating, especially when patients only have a few minutes to spare. If they’re on hold for too long, they’ll likely hang up before scheduling so they can move on with their busy day. Other times, the team is out to lunch and patients either have to leave a message or call back. In both situations, patients never actually make an appointment, and decide to try another practice that isn’t so busy the next time they’re ready to call.
This isn’t a problem with online scheduling. Patients can schedule at any time day or night, making it easy for them to find an appointment that fits with their schedule.
Your schedule is a bit of a mess. To keep your days streamlined, only one team member should be responsible for appointing patients. If you have too many hands in the schedule, it will lead to confusion, frustration and chaotic days. I suggest you task one person with managing your schedule, ideally your Scheduling Coordinator, and use an online solution to make the process even more efficient.
Adding online scheduling that syncs with your practice management system will reduce the time it takes to enter patient appointments, while also helping ensure you have a streamlined schedule that keeps you productive, not just busy. There are a variety of systems available with different features, so I recommend doing some research and choosing one that’s best suited for your practice’s needs.
The schedule is often a source of stress for you and your team members, but it really shouldn’t be. Instead, it should map out your day and keep you on track to meet and even exceed daily production goals. But that won’t happen if patients find it difficult to schedule an appointment in the first place. Online scheduling eliminates that problem, making it easy for patients to schedule whenever they want, while also saving your team members valuable time – helping to ensure you avoid the scheduling challenges that so often keep dentists from meeting their full potential.
Next week: The benefits of online scheduling and how to make it work for your practice.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Analyzing the Insurance Aging Report
Front Desk Training Case #FO576
“Joan Cathy” (names have been changed) signed up to take the Front Office Training Course through McKenzie Management because insurance claims were stacking up, patients were complaining about unpaid claims, and “Dr. Smith” was concerned with the lack of cash flow.
Joan had worked in the practice for five years as an efficient dental assistant but needed help with dental insurance. She was overwhelmed with the number of claims that had not been paid. She began to learn things that she didn’t know and consequently had not been doing. Some of the essential information she learned is listed in the following analysis of the insurance aging report.
Claims filed electronically should pay between:
• 10-30 days (15 days for “clean claims”) for diagnostic and preventive services
• 30-45 business days for basic and some adjunct services
• 45-60 days for major services like crown, bridge, dentures, implants (time is shorter for “clean claims’)
“Clean claims” have no defect or impropriety, including incomplete or inaccurate documentation provided on the standard claims forms, along with any attachments and additional elements or revisions of data of which the provider has knowledge.
The time it takes to work the aging insurance can be measured in hours, especially if it is five pages or more long. Consequently, the cash flow is leaner because the claims have not been paid due to many reasons.
Denied claims come from the clearinghouse as not having identifying information that matches the enrollee’s information, or the claim is missing information from the provider such as correct NPI.
Rejected claims never get to the clearinghouse and the usual reason is that the claim is not filled out or the provider information is not correct. Or, it could be the wrong clearinghouse or portal for these claims. Check with your software provider for correct clearinghouse locations and verify with the insurance company the ID if still having problems.
Timely filing is when an insurance company puts a time limit on claims submission. A 90-day timely filing requirement means you need to submit the claim within 90 days of the date of service.
The healthcare clearinghouse is a central entity that electronically connects your claims, eligibility and claims inquiries with the appropriate insurance company.
A National Provider Identifier or NPI is a unique 10-digit identification number issued to healthcare providers in the United States by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The provider of services must be identified on the claim by the NPI number.
Secondary claims take longer because the primary claim payment EOB must accompany the claim when submitted for payment.
When the insurance company sends a letter denying all or part of a claim, the insurance companies reset the clock on adjudication of these claims, causing prolonged delays. This is the reason co-insurance amounts and deductibles must be collected at the time of service.
A new CDT coding guide (from the ADA) should be purchased annually and the Insurance Coordinator should take continuing education courses to stay on top of changes and utilization of coding. Update software when available so the insurance CDT codes are updated in your system. Without these updates there will be errors in coding that will cause costly delays.
Be sure to check the following:
• The healthcare provider is licensed to practice on the date of service and is not under investigation for fraud
• Every procedure code is current (do not use deleted codes)
• The patient’s coverage was in effect on the date of service, and the patient’s insurance covers the service provided
• The claim form includes all the required information in the correct fields
• The form correctly identifies the payer and includes the right payer identification number and payer mailing address
• The claim is submitted on time
If you are continuously resubmitting claims that the insurance company claims to have never received, then you should reach out to your clearinghouse to let them know. Working an insurance aging report does not mean resubmitting claims repeatedly. You will need to put some phone-time into it, either to the insurance company or the clearinghouse. For maximum cash flow, make working your insurance aging report a weekly part of your Cash Flow System.
For more information and training about dental insurance and other important business systems, reach out to McKenzie Management today for Professional and Personalized Business Training.
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