You know the list—those things in your dental office that take entirely too much of your valuable time, such as determining what patients are eligible from an insurance standpoint, or communicating with patients and reminding them of upcoming appointments. Even backing up your data each week can be time consuming.
Here’s the good news: Advances in software automation now make most of these labor-intensive tasks relatively pain free, and we’re going to see more software enhancements in the future that will allow you to focus even more time on your patients.
How is software helping dental offices run more efficiently today? Generally speaking, automation helps things that are set in the background to run efficiently, for example, day-to-day-type tasks such as organizing your morning huddle. In this case, you could use automated reports to help identify opportunities with patients who will be seen that day, or use information from those reports to celebrate patient care wins from earlier in the week. You could also automate tasks such as insurance processing so your front desk staff can stay more focused on the patient experience.
But, specifically, what are the areas of your office in which software automation can make the absolute biggest difference? Three come to mind.
Backing up your patient data
Historically, this has been a gargantuan task, and for many, it still is! But for those who use software automation, such as , this now happens in the background without a single click. Thanks to software like this, not only can you back up your patient data with ease, but you can also recover from a system crash in just 10 minutes—something that took hours to recover from in the past. What’s more, software automation now makes it possible to back up patient data not just to your servers, but also to the cloud. So, no matter what, your data is safe and sound, and you don’t have to lift a finger to protect it.
Communicating with patients
Patient communication—another time-consuming task for offices in the past—can now be automated quite easily with tools such as and . A couple of years ago, I worked with a dental office that was using four or five cell phones to reach out to patients and remind them of upcoming appointments. I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, you really should be automating this process!” Not only do these types of tools help you automate simple reminder emails and texts, but they also allow patients to request appointments and make payments online; survey patients after recent visits; and give patients the chance to fill out forms online as they prepare for their visits . . . all of which will help boost productivity, especially among front desk staff.
Managing the insurance process
Here’s yet another process that historically has been very time consuming for your staff. Whether it’s confirming eligibility or reviewing coverage levels for patients, insurance to-dos can take a long time. But software automation tools can help relieve that stress and can result in real bottom-line savings. For example, you can now submit claims electronically to payers, which can save your office 88 cents per claim on average and reduce rejections and improve payment time from insurance companies. And forget about those long phone calls to insurance companies or visiting payer websites—many software tools allow you to check on eligibility right in the platform, saving you hours on the phone and on the web.
There are certainly other areas of running a dental office in which software automation can help—these just happen to be the areas with the biggest potential for immediate impact. For example, practice analytics software such as can help you analyze practice data, track progress toward business goals, and spot red flags. Essentially, this kind of software “runs in the background” and sends automated reports right to your inbox each day so you can manage your office more efficiently. Dentists who have implemented this kind of automation have called it life changing.
One dental office I’ve been working with is beta testing automation with period processing, and it’s already making a big difference. This office is using software automation to compile quarterly and year-end processing of all office financials. This office is also using a “silent installer,” which essentially updates all computers “silently” to the newest version of the software the moment it becomes available. When the dentist realized this, he raved, “I have 13 computers and I can’t tell you how much time that saves.” The power of automation!
Areas of opportunity
With a significant portion of dental offices not automating simple tasks, there is still opportunity. And, for those who are automating, future software enhancements will most likely allow you to take your productivity and patient experience to a whole different level. Just think about how artificial intelligence will start to impact the insurance claims process down the road!
For now, automating simple tasks with software can truly help improve your office’s productivity. Whether it’s appointment reminders, managing the onerous claims process, or backing up your patient data, software automation can allow you to focus more time on the reason you got into dentistry in the first place: your patients.
DANIEL EASTY is a national technology advisor for Patterson Dental. He has spent the last 14-plus years educating and training hundreds of offices to become paperless and helping them implement technology into their practices. Daniel and his family reside in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area.