Dental office manager: a wise investment

Oct. 1, 2007
In the course of my day as a dental office manager, I see many advertisements for videos, books and seminars claiming to increase profits in the dental office.

by Mary Kliner

In the course of my day as a dental office manager, I see many advertisements for videos, books and seminars claiming to increase profits in the dental office. Some of these ideas involve selling more treatment plans or scheduling recall patients for their six-month cleanings in advance to improve hygiene production, and some entail team training and new systems for the office. While these are great ideas, in my experience the most important way toincrease profits for the practice is to take the time to analyze exactly where the money is going, and to verify that you are billing correctly for treatment. If you do not have the time for this task, then you may want to consider hiring an office manager to find hidden expenses.

Delegating someone to manage the dental office can be a lifesaver for many doctors, allowing them to do what they do best - treat patients. If you cannot afford to employ an office manager, consider hiring a consultant to review your practice figures, and invest wisely by finding a consultant with dental knowledge. A consultant can review all facets of your practice, create a budget, and focus on the essential task of reviewing your charges and the dental insurances you accept. Reports can be generated from dental software that can display, for example, the number of new patients and the number of new-patient exams with X-rays. An experienced manager can spot deficiencies or problems by reviewing these reports. Software programs can also generate receivable reports that will show whether delinquent patient accounts are being correctly pursued. There are many simple techniques to improve collections, such as using a collection company to handle accounts from which you are unable to collect.

Accountants can manage the books and maybe payroll, but the reports they generate do not provide a snapshot of the practice’s overall status. These reports show how money was spent, how the equipment was amortized and how much the advertising cost, but they fail to show the effectiveness of the advertising, which should be tracked. A good office manager will research what has worked for other offices and find out what solutions could work for your office. For a practice’s growth and success, there must be a regular assessment of all expenses.

Although the appointment schedule is a challenge for most offices, the right parameters for schedulers can make the task manageable and productive. Patient paperwork should be streamlined to cover important areas without being too complex. The office I manage accepts many insurance carriers, and while I agree that fee-for-service is ideal, most people want to take advantage of the dental insurance they receive as an employment benefit. Consequently, most offices take some form of insurance, and someone should review these insurance carriers to ensure generous reimbursement from them, and should regularly check fee schedules to guarantee that they are being utilized properly and that the correct insurance adjustments are taken.

Dental coding also requires a thorough review. Are the correct codes being used? A manager with dental experience can fine tune the codes to your office, and dental software can help ensure that codes are either pre-loaded for appointments or on route slips.

Do you use a cost-efficient lab or just the same old convenient lab? Your staff may be sending all denture cases to the same familiar lab out of habit while another equally proficient lab charges less. Save costs by searching for those labs that charge very reasonable fees for quality work.

For any dental practice to be successful, a general tune-up of the finances is essential. Doctors do not usually have the time to evaluate the financial side of their practice, and therefore an office manager can play a crucial role in helping the practice thrive by finding hidden expenses and making sure charges, insurance matters and coding are correct. Speaking personally, the most rewarding part of my job has been watching our practice grow into a very profitable one. All staff members have received staff bonuses and benefits. I am fortunate in that I have a very supportive doctor who does not try to “micromanage” the practice. My doctor trusts me to perform my job well, which allows him to do what he enjoys the most: treat patients without worrying about the day-to-day running of the practice.

Mary Kliner has been actively involved in dentistry since the early ‘90s. Working as a certified dental assistant for several years before transitioning to the front office, Mary has successfully managed a very profitable dental practice in Colorado Springs for many years and now advises dentists on how to cut costs through Aspen Dental Consulting. Mary may be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or by telephone at (719) 201-2826.

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