Manage your money

April 1, 2011
There are many factors that go into selecting the right practice-management software, and it's important to address the business aspects of dentistry.

Melissa Vaccaro

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There are many factors that go into selecting the right practice-management software, and it's important to address the business aspects of dentistry. If you are considering a transition to new software, make sure it includes powerful financial features that save time, improve your cash flow, and keep you accountable to your financial goals.

Simple insurance interface

Insurance may always have some painful points, but it does not have to be a time-consuming chore. The key is to cut out or streamline as many steps as possible by turning them over to your practice-management software.

You should choose software that allows you to electronically verify patient eligibility. It is much faster than spending time on the phone (or on hold) with an insurance customer service rep.

Plus, you can often access all the same information you would get by visiting the insurer's Web site without the hassle of creating a provider account, logging in, and researching your question. The best programs automatically import patient information into a digital form and let you check a patient's eligibility within a couple of minutes by simply clicking a button. Talk about a time-saver!

Since most major insurance providers accept electronic claims, you should reject the paper-based process of the past. Digital forms that autopopulate with patient data are much faster than completing paper documents, and you do not have to worry about stocking or printing insurer-specific forms.

Here, the elite practice management systems prevent you from submitting claims with incomplete information (thus reducing the likelihood of a claim being rejected). It is even better if the software is compatible with a service like NEA FastAttach™, which allows you to submit radiographs and other clinical documentation alongside your claims. The sooner you get your claims in the pipeline, the sooner you get paid.

Automated billing

If you are still tying up your team by manually creating and mailing invoices, you are wasting time that could be used much more productively. You should instead seek practice-management software that can handle billing for you.

You want to control the frequency of your billing since sending invoices more frequently often results in faster payment. You obviously want statements that accurately convey the professionalism and personality of your practice; some services let you add a personal touch with custom messaging. But you do not want to have to do all this work by hand.

There are some programs that give you all these things. The best software will let you order the bills with a few keystrokes; a third-party printer then handles the dirty work. The invoices arrive at your patients' homes in just a few days, and they look great.

Depending on the software you choose, you may be able to send electronic statements via e-mail. I recommend finding software with that option since electronic statements can serve as a supplement to paper statements and as a primary billing method for tech-savvy patients.

Of course, you may also wish to allow patients to pay their invoices online, a feature that is available in the best practice-management software.

Intelligent reporting

One of the most important things your practice-management software can do is help you monitor the financial well-being of your practice. You definitely want robust reporting features. Look for software that lets you track financial goals and break them down by year, month, week, and even day.

Accuracy is critical here, so make sure your software can be programmed to account for variables like write-offs and patient payment plans. You want the ability to create reports with all types of different criteria and filters (for instance, every patient with a crown whose account is in arrears) since they can help you analyze and deeply understand your practice's performance – and how you can improve it.

Melissa Vaccaro helps many doctors, including Drs. Richard Steinberg and Dan Delrose of North River Dental, develop custom training and support programs to meet their professional goals. She has been a consultant for seven years and has worked with SoftDent practice-management software for 15 years. Reach her at [email protected].

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