By Bonnie Pugh
The foundation of good practice management is twofold: having a well-articulated practice vision, and having the right team onboard that can integrate this philosophy into daily operations. Technology then becomes a tool — rather than a driver — to facilitate better communications, maximize efficiency, and support financial goals.
Ensure good communication
Even with the best software, there’s no replacement for face-to-face communication among team members. A brief morning huddle, using the information from your software, brings the clinical and administrative teams together to review that day’s activities. With critical information at your fingertips from both sides of the practice, it’s easy to give the team important updates about that day’s patients. Analyzing insurance benefits, reviewing outstanding balances, and identifying family members who need services or special attention make for a smooth day.
When it comes to new patients, good communication is imperative to ensure a positive experience since this sets the tone for the entire relationship. It’s one of the first areas we address when visiting a practice and providing coaching in good customer service and verbal skills. Improving communication may be as simple as tweaking how information is presented, but you can also elevate patient satisfaction levels by providing electronic forms for advance completion, and helping patients maximize their available insurance benefits using a suite of efficient electronic tools.
The clinical benefits in terms of communication and efficiency increase when practice-management software is integrated with treatment planning and imaging software. Information is always up-to-date and readily available to anyone in the practice. Technology has made a huge difference in practices that visually display problems and recommended treatment plans to patients. Patients are more engaged and better understand the treatment recommendations. Therefore, they are more likely to accept and follow through on the plan. Teams can also speak more knowledgeably about the financial and insurance implications. No one likes surprises, so having the right information available for financial discussions is key to success.
If team members are printing paper — which is outdated the minute it comes off the printer — or reaching for calculators, it’s a signal the team is not taking advantage of technology. This may be due to unwieldy software that a team chooses to “work around,” rather than fully integrating the benefits offered by software into the practice’s daily operations.
Recare is an area in which software can make a big difference in efficiency. Your practice-management software should assist with patient follow-up by notifying you when continuing care is due, and streamlining patient communications via the practice’s preferred method. Setting up systems for recare and following through with communications are some ways to build and sustain practice growth.
Support financial goals
To be successful, a practice must simultaneously look at two financial objectives: growing the bottom line and maintaining profitable collection procedures.
Keeping an eye on overall goals goes beyond ensuring patient satisfaction and helping patients invest in optimal dental care. You can use practice-management software to track financial goals to gain insight instantly into how the practice is doing based on scheduled dollars on the books. This gives you time to react and make adjustments. By using tools in the software to track and contact patients with unscheduled treatments, you can help ensure the goals will be met by month’s end.
Doctor preferences also can be integrated into the system to balance production and maximize efficiency. For example, a doctor who is more productive in the morning may want to schedule crown and bridge work in the morning and save smaller restorative procedures for the afternoon.
Receivables are just one component of ensuring the bottom line stays in the black. Options for electronic claims, payments, and patient billing provide efficiency for the team and help facilitate timely and accurate payments.
Practice-management software offers the opportunity to improve practice communications, efficiency, and the bottom line, if it is selected and deployed to its potential. The best practices integrate technology throughout the workflow and use this tool to achieve higher levels of success.
Bonnie Pugh is a consultant with Banta Consulting, bringing more than 25 years of combined industry and business experience to her role, including a mastery of SoftDent practice-management software from Carestream Dental. She is acting executive director of the Speaking Consultant Network. Reach her at [email protected].
Past DE Issues