When I attended dental school, I learned a lot about producing dentistry, but absolutely nothing about running a dental practice. It becomes natural to do an exam, write a treatment plan, present it and provide care. But what about the front half of the office? What tasks do they undertake to keep the patients coming in to keep the treatment plans coming?
Let’s stop and reflect on what the administrative team members undertake daily. When we talk about the admin team, there are several models. There can be as few as one individual or as many as 3-5 employees overseeing what the clinical team refers to as the “front desk”. Let’s name a couple of their duties, starting with…
- answering phones
- keeping the schedule full utilizing a carefully documented cancellation list
- greeting the patients and checking them in (This is a bigger deal than most people think and can be exhausting
as you are continuously forming and maintaining trusting and long-lasting patient relationships.)
- checking patients out, collecting payment, rescheduling any necessary appointments, providing estimates for
future planned treatment
- aging claims clean-up (*30 plus days after treatment)
- EOB posting & processing (*including handling appeals & additional information requests)
- eligibility and benefit reports pulled from insurance online portals
- sending statements
- recall management to include:
*recall cards: hopefully filled out by the patient while in the hygiene chair
*recall rejuvenation: to recoup those patients who have fallen through the cracks
*recall is very important and can be very time-consuming, often falling to the bottom of the list
- accounts receivable
- delinquent accounts: predominately those balances that insurance didn’t cover
- financial arrangements: hopefully through an outside source
- accounts payable
- payroll taxes
- quarterly taxes
Does the clinical team know all these functions are buzzing up front? I doubt it. It took me years to get a full understanding of the full scope of what the admin team is doing up there. If I hadn’t purchased an existing practice, it would have been a disaster. I don’t believe you can hire a competent admin team if you’re not fully aware of the challenges at the “front desk”.
And how many people do you think it takes to get all of this done on a timely basis? What’s most important? What can wait? How does one decide? Okay, now I have a headache! Actually, none of it should wait; even with a competent admin team of 3-4 employees, all these tasks need to be attended to regularly.
Maybe you are limited on space and don’t have anymore room to add another employee or two. Maybe you’d prefer to limit your payroll expenses and look for outside help. Now there’s an idea! Hand over some of the busy work so your admin team can focus on the patients standing in front of them or the ones on the other end of your phone.
Whatever you do, the important thing is to be sure your Team has an excellent work/life ratio. Give them the opportunity to give your patients the very best experience they can. Make sure they aren’t pulled in so many directions that the stress begins to show. They’re your gatekeepers and every bit your right arm as your lead assistant. I’ve always been told by the numerous consultants I’ve encountered that the most difficult job in any dental office is sitting right inside the front door of your dental practice.
“Keeping customers is about the experience, and the employees control
the culture and temperature of the business. Never forget that.”