Guest Blog: 5 Key Questions Your Dental Practice Must Answer!

Today we have a guest blogger, Cathy Warschaw, of Warschaw Learning Institute. I hope you find her insight useful to the success of your practice!

Have you ever walked into a patient’s room and asked, “How are you Mrs. Smith?” only to learn you were speaking to Mrs. Jones? Has your office ever mistakenly billed a patient for a procedure that didn’t occur? Have there ever been errors made on insurance forms that were filed? If so, your office may be at great risk. Poor filing procedures and organizational skills can doom a practice, affecting dental team efficiency and customer service–putting it at risk for losing money and patients.

But, there are 5 questions your practice should be able to answer. . . And the answers will help specify the procedures and steps that are critical to having a well-organized office:

1. Who will pull the file and where will it be placed? Most dentists have hundreds of patients and all of these patients have files–usually in both electronic form and in folders. Lost or misplaced patient files can lead to unnecessary hours spent searching for the file or recreating the file. And if the patient needs to be notified regarding a lost file, it will reflect poorly on the practice. Outline the exact steps for who will pull a patient file, when it will be pulled, and where it will be placed. In addition, since computers can crash, some type of backup, whether on a disc or in written form, should exist to make sure patient information is protected.

2. Does the file follow the patient into the operatory or will the dentist retrieve it from the front office? Outline the specific steps for how a file will be routed through the office once it is pulled. As soon as someone is finished with a file, document or instrument, it should be returned to its proper place immediately! A file lying on a desk or in an operatory is a file that can be easily misplaced or lost. In addition, placing a file in its proper place means that if the patient calls after his or her appointment with a question about their procedure, the file is easier to find when it is in its designated area.

3. Who is ultimately responsible for the file? Be sure to identify a member of the dental team who will “manage” patient files and take the lead in tracking them

4. Will one person handle all insurance and billing? Specify who will handle all of the billing-related tasks and who will process insurance claims. One person should oversee these activities on a regular basis, rather than having several people handling the financial transactions. This makes for a more streamlined and efficient office.

5. Will the insurance and billing information be kept in the patient’s file or in a separate file? Don’t leave receipts, insurance claims orother information lying around. Create trays or folders for each of them and label them properly. Again, detail the type of information that will be maintained and where it will be located. This will allow dental team members to easily access information for patients should they have questions about insurance or their visit.

With each of these questions answered in detail, you will have clear procedures for all to follow. Be sure to communicate the procedures in written form (an office manual) and in staff meetings. Then, once all of the dental team members are following the same steps and processes, your office will run more efficiently and effectively.

Written by Cathy Warschaw, Director
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