Social media can be a useful tool to your dental practice. Many dentists are finding it a great way to connect with their patients and bring in new patients. Many people now use it to get their daily news. Today, if you are a dentist, I want you to use it for something else. Go online and read what hygienists are doing and saying. There are Facebook groups dedicated to getting out of hygiene and these groups are BIG. Hygienists on many forums and in many conversations have the same complaints. More is demanded of them for less reward. They spend the same money and time it would have taken to get a nursing degree but many of them don’t get full time work. They certainly don’t get the same benefits that are offered to nurses.
How did we get so many unhappy hygienists? Because we wanted to make our patients happy and we joined all the insurance networks. Suddenly our whole office needs to work harder to get paid. This resulted in shorter appointments and more admin work. That takes a physical toll on the body. It stresses hygienists out and they start to lose morale. So what can you do?
First you can make sure the administrative duties stay with the administrative staff. So many hygienists are reviewing insurance coverage and treatment to make sure they can take x-rays or do fluoride. That should be done before they open the chart. Your admin staff or verification company should have reviewed coverage and frequency and let the hygienist know the answers to the common questions the patient will ask.
Second your assistants should be helping with sterilization, room turn over, treatment planning and x-rays. These are tasks that don’t require a hygiene degree. It gives your hygienist back 5 minutes per appointment. And 5 minutes is huge.
Third, treat them like providers. Pay them like providers. Expect them to work like providers. They need to be educating your patients, they need to let that emergency patient fit into the opening in hygiene and triage the patient. Support expanded duties and further education. It will only improve your practice.
Is your dental practice experiencing a low collections rate or low morale due to overworked staff? As the practice owner, you may recognize things need to change but feel stuck and don’t know where to begin. Don’t fret! An effective, non-invasive solution of outsourcing billing and insurance eligibility to experts can help your dental practice thrive with satisfied patients, content staff, and increased monthly production.
There are common signs to look out for that indicate your dental practice could benefit from outsourcing, including:
- When phone calls with insurance companies (to get a breakdown of a patient’s benefits) are taking up too much time from your dental staff. Lengthily phone calls can take away valuable time with patients and can negatively impact your business. If patient interactions are suffering, it’s time to outsource your eligibility so your front office staff can focus on what matters most.
- When the dental office manager says, she can’t get all her work done or refuses to take a lunch break and works overtime. This is a sign you need a second pair of eyes on your dental office’s books. The office manager is overworked and likely experiencing burnout, which increases the likelihood of her finding a new place of employment and leaving your dental practice in a bad spot. Outsourcing billing will allow your business operations freedom and not dependent on one person.
- When there is a big stack of EOBs that haven’t been posted or monthly production is taking longer than 30 days. There should always be less than a month’s production on the books for the said month. If it has been over 90 days old, you need to outsource.
- When your over-the-counter payments are not being collected by the front office staff because of competing demands (eligibility checking and billing). If these over-the-counter collections aren’t happening, it’s time to outsource.
- When you know you need a staffing change, but are afraid to act because your business hinges on your existing employees.
If your dental practice is experiencing any of these pain points, compare the financial impact of hiring an additional employee verse outsourcing. Hiring a billing manager requires a salary, benefits, employee management, etc. Outsourcing to experts such as Dental Support Solutions is paid on a percentage (3.5%) of monthly collections. If you have a slow month and collect less, you pay them less. It’s a smart, scalable solution to increase collections and decrease Accounts Receivable.
Outsourcing dental billing operations ensures that the practice can survive apart from any one employee and business can continue if an employee leaves. Outsourcing can remove fear and present you with another option. Don’t feel stuck! Dental Support Essentials works with dental practices to manage their eligibility and billing operations. Your Accounts Receivable will improve, productivity of your staff will increase and they’ll have more time to fill your schedule, since they won’t be bogged down by billing management.
It used to be that dental offices existed as their own little island. The same five employees would stay for 20 years and personal and professional lines could become blurred. From dentists giving their employees loans to babysitting each other’s children, dental office staff interacted as an extended family unit. Dental office environments continually evolve and as technology advances, the landscape of employee and HR management needs to change. Time and time again, dentists don’t protect themselves or their practice until it’s too late and a former employee is wreaking havoc on operations.
Invest time upfront on simple procedures and documentation to ensure your dental practice has a trustworthy, accountable staff.
- Sign a non-disclosure and non-compete agreement
Create a non-disclosure for all employees, and non-compete agreement for dental associates and hygienists to review and sign. This agreement outlines that if the employee leaves the practice for any reason they (1) will not recruit patients, (2) will not tell patients why they are leaving the practice and (3) will not inform patients of their new employer. The sale of a dental practice is a common event for staff attrition to take place. With change in practice ownership, staff don’t always stay under the new dentist.
Hygienists and dental assistants take immense pride in building authentic, caring relationships with patients and often feel like they may have ownership over the relationship. Hygiene accounts for about 30 percent of a dental office’s business. Don’t allow your hygienists to reduce the selling value of your practice or impact your revenue if they leave on unhappy terms.
- Perform criminal background checks
Criminal background checks are a common hiring procedure across industries to give a comprehensive report of a candidate’s history and background. This ensures you’re hiring dependable, ethical staff members. Some dentists may feel criminal background checks are big deal or “over-the-top”, but you are ultimately protecting your practice and business.
I’ve worked with several dental practices that did not complete criminal background checks prior to hiring front office staff resulting in bad hiring decisions of former convicted felons. One red flag to be aware of is extreme gaps in employment history. This can sometimes indicate potential past criminal history. And remember, this isn’t a matter of a lack in trust, but having a low-cost solution to making smarter hiring decisions and protecting your patients, staff, and practice.
- Document all employees have received (and agree) to the dental office employee manual
A dental office employee manual outlines procedures and expectations for each employee of a dental office including, standard conduct, dress code, HIPAA and OSHA compliance, etc. To ensure compliance, each employee should receive a copy of the employee manual and provide a signature that they have received it. Documenting the rules and employee’s signatures of agreement will help with employee and HR relations if situations arise.