January 3, 2018
The front desk of a dental practice, as I like to say, could often be described as the busiest place on the planet. Answering the telephone, scheduling appointments, changing appointments, making financial arrangements, treatment plan coordination, insurance coordination, billing, collection calls, payroll, etc. The list of administrative responsibilities goes on and on and it is virtually endless. There are constant interruptions. There are always tasks to do with not enough hours in the work day to finish them. And that list is only for daily responsibilities. There is also a need to set aside blocks of time for specific projects like HR management, HIPAA and OSHA compliance, marketing initiatives, and website maintenance.
Yet while all of these tasks need to be accomplished, they must always be sublimated or set aside in order to consistently be able to offer an exquisite customer service experience, where every patient feels special and important and recognized. That is the constant dilemma – how can you organize your time to be able to accomplish your tasks but still give the feeling to every patient that they have your undivided attention?
There is no “one size fits all” solution. Depending on the size of the practice, the staffing requirements will be completely different. The challenges of the smaller office can often be even greater than the larger one. In my opinion, for every practice, there needs to be a conscious attempt to upgrade systems that will allow the front desk to operate more efficiently. These include but are not limited to on-line appointment scheduling, appointment confirmation, on-line payments, daily deposits from the comfort of your office, and electronic tablets to input patient data.
There are other behavioral changes that do not need new technology that can be a huge help to your administrative staff.
• Practice management software training at least once per year.
• Support from clinical staff – especially Hygiene – to schedule future appointments from the treatment room.
• The doctor understanding the work flow at the front and not requesting “stuff” to be done unless it is urgent or really important.
• Cross training for front desk personnel in order to mitigate the impact of vacations and sick days.
I hope that these suggestions will stimulate you to develop an action plan to retool the workings of your front desk. This is not an overnight fix. This will take time and creativity. Schedule a number of meetings with your staff this month. Listen to their input. Get consensus. And then start to create some momentum. Continuing to do what you’ve always done and expecting better results – I don’t think so! It’s a New Year – how about a New You.
This is the first of five posts on how successful dental practices can increase their growth and profitability in 2018. Next week’s topic – staying on time.
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