It's no secret that the front office team of any dental practice is what makes a dental practice profitable. They handle the volume of patients that come in, make sure schedules are organized and in place, and check that each patient's insurance benefits are up to date and active. The dentist can't perform services and get paid easily if these tasks aren't completed.
Whether you're a dentist or office manager reading this -- you want the administrative team to help keep the practice in tip-top shape. This means you want the team to have systems that are productive and profitable.
What are the traits of an effective dental office team? To find out, you don't have to watch their every move. You can see it in the numbers, and that's what our remote billers see even though they are not in the office.
In this article, I will share six signs you have a productive and profitable dental administrative team so that you can evaluate not only the quality of their work but the financial health of your practice.
1. There are clear systems and processes for everything
A team that works together toward established goals brings true value to any place of business. When there are specific steps in place for how to handle billing, scheduling, insurance verification, and check-in, the practice will run smoothly. The day will feel less chaotic and everyone on the administrative team knows what their responsibilities are.
A streamlined insurance verification process
Finding a good system for insurance verification can be hard for dental teams. It's the least favorite part of the billing process for many people because it can feel a little mindless and repetitive. However, if your team can get verification right, it can set the tone for the rest of the billing process.
It also keeps your patients happy by giving them clear communication about their insurance benefits. If your team leaves plenty of time between the initial call from the patient and scheduling the appointment to verify their insurance benefits before their visit, you're in good shape.
The front office staff should have a form that they use to make the process of insurance verification quick and efficient. And insurance verification software also helps with efficiency.
Your team should always know the full breakdown of the patient's benefits so they can communicate what the patient's out-of-pocket expense will be and what you can expect to collect from the insurer after the claim is filed.
A streamlined billing process
Everyone has a different way of doing things when it comes to dental billing. And every office is different! The goal is that your office has a great system that works to fully collect the revenue you've worked for.
This means that whoever is working on billing (or anything, really) has a schedule that they follow daily. They have a time of day they've planned for posting payments in the dental software and a separate time when they work on the aging report.
They post electronic funds transfer (EFT) payments at least weekly, knowing paper checks and bank deposits have daily deadlines. EFTs, as we all know, don't hit bank accounts daily for all insurance companies or even when they say they do.
So, it is not efficient to log in to web portals every single day looking for EFTs over and over again. The goal is to maintain them within the week the funds are released.
A team that notes any extra steps in the workflow and removes them saves you time and money. As I said earlier, every office is different when it comes to its processes and systems, but as long as they're organized, make sense, and are worked through every day, your admin team is in a good place.
2. There are designated billers for both insurance and patient billing
Your dental office needs to be set up in a way where everyone's roles and responsibilities are clear. This means no one is overwhelmed, and no one is overworked.
If this is the case for your practice, it could be causing not only burnout among your employees but also poor performance. Your billing functions are too important to lose to burnout. You need one person in charge of insurance billing and another in charge of patient billing.
You either have an insurance coordinator or have outsourced to a dental billing company
Having one person oversee your insurance billing process from start to finish is crucial for claim accuracy and a regularly worked aging report.
Whether this person is an outsourced dental biller or an in-house insurance coordinator, you need one person who is accountable for ensuring that insurance billing is being done correctly. Their expertise and time dedicated to insurance billing will minimize problems with claims and help your practice bring in more money.
When you have the right resources focused on insurance claims, the employee or billing company can spend their entire day focused on submitting accurate, timely claims to insurers while also researching and fighting to appeal previously denied claims. All of this is its own full-time job, so it should not fall onto someone who is responsible for other tasks around the office.
You have kept your patient billing in-house and have one person responsible for it
It's important that patient billing is kept in-house and handled in a streamlined way because, obviously, it's directly affecting the patient.
The patient's portion of any procedure's cost is the most sensitive issue for many patients, even though their insurance will pay for a portion of it. Whoever is in charge of patient billing needs to effectively communicate to the patient what their benefits do and do not cover.
Also, ideally following a procedure, you should collect the patient's portion, then you will receive the other portion from insurance within a few weeks. The patient should be prepared to pay this amount, because your patient biller should have given them an approximate price before the procedure when their benefits were being verified. If this process goes smoothly, your patients won't have any complaints when it comes to paying their portion.
3. The practice collections percentage is 98% or higher, and the insurance aging report is 10% or lower
You can always evaluate your team's performance by looking at the numbers. If insurance collections are 98% or higher and the insurance aging report is 10% or lower, you're in a good place. These numbers reflect how your billing team is working.
You are collecting consistently from insurance companies
Your insurance collections percentage is how much your submitted claims are being reimbursed by insurance. Insurance collections can make up over half of your entire revenue, so it's important that this number is close to 100%.
Here is how to calculate your insurance collections percentage:
Total collections/Total adjusted production = Collections percentage
If you have clear systems in place and the insurance billing expertise you need, your collections percentage should be close to 100%.
Someone is continuously working on the insurance aging report
Your aging report is a list of outstanding claims. Most dental claims are paid and should be received in your office within two weeks. The claims can be shown on the insurance company's website immediately or within 48 to 72 hours, depending on the insurer.
Someone (likely your insurance biller) needs to regularly go through this aging report and resolve the unpaid claims. This means they are calling the insurance company to appeal claims and doing research to figure out why it was denied in the first place.
A common mistake insurance coordinators make is resending denied claims instead of calling insurance companies to find what they need to pay the claim. Simply resubmitting the same claims will not get them paid.
There's likely a reason the claim was not paid originally that needs to be addressed. Resubmitting the claim while noting what you need to close such claims in the future will be a much more effective strategy.
4. The schedule is always full
Even though you're a healthcare provider, you're still a business. You need customers, or in this case, patients! Your schedule needs to keep you productively busy every day. This means your admin team is taking steps to fill the dental chair.
Someone is taking the time to follow up on unscheduled treatments
Unscheduled treatments are both good healthcare and revenue opportunities. You may have many patients who have come in and have a treatment plan that requires them to come in again.
You also have patients who have not yet scheduled a time to return for treatment. This list of patients is whom you should be calling.
Someone is following up with patients on their insurance benefits
Unfortunately, most patients don't understand how their insurance benefits work. It becomes your job to explain to them how their benefits can be used and how your practice can help them.
Annual maximum insurance benefits don't roll over to the next year. If your patient doesn't use it, they lose it. Your team needs to explain how patients can take full advantage or "max out" the full amount insurance will pay. For example, most patients have a maximum amount of coverage, which is typically around $1,500 per year. If they only use $200 of it in one year, the difference of $1,300 is gone.
Helping your patients be strategic about dividing up their benefits maximum to help them save money is truly the most logical way to get them in the chair, especially before the end of the year.
5. There is high, consistent patient retention
Have you seen a drop-off in patients you used to regularly see? Have you noticed more free time in your day in the past few months?
If the answer is no to both of these questions, your practice is probably retaining patients well. If the answer was yes ... well, that's why we're writing this article, to help you figure it out!
You are seeing a lot of the same patients come in for their annual appointments
Not only will your well-run practice have plenty of new patients coming in, but you'll have a good number of returning patients who come in for their routine appointments and all of their oral health needs.
One sign of trouble is when patients leave dental practices because the team failed to communicate an accurate out-of-pocket cost or didn't communicate this amount at all. We've also seen patients leave practices because dental teams did not explain what a downgrade was and how it affected the patient's insurance plan.
A key factor in keeping patients is communication. If your dental admin team is effectively communicating costs and schedules to your patients, you shouldn't have a problem retaining patients.
Your team is working to provide a smooth patient experience
This goes without saying, but is your team kind and polite to patients? This factor really does impact the patient experience, and if your team isn't polite, it can cause patients to switch dental providers.
If your team is professional and puts the patient's experience first, then patients should have no reason to leave due to their experience with your admin team.
6. There are good online reviews
Believe it or not, a lot of patients find their dentist through the internet. If there are positive reviews of your dental practice online, they'll see that other patients have had a positive experience with you. This will lead patients you don't even know to come through your doors expecting an amazing dental experience.
If you've received a few complaints or negative reviews, this is an important opportunity to address them with your team and find the root of the problem.
Continuously evaluate your dental billers to ensure your practice remains financially healthy
To make sure your practice remains or becomes successful, you should always evaluate your team's performance. From your office manager to your billers to the person handling scheduling, every team member makes or breaks the productivity of your dental practice. This is why you need to make sure you have the best team in place.
Sarah Traeger is the content manager for the dental billing company Dental Claim Support.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.