The current health-care landscape is producing a stressful environment for dentists and their staff. Dental professionals find themselves dealing more with regulatory requirements and people-related issues instead of patient treatment plans. What’s the solution? To become more productive and efficient in running the practice. By taking advantage of the various technology support services that help practices run more smoothly, dentists will have more time to practice their craft and spend time with patients.
As any owner of a dental practice knows, there’s a lot more to running the business than treating patients.
Billing patients and insurance companies, handling accounts payable and receivable, and becoming proficient on dental software programs.
All of these duties have a negative impact on both the time dentists are available for their patients, and the profitability of the practice. A viable solution that benefits dentists, staff and patients is outsourcing. Contacting out the busy work dentists and their staff have more time to better serve their patients.
It’s no secret that dentist’s face increasing constraints on their time. First and foremost, a dentist’s role is to be a dentist. This means providing high-quality care for their patients, which entails creating treatment plans and participating in continuing education to keep abreast of the latest innovations in dentistry.
At the same time, dentists need to be the CEOs of their practices. In this capacity, they are tasked with:
- Hiring, training, firing and managing staff
- Marketing the practice
- Understanding insurance changes and HIPAA regulations
- Managing the billing, collections and accounts payable/receivable processes
- Ensuring the office is running smoothly
- Maintaining office technology
- Dealing with economic conditions affecting the bottom-line of the practice
In conversations with dentists, I’ve found business issues are taking up more and more of their time. Dr. William K Rich from Precision Dental Plan in Walton, Kentucky, is one dentist who has seen the business issues grow exponentially.
“Compliance issues are an increasing challenge with credentialing, audits and regulatory issues around HIPAA,” Rich said. “It’s difficult to keep up with the administrative burden.”
To the basic demands of being businesses name producers, dentists have very little time to actively manage the practice. Yet, ignoring the business side of the practice and severely impact the growth of their business.
For example, a dentist may have the best state of the art equipment available, offer a multitude of services, and produce at a higher rate every month. But if the office is only collecting at 60 percent of the revenue associated with this work, the business is not running at its best capacity. The answer lies in establishing and maintaining reliable billing, collections, scheduling and other office systems so that the practice will run efficiently.
Running an efficient dental practice
Typically, the front office personnel are responsible for billing patients and insurance companies, with oversight from the dentist(s) who owns the practice. In addition to determining the correct billing codes for insurance paperwork, as well as the patients’ payment responsibilities, staff are tasked with the printing, folding, stuffing, sealing, stamping and mailing of monthly invoices. They also handle the management of insurance companies explanation of benefits, accounts receivables, collections and scheduling of patients. All of these duties are time-consuming.
Possessing the education, equipment, and knowledge to be a successful dentist is only part of what is required to operate a successful dental practice. Dentists also need to know how to run the business side of the practice. Yet running an effective business practice places additional time demands on dentists and staff, drawing them away from the patient-related tasks. One alternative is to use outsourced partners to take over labor-intensive business functions so that dentists can make their business more successful.
Outsourcing dental business functions
Many dental practices use consultants or outside companies to manage some or all of the day-to-day business aspects of the dental practice. While outsourcing these tasks may be cost effective and economical, the bigger appeals are the time saving features that allow for enhanced business efficiency.
“A lot of dentists come out of school dreaming about doing dentistry and they become disillusioned after a short time learning that not only do they have to do dentistry, they have to run a business,” said Dr. Michael Criscione, owner of Criscione Family Dentistry in Lake Oswego, Oregon. When dentists are overwhelmed with the business aspects of their practices, it’s time to seek help.