The front office team is frequently the first and last point of contact for patients on their appointment day. We all know the importance of establishing a good doctor/patient relationship, but the front office team plays a pivotal role in creating a positive dental experience as well. This can be challenging due to the many tasks that must be completed each day to maintain a good practice flow. Identifying these day to day challenges is the first step to overcoming them.
Answering multiple phone lines in a friendly and patient manner, dealing with constant interruptions, and long to-do lists can create a time management challenge. Patient communication whether in person, over the phone, or by email is a necessary but time-consuming task. Submitting insurance claims, posting payments and adjustments, researching outstanding claims, verifying insurance, creating treatment plans, logging lab cases, collecting payments, and confirming appointments cannot be neglected. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the daily responsibilities of many front office dental professionals. Temperature checks, reviewing health questionnaires for each appointment, and sanitizing equipment have added to an already full list of responsibilities.
It is advantageous to verify insurance at least a day or two before an appointment. Failing to verify insurance coverage in advance can make it difficult to collect payment on time if at all. This task may take several hours to complete each day depending on patient volume and the verification method used. Fortunately, there are tools and services available to reduce the time needed to complete this vital task.
Front office professionals must realize their contribution to the retention and satisfaction of dental patients. Negative online or word of mouth reviews can do a lot of damage to a dental practice. By being proactive it is possible to avoid many patient complaints, but when they arise being a good listener and showing empathy can help defuse tense situations making it possible to arrive at a satisfactory solution for the patient and the practice. Patient recognition is not only a good marketing tool but is also a great way to make a patient feel appreciated and more inclined to recommend the practice to others.
Collections and AR Management
Attracting new patients, retaining old patients, and maintaining a full schedule are common practice goals, but failing to collect fees from the patient and their insurance company can cause a significant cash flow problem. Effective AR (accounts receivable) management requires dedicated time and concentration. Because this frequently neglected task is so important, some practices have chosen to outsource this duty to a person or company that can give it their full attention.
Maintaining a Full Schedule
A lot of pressure is put upon the front office staff to keep the schedule full and the production high. It can be very stressful when a patient cancels at the last minute or doesn’t show up for their appointment at all. Presenting treatment plans in a way that promotes case acceptance, verifying benefits in advance, and creating and utilizing hygiene recall and outstanding treatment lists are great ways to keep the schedule full.
Acknowledging and facing the day-to-day challenges experienced by the dental front office staff is essential to meeting practice goals and maintaining long-term patient relationships.