8 Ways To Improve Your Dental Practice’s Productivity

A dental office is unique in that the most successful ones find a way for operations and office management to work together, running on efficiency, enhanced workflow management, systems, and synchronized product integration.

But things can still fall through the cracks.

According to Dentistry IQ, the average net production per hour dollar amount for dentists has been steadily increasing since 2012, but it’s still down from the high that it reached in 2010. And the average dental hygiene net production per hour has dropped steadily throughout the last decade.

So what can increase productivity in a dental office?

Here are 8 ways to make your dental office more efficient.

Improve telephone communication and interaction

Often the first interaction that a patient has with your office will be on the phone, and as they say, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Because of this, it’s necessary to train your staff to answer and communicate in the most professional manner possible, making sure they know how to handle any issues that may arise.

Staff should become comfortable with reading a caller and understanding how to keep someone on the phone to book an appointment, knowing that they might have to overcome an objection. For example, if a new caller is hesitant to book an appointment, train staff to offer them two different appointments and remind them that the office can try to accommodate their schedule.

It’s also a good idea to have staff remind callers about the importance of oral hygiene, passing along messages such as, “it’s a good idea to book an appointment now because our calendar fills up fast.” If callers express concern about payments, have quick-reference information for staff so they can quickly recite payment options to callers.

A quick follow-up phone call after a procedure is an easy way to convert your callers into long-term patients. You don’t have to do this with every patient that comes in, but it might make all the difference in a new patient’s decision to return to your office in the future.

Reduce late arrivals and no-shows

You’re never going to completely eliminate patients who show up late or don’t show up at all, but there are steps that you can take to reduce this unfortunate (and frustrating) occurrence. Send dental appointment reminders to patients well ahead of time, so they can reschedule their appointment if necessary. It’s also a good idea to send a dental appointment reminder the day before or even the morning of the appointment.

There are systems available, like Lighthouse 360, that will automate this process, leaving your front desk team more time to work on other tasks. Your team can send reminders via text, email, or automated phone calls — depending on the individual patient’s contact preference. Of course, sometimes cancellations happen despite your best efforts. When that’s the case, have your automated system or staff contact patients with interest in taking that appointment.

Streamline set-up and intake

When it comes to getting the required registration information from new dental patients, this often means time-consuming forms for the patient to fill out by hand, which means more time in the waiting room and even more time staff will spend inputting that information. Instead, look to switching to a paperless new patient process that allows patients to fill out their forms quickly and easily — even from a mobile device.

Another essential step to increase your practice’s efficiency is quickly setting up treatment rooms and chairs with the necessary tools for exams and treatments. Create a system for how dental hygienists and dental assistants set up for each patient. It’s the simple things — like storing extra tools and supplies near each chair — that can help speed things up.

Automate billing

Traditional methods of billing are time intensive and vulnerable to human error, which is why every office should take advantage of automated billing. Not only does this provide you with more time throughout the day to focus on other tasks, but it also provides dental offices with more access to insurance programs and payment options.

If you’re still using paper billing systems, it can take several days or even weeks to receive payments. Many insurance companies don’t even use paper billing anymore, so processing claims can take significantly longer than their electronic counterparts. Using an electronic automated billing system means your office gets funds faster, easier, and in a secure way. And if there’s an issue with a claim, staff will be immediately notified and adjustments can quickly be made.

Upgrade your payment technology

Speaking of which, if you’re taking payments in your dental office, make it a point to make the experience a smooth and streamlined as possible. See to it that you’re using the latest credit card machines and payment terminals, so you can initiate transactions quickly.

You also want to work with a payment processor that provides great customer service to ensure that any issues will be resolved quickly.

Improve communication between front and back offices

In order to operate at maximum efficiency, there has to be excellent communication between the front and back offices. There are several ways you can go about this, and it will vary from office to office. Some suggestions include:

Share your goals — Make sure all staff know’s the mission statement and vision statement for your dental practice. This is the first step to improving overall communication and getting your team on the same page.

Hold a morning meeting — Everyone is busy, but a quick meeting each morning can get your staff off on the same page. Go over the day’s schedule, let them know if anything unusual is happening that day, and confirm everyone knows their responsibilities so processes can run as efficiently as possible.

Focus on communication during handoffs —  When a patient is passed from reception to hygienist, from hygienist to dentist, and back to reception after treatment, there is the chance that communication can break down. Consider developing a script for staff to use. For example, the receptionist can introduce the patient to the hygienist and say something like,”Mr. Jones is here for a cleaning and is also experiencing a little bit of pain in his tooth.” This will save time and ensure there’s no miscommunication.

Systematize written communications — By taking notes on each patient each visit and using a cloud-based practice management tool, you ensure that everyone on staff — from the front desk to the dentist —  has current information available, and can communicate in an accurate fashion.

Pay attention to customer complaints

No matter how great your practice is, you can’t please everyone, and there are going to be some customer complaints. Instead of dismissing them, take them into account and see how you can increase the efficiency of your office based on their feedback.

It helps to have a system in place to streamline the complaint process. Include forms on your website or through an email link to get all the information you can from the patient about the situation, then conduct follow-up on the negative comments — including staff involved in the incident.

By addressing issues and missed opportunities, you can help prevent the same situation from happening again. As a result, you won’t lose valuable time — or patient trust — as a result of a similar incident.

In addition, follow up with the patient and let them know that there complaint is being addressed, letting them know of any changes that might have resulted from their feedback. They will appreciate your transparency and it helps maintain their trust in you so they feel welcome to return again.

Implement digital employee scheduling systems

It might sound like a broken record, but if you can automate or digitize any process, it’s going to help run a more efficient office — and that includes scheduling. Paper calendars simply don’t cut it anymore, so it’s time to upgrade to an electronic scheduling system.

With a digital schedule, you can track changes and allow multiple employees to see space and opportunities for work throughout the entire organization. In addition to allowing you to schedule employees into alloted working hours, many systems also make it so you can pay them and track their employee deductions, payroll, and taxes in the same systems.

Employees can request time off, leave, vacation, sick time, and more. Since everyone’s information is in the same place, you can see the staffing situation of your office in just a matter of seconds.

The final word

Every dental practice can work on ways to become more efficient, and often it’s simply taking a look at how things are currently being done and tweaking a process or two. Remember that you don’t rush through time with patients as you work to improve efficiency. The more efficient you are with other office tasks, the more time you will have to spend giving patients the care and attention they deserve.