Is your dental staff person the problem?

Is your dental staff person the problem?

A terrible mistake

I made a mistake entering an insurance payment. A big mistake. I entered a $979 Delta payment into a patient’s account – when in reality, Delta paid $0 on the claim and the Patient Responsibility was $979.Dental staff management

Even though our receptionist caught the unusual credit when the patient checked out for her seat crown appointment and the account was corrected, I felt awful. And, the dentist also felt awful – how could her smart office manager make such a big mistake? We had a big meeting and introduced some steps to slow down the insurance payment process – a new stamp marked “posted”, new instructions to circle the payment entered on the claim and required initials beside the amount.

Even with this new documentation, this mistake was still on my mind. I felt really bad and was questioning my ability – perhaps I had reached some sort of limit for what I could do? I have many skills in dental management, but perhaps the detail work of insurance payment entry just wasn’t a task I could manage successfully? Even worse, the dentist had come to the same conclusion and she was already beginning to run reports on my adjustments to recheck my entries – and making plans to replace me for this task.

This bad feeling went on for a couple days – and during those days I was telling this story to my closest friends in dentistry – one of which has entered insurance payments for over 30 years for a group practice. She understood the error – and we commiserated about the variety of styles of EOB – but then she asked the right question – “What checks and balances do you have in place so you can catch this kind of dental insurance error?”

It’s the system, not the person

Checks and balances? On dental insurance payments? Clearly, I was missing a major part of this system – lucky me, I get to learn this lesson the hard way! She described the system she set up in her office – a printout of the EFT payments that came in that day, an excel spreadsheet to document each dental insurance check and every other type of payment received that is going into the deposit that will be taken to the bank, the Practice Analysis screen in Dentrix that shows real time A/R and collections, and the Dentrix payment summary report that must match the spreadsheet. Everything matches – or you have an error that you have to find and fix.

A wave of relief flooded over me. A system for checks and balances used every day didn’t exist in my office. When I stepped into the role of entering insurance payments, it was new to me and frankly, I was feeling good that I had effectively taught myself how to enter these payments in a brand new software system. Until I made this error and everything was upset, I had no idea we needed a checks and balances system. I realized the problem wasn’t me, the problem was the system.

Its your turn: Set up systems to support your dental staff training

So, now let me ask, do you have a problem with a staff person in your office? Think about that problem. Perhaps it’s an assistant that doesn’t stay on top of all the cleaning and sterilization duties? Perhaps your hygienist stays an extra hour on the clock at day’s end to enter clinical notes for her patients? Or maybe your receptionist isn’t verifying insurance properly for your new patients?

It would be easy to say that these people are bad, or distracted, or stupid – but instead, take a look at the system you have set up to help them succeed. Do you have a checklist for the insurance verification procedure that your receptionist can use for each new patient? How about a list of each cleaning and sterilization procedure you want done on a daily basis that can be checked off and initialed?

In my case, I’m going to implement a checks and balances system immediately. I’m pulling together the dentist, the accountant and the new person who’s taking over entering insurance payments and we’re going to set up a daily system to create the necessary checks and balances. We will solve several problems: How will the dentist or accountant get us the EFT report from the bank each day? Where in EagleSoft can we see in real time the same type of info my friend told me about in Dentrix? I will create our own spreadsheet to track payments and serve as the “everything must match or you have an error” report. And when this system is in place, I will have saved the new staff person from the fate I experienced.

What system can you put in place to solve the problems of your practice?

Setting up systems is just one way to run a successful dental practice. If you’re interested in new ideas on running a dental practice, please subscribe to my weekly blog. One of the biggest challenges to managing a dental practice is managing dental insurance. With dental insurance handled, then dental marketing for new patients becomes a primary focus. In today’s day of online reviews, handling patient complaints well is essential. As your practice grows, hiring dental staff becomes more important. With 16+ years of dental practice management experience, I’m open to your questions to help you run a successful dental office.

Feel free to email me.

AUTHOR: Jill Nesbitt
1 Comment
  • C. Smith dds

    This is sure a good wake up call for me. I’m the senior dentist in our group, and I have no interest in accounting. However, after reading this article, I had my administrator review our approach- and we found several areas to improve.

    March 2, 2014