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Training Options Guide for Dental Office Managers

Training Options Guide for Dental Office Managers

By Jill Nesbitt www.dentalpracticecoaching.com

 

Are you looking for training to be a better dental office manager?

Maybe you’re new to the field and need the basics:

  • What is the job of the dental office manager?
  • What are each of your responsibilities?
  • What does the dentist expect from you in this role?

Or perhaps you have worked in your office for a number of years, so now you feel you have the basics covered and you’re looking for new ideas to maximize your dental software or handle the holes in your schedule? In any case, you may be looking for an organized training resource that can help you develop your skills and improve your practice performance.

It can be a real challenge to find dental office manager training programs. Unlike a dental hygienist or expanded functions dental assistant, there is no associates degree for dental office management where you can simply apply and take classes targeted at the topics you need to know. Although most community colleges offer an associate’s degree in allied health, I am not including that as one of the options for training in this report because those programs are overly general in nature. For office managers who believe they would feel more confident with a college degree, this option may seem attractive. However, for training specific to dental office management, there are other options available.

There are a handful of options for dental office manager training:

  • Read magazines/blogs/journals
  • Complete an online course/report
  • Attend an in-person conference
  • Hire a dental consultant onsite or remote

Let’s review each of these options in more detail so you can find the best fit for you.

 

Read magazines/blogs/journals/forums

There are loads of excellent resources online – and most of them are free! This can be a great place for a dental office manager to begin to familiarize herself with the topics being discussed online. You’re definitely not the only one looking for resources to gain dental office management training!

A few great websites to check out:

www.dentaltown.com – Check out the Message Boards – there is one targeted for Practice Management & Administrative Forum

www.dentistryiq.com – Under the Assistants tab, click on the Office Manager dropdown

www.practicemanagement.dentalproductsreport.com

www.ada.org

www.drbicuspid.com – Subscribe to their enewsletter for industry updates

www.dentalpracticecoaching.com – Subscribe to the free blog

 

There are also several high quality journals for subscription:

Insurance Solutions Newsletter – www.dental-ins-solutions.com – Published 6x/year, this is the expert on dental insurance (and medical insurance too) issues. Along with your subscription, you can call or email with questions, so you will know exactly who to call when you have dental insurance questions. To order the newsletter & call support (this is the less expensive option): Insurance Solutions Newsletter Order Form  And, if to order a dental insurance (and medical too) code book: Coding with Confidence Order Form. If you print these out, fill them in & email or fax them, then you won’t have to spend time on the phone discussing other products.

The McGill Advisory – www.mcgillhillgroup.com/newsletter.asp – Covering topics related to finance and dentistry, this newsletter is a wonderful resource for dental practices.

ADA News – www.ada.org – If your dentist is a member of the American Dental Association, she will receive a subscription – read it to find out the latest updates on dentistry across the country.

Your state’s newsletter – Again, if your dentist is a member of her state’s dental association, she will receive a subscription – this will give you the updates closer to home.

 

Some worthwhile magazines to look into:

Progressive Dentist www.theprodentist.com

Dentaltown

Dental Economics www.dentaleconomics.com

 

Whew! You can tell, there are some excellent resources available for dental office managers to stay current with new ideas and find out about changes both nationally and in your state. To make the most of these resources, don’t just skim through them – read for ideas you can apply to your practice. You can always rip an article out of a magazine and bring it to your dentist to discuss.

Another avenue for magazines and online resources is your practice’s dental software. If your office has signed up for tech support with the dental software company, then dental office managers can often access special sections of their website at no addition fee. You can look for these dental software companies on facebook to see regular updates as well. One of my favorite sections on dental software websites are the On Demand training videos and tutorials – a dental office manager can work through the dental software training available online and learn mountains!

Can you find your dental software company in the list below?

Dentrix – www.dentrix.com

Easy Dental – www.easydental.com

EagleSoft – www.patterson.eaglesoft.net

Open Dental – www.opendental.com

 

Complete an online course/report

If you’re looking for more detailed training on a specific topic, then you may prefer to take an online course or download a training report. This option is a fit for office managers that are comfortable reading and learning on their own. Online courses and reports are generally reasonably priced and offer total flexibility for your time – you learn the information on your schedule.

Here are some of the online resources available:

www.dalefoundation.org – Offers online courses for dental office managers

www.mckenziemgmt.com/atc-officemanager.php

www.danb.org/The-Dental-Community/Office-Managers.aspx

www.dentalpracticecoaching.com/membership-options-page/level-1-dental-assistant-secretary-training/ – Offers instructional reports and subscription to training levels

www.vivalearning.com – Offers videos available through an app you can play on your iPad

 

Attend an in-person conference

The ADA www.ada.org and Academy of General Dentistry www.agd.org are national conferences that offer courses for every position in the dental practice, including dental office managers. Regional conferences such as the Hinman www.hinman.org or Yankee Dental www.yankeedental.com as well as most states dental association also offer classes targeted at the business side of dentistry. The American Association of Dental Office Managers  www.dentalmanagers.com is the only national dental office manager organization and they offer an annual conference where all of the classes are focused on the needs of the office manager. In person class training can be invaluable at these conferences, where a dental office manager can learn new ideas and discuss them with other attendees.

If your dentist regularly attends a conference in person, perhaps you could join him? Then while he attends clinical courses, you can attend the practice management classes. Attending a dental conference with your dentist is also an excellent opportunity to tour the exhibit hall together – you can learn more about the products your dentist is using and be on the lookout for ideas and resources that could help the practice with marketing, technology, etc.

 

Hire an onsite dental consultant

For one-on-one training, you can hire a dental consultant to come to your office, review how your office is running now and then train your team to improve results. You’ll want to make sure this consultant is experienced with your dental practice management software so that the training your team receives is useful immediately. Working with a dental consultant can be a great opportunity to gain dental office manager training while the office tackles specific improvement projects. Most dental consultants focus on measurable results, so office managers can learn which reports to run and how to increase their success.

A quick Google search for dental consultant will yield hundreds of results. Dental office managers looking for training may want to call a few consultants and ask about how they might go about creating a training program for the office. There are national and local consultants available so you can find a personality, service and cost mix that fits the type of training you are searching for.

 

Hire a remote dental consultant

A new trend is dental consultants who are willing to work remotely.  Using Skype, Logmein and conference calls, these consultants can provide customized training and support for the office and administrative staff without the expense of flights, hotel, rental car and multiple days onsite. Aside from saving money, working with a consultant remotely also allows the time to be managed in small chunks – instead of an onsite consultant spending 2 full days onsite, a remote consultant can take this 16 hours and spread it over several weeks in two hour increments focusing on specific tasks and training, even working this time into lunch breaks or days the office is closed and patient care is not interrupted.

Again, make sure this consultant is experienced with your dental practice management software and set up a plan for exactly what training will be accomplished for the time invested. Since training suggests that the dental office manager will invest the time and energy necessary to learn these new skills, the dentist will want to be clear on the responsibilities of each, the consultant and the office manager. Finally, to clearly measure the value of the training provided, ask the consultant to establish a measurable outcome for each area that will be trained.

There are a couple remote consultants I’m aware of at this time:

Teresa Duncan http://www.odysseymgmt.com/index.php

Jill Nesbitt https://dentalpracticecoaching.com/

 

We have reviewed each of the options available for dental office manager training. From reading print and online resources to taking online courses or downloading reports to attending conferences or hiring consultants, you have many options to gain the skills you need to improve your practice and grow your career. Your next step is to research which of these options fit your learning style and your dentist’s budget. It’s also very realistic that you may start with some of the less expensive options and eventually request to attend an in-person conference or invite a consultant onsite. There’s no reason you cannot use a variety of these options to develop your skills year over year.

No matter which training option you choose, you want to make sure that you accomplish three things:

  • Incorporate your dental software into the training
  • Measure the outcome
  • Implement what you learn

The key to your training is to actually turn this material into long term improvement in your practice. When you prove to your dentist that an investment in your training yields results, then you will have more opportunities for additional training. Your dentist will trust that when you learn something, you make it happen in the practice. To accomplish this, you need to consider how you will incorporate your dental software into the training, measure the outcome and implement what you learn.

 

Incorporate your dental software into the training

Often, dental office manager training classes provide content that can be applied to a wide variety of dental software platforms. General topic training on collections or insurance can be valuable for introducing new concepts and ideas, but taking this new idea and making it applicable into your office is the entire point of dental practice management training. For this reason, look for a resource that incorporates step by step instructions for your dental software along with the general concepts and approach.

When you can combine new ideas on practice management into your existing dental software, you also increase your understanding of what the software can do. For example, when you learn how to run one report in your dental software and transfer the data into excel so that you can manipulate it for the analysis you need, then you learn how the reporting function of your software works. So the next time you want to know something about your patient population, you can build on your knowledge from the first report.

Even with a program like Microsoft Word, the average user only works with less than 10% of the capabilities of the program. For dental practice management programs, it’s no different. These programs are often upgraded at least 1-2 times per year, adding new features designed to meet new regulations or to save time. The more you keep up with technology, the better you will understand your patients and the more successful you can communicate with them as well.

 

Measure the outcome

Now that you have selected the training resource you want to use and an implementation plan is in place, there is one last step to determine before the credit card comes out. Answer the question: How will we measure the outcome?

A popular guideline for determining the value of a course is that you can walk out with at least three implementable ideas. That means three ideas (large or small) that will improve the practice in some way, hopefully a measurable way, and that can be actually accomplished. If your office manager takes a course on collections, then whatever she implements as a result of her learning should increase the collections of the practice. Beware of general advice posing as an implementable idea. “Every front desk team member should smile when they answer the telephone.” is common sense, not an implementable idea. You should be expecting more meat from your training.

For office managers considering a specific class or report, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What problem will this class solve?
  • What exactly do I expect to learn?
  • What is the background of the trainer?
  • What is the cost of this training?
  • How will I put this into practice in my office?
  • How will I review this with the dentist to gain approval of this new approach?
  • How will I know this class was a success? How can I measure its success?

If you cannot answer every one of these questions, then contact the trainer/consultant/author and ask. You are planning to spend your time and the office money, so you want to make sure you are gaining value. Most of the answers will come from the description of the course/report but the questions about implementation and review with your dentist are up to you. Your dentist wants you to be well-trained. She may very well appreciate your taking the initiative to find a course and identify what you can learn from it as well as share your thoughts on how you will know if the course was worth the investment and how you will implement the new ideas with your dentist’s approval.

Often, a dental office manager feels she needs training on a particular topic, but she is worried that the dentist won’t approve the money for her to get trained. So, she doesn’t even ask. By using these questions and writing the answer to each, a dental office manager could create a one page proposal for her dentist to gain this approval. In fact, by providing a reasonable guess at the outcome, the dental office manager could present enough information to help the dentist determine the dollar value of the training. For example, let say the office manager feels she could use some help with collections. She could run an aging report to see her current performance, let’s say she finds $65,000 total due over 30 days. The course she wants to take costs $600, so she guesses that she could improve her collections by 20% across the board if she takes the class. If she increased her collections by 20%, that would be $13,000. Clearly, the $600 investment in training would be worth it!

 

Implement what you learn

It can be fun to attend a dental conference! Visiting a new city, talking with new colleagues, learning new ideas, it’s very exciting! Then, the dental office manager returns back at the office and the first thing staring her dead in the face is her full-to-overflowing inbox. Ugh. So, she starts to dig in to the notes of patients who need return calls, the insurance payments that need entered and all of a sudden it’s been 2 weeks and the notes from class are stuffed into a drawer, forgotten about.

Don’t let that happen to you! Before you select a training option, make a plan for how the new ideas you learn will be shared with the dentist, so the two of you can agree on the best approach for the practice, and then, make a plan for how these ideas will be implemented. Plan on the fact that you will be extra busy if you have been out of the office a few days and set a deadline for when your notes and recommendations need to be turned in to the dentist.

To create a plan for implementation, you need a plan for your time. The steps you might follow to implement the ideas learned in a course/report may include:

  1. Take the notes you wrote at the course/report and create a list of items “To Do” – What are the action steps you would need to take to implement these ideas into your practice?
  2. Organize your notes and talk with your dentist to set up a time to share your thoughts on this course/report – make an extra copy of your notes for your dentist and prepare for your meeting.
  3. Meet with your dentist – Give her a copy of your notes and share your thoughts on the course/report – ask for approval to implement the changes and let your dentist know when you expect to have the ideas you learned implemented so that you can provide a final report.
  4. Use your list of “To Do’s” and get started making the changes – with your busy schedule, you may want to plan to work on this project for 2 hours/week, if you reserve the time in your schedule, you’ll have a much better chance of getting it done!
  5. After you’ve implemented the ideas from the course/report, measure the outcome – Did you improve? Again, using our collections system example, maybe you start checking your outcome at the end of each month – and after a few months, can you see an improvement?
  6. Meet with your dentist again to share the results of your work. This is the most important step. If you can show measurable improvement – for example, if you can show that over the past few months you’ve dropped the over 30 days receivables from $50,000 to closer to $30,000 – this is a real success! You want to let your dentist know that because he allowed you to purchase the collections report and work with the remote consultant and he spent $800, you’ve implemented the ideas and so far have improved receivables by $20,000! When you can show this measurable success, what do you think will happen the next time you ask to attend a course or purchase a report?

 

Conclusion

Today’s dental office managers have many options for improving the financial performance of their practice. The more traditional options of hiring an onsite consultant or attending a course in person are now joined by the newer online courses/reports and even working with a remote consultant. Depending on your budget and time you can find a dental practice management resource that meets your needs. In fact, you could start with a less expensive option and figure out if you can successfully “do it yourself” before you move up the line of the more personal options.

No matter which training option you choose, you can ask how this training will incorporate your dental software so you can translate the new ideas into real improvement for your office, plus determine how you will measure the outcome and implement what you learn into your daily routine. By using this guide to training options, you can identify the best resources for training that will help you to make the biggest impact in your dental practice.


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