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For overworked OMs, help is out there

April 14, 2022
OMs are the heart of any dental practice, but they can become overwhelmed managing a mountain of tasks. Thankfully, help is available.

Let’s just get it out there: Dental office managers face so many challenges. Every office manager is different. Every office is different. Each has its own unique set of circumstances, strengths, and weaknesses.

To simplify our discussion, let’s separate OM challenges into two varieties: human resources (HR) and administrative (i.e., tasks related to everyday job duties).

Administrative challenges

Normally, most office managers don’t need to be too concerned with the everyday workings of the dental assistants. Now, I’m not talking about HR issues, just the tasks they perform. Generally, if the doctor is unhappy with a dental assistant, the office manager steps in.

Front desk duties, so to speak, are really where it’s at for an office manager. Insurance verifications, claims, narratives, follow-up, and credentialing seem to be the most challenging tasks. They’re time-consuming, and if done incorrectly or inefficiently, they’ll cost the office time and money.

Human resources challenges

HR is an overwhelming topic. Every state in the union has different laws and regulations that change on a yearly basis. It encompasses company policies and handbooks, onboarding, payroll, paid time off, risk management trainings, and various documentation. OSHA, HIPAA, the list goes on.

The fact is, regulations are stringent and violations are costly. There are so many elements to HR; where do we begin?

Let’s talk communication. It sounds simple. You may be thinking, I’m kind and nice and say “please” and “thank you” to the staff; and you should be commended for doing so. It’s not always easy to be kind when the phone is ringing off the hook and the disgruntled patient in front of you doesn’t understand why they have a co-pay.

Healthier communication, though, would involve bringing your staff in, reassuring them that you understand how busy they are, then following the rules and completing the trainings laid out in the company handbook with proper documentation. This will keep the office as a whole compliant with a myriad of regulations. It’s extremely important to work on positive communication to build the enduring culture every office manager wants.

ASOs and DSOs can provide relief

It’s fair to say that an office manager’s job is both stressful and overwhelming at times. So, how and where can OMs find relief from all their head-spinning duties? Some office managers, with the approval of the doctor/owner, have elected to outsource some of their administrative tasks to an administrative service organization (ASO), not to be confused with a dental support organization (DSO).

A DSO may provide some or all of the services an ASO provides, but a DSO typically has a financial stake in the practice and the staff usually works for the DSO, not the doctor/practice owner. An ASO, on the other hand, is simply a vendor that works for a fee, leaving the practice with its doctor-owned autonomy.

The exciting thing about dentistry is that we have many options, not only when it comes to cutting-edge technologies from laboratories to radiography and analytics, but also related to administrative support. There are many excellent DSO and ASO support companies out there, but if you’re looking for administration help only, an ASO may be your best option.

Hiring an ASO could prove to be extremely beneficial if your doctor/owner is considering opening additional locations, or if you need additional support but your current location doesn’t have the physical space. Solo practitioner or multiple locations, outsourcing some administrative tasks can be very advantageous, depending on your needs.

Productive OM, productive practice

Office managers are truly the heart of any practice. By reducing their administrative load, they allow more attention to be directed toward the patients. Even with today’s technologies in place, it can be a scary proposition to visit the dentist for some people. Fear is a very strong emotional reaction, and patients need to be comforted. If the staff sees, in a very tangible way, the office manager being attentive to nervous patients, most likely they will follow suit. That type of service is only possible if the office manager is not overwhelmed and has the proper time to spend with patients.

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There is no doubt the past two years have changed some things forever. Our industry is not exempt. The labor force has been altered by The Great Resignation. Industries across the board are finding it difficult to bounce back and rehire experienced, affordable staff.

In closing, I encourage you to think about what your pain points are. Where would assistance most benefit you and, in turn, your office? Do you need support with HR, front desk duties, or possibly both? Once you have a clear answer, have a candid conversation with the practice owner. You may find virtual assistance is the way to go.

About the Author

Matthew Jarvis

Matthew Jarvis resides in Upstate New York with his wife and business partner, Janice Jarvis. He has been in the DSO business since 1996, owning three dental management companies and building and managing 10 offices in Texas and New York. His latest adventure is Dental Ops: the Office Manager’s Virtual Assistant (OMVA), an ASO. The Dental Ops mission is to help as many doctors and office managers as possible with virtual assistance. Visit dentalops.org or email [email protected].

Updated April 14, 2022