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Thursday Troubleshooter: Dentist not convinced office manager needs help

Sept. 3, 2020
This office manager is having a hard time convincing the dentist that she needs more than a few hours of extra help in the very busy front office. She wants to run an efficient front office, but it's becoming harder and harder. What can she do?

This column is here to guide dental professionals with advice from the experts . . . because they’ve been there. Remember, you are not alone! Send your questions to [email protected]. Those who reach out will remain anonymous if their questions are used on DentistryIQ.

QUESTION: I’m the office manager in a busy office with one doctor, one assistant, and two hygienists. We see 30 or more new patients per month, and our annual production is around $1 million. I am the only one in the front office. For three years I have been trying to get my boss (who works off-site a majority of the time and is in my location only four hours each week) to understand why I need more help. I’ve been told my concerns come down to time management, but I’m already working 50 hours a week in a salaried position that was presented to me as 40 hours a week, and my work is still not complete! I am a very skilled multitasker, but I feel I’ve reached my absolute limit. I ended up confronting the dentist and demanding help or I would leave, so he hired someone with no experience for six hours a week at low pay.

How can I convince my boss that we should have at least one other full-time front office member, or is this truly an issue of my time management? Things have become much busier since reopening after the shutdown, but the dentist uses that as an excuse for why he can’t pay anyone else right now. I’m not able to do consultations or field calls or deal with any of the management issues that I should be dealing with. I essentially tell the rest of the team that they’re on their own because I’m swamped. Please help shed some light on this! Thank you.

Your dilemma is not unusual. I typically recommend documenting tasks so the doctor can see the importance of how many hours each task takes in order to give it proper attention. Another solution is to cross-train an assistant to relieve you at the front desk so you can fulfill the non-direct patient tasks: insurance claim follow-up, accounts receivables management, overdue hygiene recare follow-up, treatment plan follow-up, and more.

I’ve been the only person in admin and I solved my dilemma by cross-training an assistant. The dentist worked two columns with two assistants. Every Wednesday we pre-blocked a single major production column, the second assistant came to the admin department, and I stepped away for two hours to work my non-direct patient systems. On my calendar I marked which projects I worked each week, and I was able to keep up this way. These included scheduling, treatment presentation, insurance management, and accounts receivables management.

It has been proven that when enough time is allotted to complete tasks, collection and production increases and A/R decreases, thus saving the practice thousands of dollars. I hope you find this helpful!

Editor’s note: We invite you to visit the Office Forms page on DentistryIQ where you can download several different job descriptions. This may help the dentist understand what each position involves.

To read previous Troubleshooters, visit DentistryIQ and search “Thursday Troubleshooter.” And remember! If you’re having problems in your dental practice, send your question and concerns to Troubleshooter for an expert to address. You’ll be helping others who are experiencing similar issues. Send inquiries to [email protected].

About the Author

Team Troubleshooter

This weekly column on DentistryIQ features questions from everyday people who work in dental practices, who have issues they would like addressed by the experts. Those who regularly take the time to answer questions include Rebecca Boartfield, Patti DiGangi, Dr. Chris Salierno, Laura Hatch, Karen Daw, Jill Townsend, Lisa Marie Spradley, Shelley Renee, Judy Kay Mausolf, Robin Morrison, Paul Edwards ... and the list is growing.

Send your question or issue for an expert to address to [email protected].. You'll be glad you did.