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Thursday Troubleshooter: How many people are needed to run the front office smoothly?

Jan. 2, 2020
The front office is feeling a bit crowded to this dental office manager, who believes she can handle this small practice's front office single-handedly. But, can she really?

Problems! Who doesn't have them? If you have a problem or concern in your dental office position, you might be too close to the situation to solve it yourself. Share your concerns with Team Troubleshooter. The experts will examine your issues and provide guidance. Send your questions to [email protected].

Can one organized person at the front desk run things smoothly enough in a small office with one doctor and one hygienist? We also have one assistant, a part-time person who pulls charts, confirms appointments, and helps file, and a part-time person who assists with billing. I feel like this is too many employees for the volume of business the office handles, and we really simply need a very organized front desk person to run things and manage the office well. 

ANSWER FROM LAURA HATCH, founder of Front Office Rocks:
It is very doable for an office with one doctor and one hygienist to be run by one well-organized person. The volume of what happens in a two-clinician office is not too high for one person to handle. However, that being said, there are some issues to consider. First, everything seems to happen at once at the front desk of a dental office. Therefore, when there is only one person in the position, it can be difficult to check in patients because this often occurs around the same time that patients are checking out. This also is not taking into account answering phone calls. It is vital for the phones to be answered, and that can be hard for one person when checking patients in and out. Another thing to consider is who will handle consultations when they come up. 

So, yes, one person can handle all of this, if the person has a great support system and good systems in place. There needs to be another person, such as the dental assistant, cross-trained to jump in as needed, to check patients in or out or help answer the phones. There needs to be a back-up plan if the one person at the front desk steps away or is extra busy. The others on the team can check in out or walk out patients. Training is key for making sure all of this is successful. 

The other issue to consider is the ability to grow the practice. One person may be able to handle the current workload, but if the practice is trying to grow, then there needs to be enough time for this person to make calls to get unscheduled treatment scheduled, reactivate patients, and more. Also, if the practice is actively growing, then this person will eventually need help and it is better to consider that now when there is time to find the right person, train the person the correct way, and have the person established enough to pick up the extra workload when needed.


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Don't be shy! If YOU have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like address, send it to mkaiser@endeavorb2b for the experts to answer. Remember, you'll be helping others who share the same issue. Responses will come from various dental consultants, as well as other experts in the areas of human resources, coding, front office management, and much more. These people will assisting dental professionals with their various issues on DentistryIQ because they're very familiar with the tough challenges day-to-day practice can bring. All inquiries will be answered anonymously each Thursday here on DIQ.