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Thursday Troubleshooter: How can this dental front office run more efficiently?

July 23, 2020
The systems this dental front office uses aren't working out so well for them. This front office person asks for some guidance on what the team should do to improve the situation. Laura Hatch offers ideas.

Troubleshooter is back! After a brief hiatus, questions started arriving again the moment dental offices reopened. 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: Does our practice need another front desk person? How can we run the office more smoothly? We currently have one dentist, one dental assistant (soon to be two), two hygienists, two front desk people (I am one), and a new doctor who will eventually be taking over. Our current front office system is for the full-time main person to handle insurance, billing, check-in, check-out, ordering, etc. I have been trained to assist her. We have separate jobs assigned to us, but it is an everyone-does-everything situation. We are very old school and have a physical calendar and an outdated software system, but that will change soon. I work 24 hours a week, but my hours may expand soon. How would you answer my opening questions?

ANSWER FROM LAURA HATCH, founder of Front Office Rocks:
Wow, you have a lot going on here. My suggestion is to assign responsibilities to each person and not have everyone do everything.  It is OK to have everyone jump in to help periodically and know how to do it all, but ultimately you want each person responsible for certain things. 

How you divide those tasks can be done in a couple of ways. Begin by identifying where each team member shines. What are they great at and what do they like to do? Where do you see the most success from each employee? When team members like what they’re doing, such as answering the phones or ensuring the schedule is full, and they’re good at it, it’s a good idea to assign that responsibility to them. Remember, others can help out in these areas, but one person is ultimately in charge to make sure something is getting done and done well. The upside to dividing tasks this way is that you have someone who is really good at something in charge of those tasks. You’re setting people up for success!

The downside is that someone may be confused if what they’re responsible for doesn’t fit well in the patient flow, or there are tasks that no one likes or claims, and these are entirely forgotten. Another example is someone might enjoy answering phones and presenting treatment plans, but it is difficult for one person to do both if you want both done well.

There can also be issues when someone does not like to do a particular task, for example, reactivation calls, yet their job is to fill the hygiene schedule. In this case, reactivation calls are part of that job and if someone is responsible for the schedule, they also have to be responsible for trying to reactivate patients.

If a team member has down time and "nothing to do," consider showing them how to work in the front office area. You can train them on simple tasks such as answering the phone, taking good messages, rescheduling appointments, verifying insurance, and more.

As to whether or not your office needs another team member, I would suggest that you become better organized and get your technology working more effectively and then reassess your situation.  

I hope this helps. Good luck! 

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].