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The importance of consistent financial processes in multilocation dental practices

April 15, 2020
As a practice expands into multioffice locations, so does the importance—and challenges—of maintaining consistent financial processes. Shannon Crowley explains the best way to do this as practices grow.

By Shannon Crowley

While solo practices are still in the majority, there is a rising trend toward multiplelocation dental practice ownership in the dental industry. As a practice expands into multioffice locations, so too does the importance—and challenges—of maintaining consistent financial processes. It is essential to have accurate and timely financial information, visibility to all locations, proper controls, and effective communication.

Effectively managing financial performance is at the root of a successful multioffice dental practice. In order to achieve this, all locations should be using the same general ledger system and chart of accounts. Profit and loss and balance sheets should be run at the practice level and by each location.

Multioffice practices should avoid the mistake of using silos, which are systems that are unable to operate with other systems, because this results in a lack of real-time reporting. If each location is running on separate systems, overall financial tracking and outlook cannot be achieved. Silos create an environment of individual and disparate systems within an organization, opening the entire practice’s financials up to delays in reporting, additional employee attention, and the potential for increased error.

In addition, management should evaluate the processes being handled at the individual locations versus the finance office level; this will not only ensure consistent processes but also reduce redundancy. If there is an absence of consistent financial processes within a dental practice, the result will be a general lack of control and interruption in workflow. While a certain amount of autonomy can be healthy in individual office locations, the importance of maintaining patient service revenue, cash management and banking, purchases and accounts payable, payroll and human services, and financial statement closings and reporting under one roof cannot be overstated.

Technology, specifically cloud-based storage, can also simplify operations. Cloud integration provides multilocation practices with the ability to collaborate through use of the internet and intranet in or out of the office setting. It also permits office personnel to share, edit, and publish documents in a unified system, improve communication, increase marketing abilities, and enhance day-to-day business processes.

A strong cyber security protocol should be a mandate for multilocation dental practices. The damage to a compromised network is not merely immediate; there is a tentacle of repercussion when sensitive patient information is breached, opening the door to the potential of pervasive identity theft. The resulting fiscal liability of a cyberattack can significantly undermine a practice, so steps should be taken to protect against internal vulnerabilities, such as updated patches on all servers and PCs and antivirus software.

Staff should be keenly aware of their roles in securing sensitive patient information because of the increase in phishing and spear-phishing attacks. These are personalized email attacks whereby a hacker creates a message that appears to come from a trusted coworker or known business entity, such as a vendor, with the criminal intention of stealing sensitive information. As cyberattack methods become more sophisticated, the potential for these breach attempts will only increase. Employees should be trained to “trust but verify” email.

Technology may be the key to managing the financials of multilocation health-care practices, but without communication, problems will arise, and if neglected, the entire organization may be at risk.

Weekly staff meetings with the full team is one basic approach to ensuring everyone is on the same page.  Teleconferencing can be the solution for those practices whose out-of-state locations make regular in-person meetings inconvenient. Practices might also consider having offices take turns hosting each other occasionally to allow staff members to get to know each other better. This simple measure can create a unified culture, even when office locations are miles or even states apart.

A consistent financial processes plan is vital to the success of a multioffice dental practice, but the importance of establishing a collective organizational culture should not be underestimated. Providing the highest quality dental care by a dedicated staff in a setting that promotes comfort and reassurance is what patients want and deserve, at each and every location of a multioffice dental practice.

Shannon Crowley, MSA, CPA, is a principal at blumshapiro.com, the largest regional business advisory firm in New England, with offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Virginia. The firm, with a team of over 500, offers a diversity of services that include auditing, accounting, and tax and business advisory. blum serves a wide range of privately held companies, government and non-profit organizations, and provides non-audit services for publicly traded companies. To learn more, visit blumshapiro.com. Crowley can be reached at [email protected]