A second chance for the New Year: How dental assistants can help improve production and collections

Lisa M. Spradley, FAADOM, explains how dental assistants can analyze production and collections numbers to learn from past mistakes as they make adjustments that will help improve the practice's bottom line.

Don't you just love a second chance? It’s an opportunity to apply the lessons we’ve learned and move forward. It’s the endless possibilities that appeal to me the most ... a chance to learn from my mistakes. Albert Einstein said it best, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”

As we start the New Year, we need to look at what we accomplished last year and how we can improve it for this year. As office managers, we need to especially pay attention to our numbers. Check your production and collection numbers. Are they balanced? Let's start with the production numbers.

Our production, or lack thereof, is the biggest responsibility that we are given. Did your production numbers reach the goal that was set at the beginning of this year? If so, great, and now it's time to set the goal higher. Does your office annually evaluate its fee schedule and adjust it according to the costs of doing business? This is a very important part of setting your practice goals. You want to be sure to take into consideration what percentage you will raise your fees, and use that to help set your goal. The year 2013 is going to be interesting for all of us in the dental field. The new device tax will most certainly affect us, and this must be considered when determining your new fee schedule. Also, be sure to take into consideration that dental labs will have to adjust their fees because of this new tax.

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Didn't quite make the goals you set last year? This is where you really need to evaluate what areas can be improved. Is your hygiene department staying busy? Does the team work together to diagnose and treat the patient's problems? Is your front office getting new patients in quickly? How well does your team handle each new patient experience? These questions and many more need to addressed not only to determine why production was down, but also to give your office the opportunity to fix any problems that exist.

If production is your biggest responsibility, then collection would be your second most important responsibility. If you have outstanding collections — and let's be honest, most of us do, especially if we have outstanding insurance claims — then your collections should always be in the high upper 90th percentile. This is simply because you should always be collecting from the previous month's production. If this is not true for you, how can that be improved? Do you have a protocol in place for follow-up on outstanding insurance claims? Is it being followed? Is your front office team collecting at the time of service? Are you discussing treatment plans and making payment arrangements before a patient schedules? These are the types of questions you should ask yourself in order to improve upon last year's numbers.

A new year is always full of promise and potential. In order to move forward, however, we must learn from what was done in the past. This year, don't just print out the end-of-year reports and file them away. Actually read and review them. Determine what can be done to improve your patient experience, and this will help improve your production and collections. Remember, there is always a second chance, and it's called tomorrow. Take advantage of it!

Author bio
Lisa M. Spradley, FAADOM, has been in the dental field for more than 15 years. She is owner and trainer at TCB Dental Consulting, where she trains the dental team in all aspects of running the front office, and also works with them to help develop effective time management techniques. She is a fellow with the American Association of Dental Office Managers, and an active, lifetime member. Lisa is available for speaking and consulting. Contact her at lisamarie@tcbdentalconsulting.com.

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