Thursday Troubleshooter: How can overwhelmed office manager talk dentist into getting her help?

While she's happy the dental practice is growing, this office manager needs help as her duties increase.

Stressed Dental Office Manager

QUESTION: I’ve been working as a patient coordinator for about two years for an office that has recently grown its patient load. I’m the only person at the front desk, and we average about 20 new patients a month. I am completely overwhelmed between the phones, insurance, breakdowns, and confirmations, and the doctor shows no sign of hiring anyone else. How do I convince him that I need help?

Stressed Dental Office Manager

ANSWER FROM BRIDGET FAY, Odyssey Management, Inc.:
A growing practice presents new challenges. In this situation, try to grab your doc when you can have his undivided attention. If you don’t get that chance, put your troubles and ideas on paper and ask if he has a few minutes to read over your suggestions regarding the practice as it grows.

You can approach this in a couple of different ways. If there is physically enough room for a second person, phone, and computer at the front office, outline what your duties are and how long it takes you to do those duties. Be sure to discuss the ways that you would be able to improve things if there was another person to help. For example, if you have to frequently put patients on hold or keep them waiting to check in or out because the phone won’t stop ringing, then bring this to the doctor’s attention. Mention that you’re worried about customer service suffering because of the many duties you handle. Also mention the intake of money. You need time to follow up on unpaid claims and overdue patient accounts. This is best done when you have some undivided admin time.

If having another person is not a reality for the practice, research tools and technology can help you become more efficient. If you are confirming each patient individually and handling recalls with a phone call, it is definitely time for you to acquire an automated patient communication system that’s specifically for dental offices. Not only will it confirm appointment via text or email, it will automatically remind patients they are due for their recalls, and remind them about uncompleted treatment. You can sign up with a clearinghouse that allows you to do real-time claims, eligibility, and claim status. Check with your practice management software and see what additional electronic services are available and what kind of deal they can offer you regarding cost.

Approach this situation from a business standpoint instead of a personal one. Docs are busy, and you don’t want to appear as if you’re complaining about your job. Instead, talk about how you can improve the business as a whole. Good luck!

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Send your questions for the experts to answer. Responses will come from various consultants associated with Speaking Consulting Network, Academy of Dental Management Consultants, or Dental Consultant Connection. Their members will take turns fielding your questions on DentistryIQ, because they are very familiar with addressing the tough issues. Hey, it's their job.

Send your questions to megk@pennwell.com. All inquiries will be answered anonymously every Thursday here on DIQ.

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