Not many people outside of the dental industry know it, but the office manager is the heart of the dental office. You, as a dentist, need an office manager who can do it all, a jack of all trades, so to speak. So what makes a good dental office manager? It’s not an easy position to fill, because it requires such a specific skillset. Not to mention, working as an office manager can be stressful, busy and bear a heavy workload.
Whether you’re in the midst of hiring a new office manager or evaluating your current one, there are certain traits they need to possess to help your practice succeed.
At Dental ClaimSupport, we work with a lot of different dental offices, which means we work with a LOT of office managers. Our close working relationship gives us a bird's-eye view of how a practice is managing in regards to its billing processes, overall organization, scheduling, and everything in between. We’ve seen what works and what does not. Although there is no ‘one size that fits all’ job description, we do feel confident in knowing what office management should look like.
In this article, you will learn 6 ways your office manager can be efficient and effective in maintaining the overall health of your practice, meaning your practice is profitable and your team is happy. You’ll then know if there is a change that you, as a dentist, might need to make going forward.
What makes a good dental office manager?
1. They keep a full schedule
Your office manager should be keeping a full schedule at the dental practice. This means people are being scheduled for their next visit before they leave and appointments are being confirmed in a timely manner. Typically, patients should be confirmed 3 weeks from their appointment, then again a week from their appointment. This way, if they need to reschedule at the last minute, your office manager can fill this spot with another patient.
It might not be your actual office manager making these calls and schedules, but they should be overseeing these tasks, and making sure systems are in place to have organized and clear schedules.
An exceptional office manager will also help create value around the doctor’s availability that makes cancelling an appointment extremely difficult.
2. You see high collections from dental insurance and a low aging report
Let’s be real, nothing else really matters if your dental practice isn’t making money. This only happens if you’re collecting from all revenue sources. Your office manager should be at least overseeing all of the collections and aging reports, both patient and insurance aging alike
This means a few things.
Insurance is verified prior to patient appointments
Whether you have a new patient or an existing patient coming in for an appointment, if they are utilizing insurance benefits, then the practice should be verifying their insurance. It’s vital to the financial health of the practice to verify benefits.
Although it is the patient’s responsibility to understand their benefits, an office needs that snapshot too so they can present treatment plans properly and collect payment accurately. At a minimum, benefits should be verified 2 days prior to their visit.
That way if there are any issues with their coverage--maxed out, terminated policies, etc.--you can address them before they step into the office. This will help ensure the patient’s visit is smooth and there are no surprise bills that follow.
Proper treatment plan presentation and financial conversations increase collections and keep patient AR at a minimum. The less money you have to chase, the better.
Insurance claims are being sent within a few days of the procedure
The day the procedure is performed, your office should be creating and batching the claim. There’s quite a bit of information included on the claim, so it also needs to be accurate to avoid payment delays. If a procedure is performed Monday, and you wait until Thursday to create the claim, there’s usually a higher chance of claims being inaccurate and having small mistakes on them.
Your office manager is responsible for implementing systems and procedures for your team to make sure these claims are being sent ASAP and are accurate. That way, your practice is being paid timely too.
Insurance collections cover a big part of your revenue, but patient collections are a substantial portion as well.
A good office manager makes sure the patient pays their portion of their procedure the day of their visit. When insurance is verified and financial conversations are discussed prior to the patient’s appointment, the patient already accepts and understands their financial responsibility clearly. This makes for a pleasant visit for all involved.
If this step is skipped, or a patient is unprepared for their co-payment or co-insurance for their treatment is when you will begin to slide down a slippery slope. Finances can be a delicate subject, but the practice has already covered the costs of the materials and the provider’s time so ensuring patients are prepared financially is vital to the health of the practice.
It is also important to make sure patients understand there is always a possibility their treatment may change and require more or less on their end. Transparency and being prepared for those conversations set apart a mediocre office manager from an exceptional one. If your practice gets in the habit of letting patients leave without paying or being asked, “can you just bill me?” then you are increasing your odds of never seeing that money again.
The office manager should have a streamlined process that the entire office understands when it comes to collecting payments from patients, so that your practice doesn’t have to write off as many procedures down the road or turn an account over to a collections agency.
4. They are a jack of all trades in the dental office
When you hire an office manager, they likely have experience in billing, being an assistant or hygienist, or an insurance coordinator… there’s a myriad of work experience they could have. While they are typically delegating a lot of the tasks around the office, they themselves should know how to do these tasks. Posting payments, creating claims, working the aging report, keeping up with the schedule, the office manager should know how all of this works.
They cannot properly oversee that these tasks are completed efficiently and effectively if they don’t understand them themselves. They also are sometimes responsible for training team members on dental software or scheduling systems, and obviously cannot do so if they do not know how to. This also means when there is a mistake, they can spot it, help correct it and make sure it is avoided the next time.
5. They show great leadership
The office manager should lead the dental team with confidence. This doesn’t just mean making sure everyone is doing their job, it means being a source of trust and confidence for others as well. Being good at your job doesn’t mean a whole lot if your team doesn’t trust you or respect you.
Office managers should also lead by example. If they are professional and pleasant, others are going to take note of that and behave similarly. At Dental ClaimSupport, our leaders emphasize being proactive, not reactive.
This means when something goes wrong, or if someone makes a mistake, let’s correct it and do better next time instead of harping on who made the mistake, getting angry about it. Having a strong reaction to every little thing that happens in the office takes away from productivity, and it creates a hostile work environment.
6. They take care of the actual dental practice
Like we said, the office manager is the heart and soul of the dental office. They keep the team focused, are business savvy, keep expenses low, deal with hiring, make sure patients are happy and oversee every moving part of the practice. The office manager should keep order within the practice: figuratively and literally.
The office manager is typically responsible for keeping everything hygienic and clean around the office. The waiting room, bathrooms, desks around the office, you name it. Obviously they aren’t cleaning up after every team member, but relatively speaking, they make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be.
They are usually the first person in and last person out of the office, making sure everything for the day was completed properly. They also make sure everyone in the office has what they need to be productive and feel comfortable at the practice.
So, is your dental office manager efficient and effective?
If you were able to check off all of these qualities when it comes to your office manager, you have a keeper who you shouldn’t take for granted! An office manager keeps things running smoothly within your dental practice. It’s important that this person is your star player who you can trust with almost every part of your business (besides tending to people’s teeth, of course!)
Even if you already have an all-star office manager, continuing their education in the dental industry should be a top priority. Enroll them into Dental Claims Academy or have them participate in one of DCA’s live webinars available on the Dental Claims Academy website. This knowledge and education will always be valuable to every office manager.