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5 signs of a healthy dental revenue cycle: Your blueprint to cash flow

March 19th, 2024 | 8 min. read

5 signs of a healthy dental revenue cycle: Your blueprint to cash flow Blog Feature

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Your dental revenue cycle is the interval between providing patient services and receiving payment. In its ideal state, your revenue cycle maximizes income by identifying, collecting, and managing revenue throughout all your dental business systems.

Group Dentistry Now puts it perfectly: 

“The dental revenue cycle generates mass amounts of useful data, which can sometimes seem overwhelming and difficult to organize. However, if you believe the noted management consultant Peter Drucker, who said, ‘You can’t improve what you don’t measure,’ then where and how do you start?”

At DCS, we specialize in dental revenue cycle management (RCM) services, working with dental businesses of all shapes and sizes to create and maintain a healthy revenue cycle. With our help, you’ll collect more of what you’re owed from both patients and insurance.

By now, you might be wondering, “Well, what makes for a healthy dental revenue cycle?” Fortunately, there are quite a few signs that indicate free-flowing cash flow… 

We’ve been providing RCM services since 2012, so we know how to spot a healthy revenue cycle. We’ll cover 5 healthy signs here, and you can count up how many you see in your dental business. 

Sign #1: Consistent insurance and patient collections

The biggest sign you have a healthy revenue cycle? You have consistent cash flow! It seems obvious, but many dental teams struggle to collect the full amount owed from patients and payers on a continual basis. 

When your revenue cycle is broken, your collections are lower than they should be. This looks like a growing insurance aging report and too many write-offs. And also a stressed-out business owner — you! — because your collections are how you pay your expenses, and the people who keep your dental business running, so you need all you can collect.

Efficient billing processes will speed up and maximize your collections. When your team knows the best practices for managing insurance claims, follow-up, and patient payments, you won’t see dips and dives in the daily collection totals.

Instead, you’ll see steady cash flow that you can use to invest in new clinical equipment, give your team bonuses, or even open another practice location. 

Sign #2: A happy, cohesive dental team

Your dental team is the heart of your business. Their day-to-day tasks are what keep your business running and your patients happy. When your revenue cycle is healthy, your team thrives, as both the cause and the result. They work happily and cohesively with minimal stress, most of the time. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many dental teams — especially those overwhelmed by their billing processes, like we mentioned in Sign #1. Their chronic stress can lead to burnout and toxicity in your workplace, which will increase employee turnover at your dental practice (we’ll go deeper into turnover later). 

Related: More freedom with RCM services: 5 ways your dental team will invest their time

When your revenue cycle is broken, your team members are running around trying to get everything done on time instead of completing them ahead of time. They’re uncertain about their workflow instead of confidently stepping through tasks to completion. They’re in conflict with other team members over unfinished tasks because they’re not consistently assigned.

You can imagine how their erratic and irregular interactions with time, tasks, and each other would negatively affect the quality of their work! It can also begin to show up in your dental patients’ experience at your practice. 

But when your revenue cycle is healthy — with a streamlined workflow and clear responsibilities — your team can work together harmoniously. They may even make time to participate in team-building activities, resulting in a stronger foundation for your employees.

A happy, cohesive dental team will be intrinsically motivated to increase their productivity and develop better patient relationships.

Sign #3: Excellent patient reviews

Your patients are the reason your business exists! Their feedback is priceless, and everyone benefits when you share their compliments and act on their concerns.

A patient’s experience is influenced by their billing experience, as well as how they are treated in your office. When you receive positive reviews online, or even in-person feedback, you know you’re doing something right.

Let’s be real: Even with insurance coverage, going to the dentist isn’t always cheap, and some procedures can be quite costly. You can’t always control the cost of your services.

But do you know what you can control? The patients’ billing process. 

When your revenue cycle is broken, your team might not always have time or focus to present treatment plans to patients. This results in less transparency, and dental treatment costs the patient may not have been prepared for — and they’ll be more likely to dispute the cost and resist paying it.

Disagreements equal a delay in your revenue, and those delays result in all kinds of problems if they happen frequently.

But when your patient billing process is streamlined — and ideally automated — your team always has time for treatment presentations, and payments is seamlessly collected from patients with zero surprises on either side.

Transparency about costs keeps your patients happy, earns their trust, and could even earn your practice a referral to their friends and family. 

Sign #4: Clean processes and workflows

We’ve mentioned your patient and insurance billing processes as both the problem and the solution for issues in your practice. That’s because the flow of these processes impacts every part of your dental business. 

When your processes run smoothly, your business will run smoothly. But disorganized workflows are a sure sign of a broken revenue cycle. And when processes are convoluted or executed inconsistently, they create costly errors. 

But when your revenue cycle is healthy, your workflows are clean and precise. There are standard operating procedures (SOPs) for every task in your dental business, so there are no gray areas on how things are done — or who should be doing them. 

SOPs are step-by-step instructions on how a task is completed. SOPs clearly document processes for work-related tasks, and ideally, they are clear enough for anyone in your office to follow.

This makes it easy for team members to take time off, as others can take over their responsibilities with little difficulty when they can refer to SOPs for guidance. SOPs also makes it easy to onboard and train new staff.

Well-designed processes often utilize technology and automation to optimize them even further, preventing mistakes and increasing efficiency. Your SOPs should be regularly audited to see where improvements can be made to make processes even easier to complete. 

Sign #5: A stable, positive work environment

We touched on in Sign #2: A happy, cohesive dental team — a stable, healthy work environment is vital to your business’ long-term success. 

When your revenue cycle is broken, your team is continually stressed, working feverishly to complete administrative tasks while also tending to patients and growing the practice.

This heavy load at a nonstop pace can create a team that’s tense, frustrated, and overwhelmed. As the owner of the practice, it can seem like all of a sudden, your work environment has turned into a rotten place to be. It happens gradually, but eventually everyone feels it, including your patients.

While the process is gradual, a tense work environment can turn toxic more quickly than you think — and the ultimate sign is when people leave your dental business for better jobs. Some turnover is normal, but if it’s happening at a high rate, you’re constantly having to hire and train new people, and your workplace becomes unstable. 

For example, the American Dental Association (ADA) reported that in 2022, the average dental practice experienced a staff turnover rate of 22%. However, practices with strong cultures experienced turnover rates as low as 12%.

A healthy revenue cycle ensures your workplace has predictable days, prioritizes work-life balance, and offers a supportive, positive atmosphere. Your team communicates well with you, with one another, and especially with your patients.

Related: 10 ways to create a healthy work culture your dental team loves [Free Guide]

You tell us: Do you have a healthy, profitable dental revenue cycle?

To recap, here are 5 signs you have a healthy and profitable dental revenue cycle: 

  • Sign #1: Consistent insurance and patient collections
  • Sign #2: A happy, cohesive dental team
  • Sign #3: Excellent patient reviews
  • Sign #4: Clean processes and workflows
  • Sign #5: A stable, positive work environment

Think about your own dental business — how do you measure up? Do you see all 5 of these signs at your dental practice?

If your business is struggling in 1 or more areas, there are steps you can take to heal your revenue cycle. One of the easiest ways is to partner with a full-service revenue cycle management provider like DCS. 

Our customers have all 5 healthy signs at their dental businesses. They offer kind words like these about our services: 

“DCS saved my practice. We bought a ‘fixer-upper’ to put it mildly. We had no systems in place and were only collecting 60% of production. When I watched a patient walk out the door without paying on day one, I knew I was going to need some help. DCS came to the rescue and helped manage the entire revenue cycle.”  —Carl Haynie of Southern Pine Dental

The DCS suite of services will cultivate a profitable revenue cycle that will not just make you more money, it will also improve the day-to-day experience for you and your team. 

Heal your revenue cycle: Book a free 30-minute call with our RCM experts today.

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