Paradigm Shifts in Dental Software Have Proven to Add Real Value: What’s Next?

As a company that pioneered software for the healthcare profession – yes, we are talking the 70’s – we’ve seen a number of paradigm shifts over the decades in response to an increasingly complex and competitive environment. Let’s quickly review what’s become the standard in dental practice management and look at the next big advances that you can use to your advantage.

First – a bit of history
When we started serving dental offices, our software solution focused on maintaining accurate patient records and reducing the drudgery of billing and financial record keeping – essentially, it eliminated the need for time consuming, manual systems such as One-Write pegboard. Fortunately, dental practices were able to transition from these manual systems relatively quickly and pain free.

Next came the focus on recall and treatment plan management so patients didn’t fall through the cracks and electronic submission of insurance claims to save time and reduce errors. These paradigm shifts were reasonably easy to develop and implement.

The next big paradigm shift was electronic scheduling which proved to be much more challenging. Early versions looked too foreign for most users, had limited functionality and were cumbersome to use due to technical constraints at the time. However, as computer technology advanced, so did electronic appointment books to the point where manual scheduling systems have become completely impractical.

What did we learn that is helpful going forward?
The lesson learned was that, if the rational for a paradigm shift is sound, the benefits will far outweigh any temporary discomfort.

Unfortunately, many practices are still learning this and have not yet capitalized on more recent paradigm shifts in practice automation. One example of this is hesitancy to move to a fully paperless practice by replacing the paper patient chart with an electronic version. This delay is likely due to a number of misconceptions about the costs, benefits and difficulty.

What are other paradigm shifts that can benefit your practice?
How about automated appointment management that’s proven to reduce no shows and boost practice productivity?

There is also increased awareness of the need to track and make use of objective practice metrics for practice monitoring, and better decision making. The best practice management systems produce key performance indicators (KPIs) which quantitatively measure your practice performance in various areas against established targets.

What are the takeaways?

  • If you haven’t gone paperless there’s no reason to delay any longer – the technology has been validated and the benefits are numerous.
  • Automated patient communication tools and practice metric tracking are important things to consider – they boost practice success.
  • Whatever the next dental practice management paradigm shift proves to be, implement it. If you don’t, sooner or later your competition will.

Things Every Dental Receptionist Needs to Know: Part 2

Customer service at your dental practice begins and ends with your receptionist. The receptionist is the first person potential patients will talk to, and is likely the last person they’ll speak with before they leave your office.

A good receptionist makes patients feel completely welcomed and at home, transforming patients’ healthcare experience and getting them excited to take care of their oral health. On the other hand, a bad experience at the reception desk can leave patients feeling anonymous, uncared for and reluctant to come back.

Three years ago, I wrote a blog post outlining a few of the things every receptionist should know if they want to provide patients with the kind of positive experience that will turn strangers into regular patients.

Today, I’ve updated that list with a few new points for receptionists to keep in mind if they want to make patients feel at home immediately, particularly by taking advantage of current dental practice technology.

1. Don’t Let Patients Fall Through the Cracks

One of the most important roles receptionists play is making sure that patients book regular appointments and follow through with the appointments they have made. This should always be done gently and professionally, in a way that lets patients know that your clinic cares about their well being and wants to help them take care of their oral health.

Unfortunately, it can be easy for patients who chose not to pre-book their recall appointment to fall through the cracks, which is why you should make sure your receptionists have access to web tools that make tracking appointments easy – such as ABELDent’s Treatment Manager.

Much more than simple patient reminder software, the Treatment Manager keeps track of relevant booking information and creates contact dates for each required appointment, streamlining the booking process and allowing receptionists to focus more on face-to-face patient care.

2. Make Patients Feel Individually Valued

No one wants to feel like a number, and one very small but very important thing receptionists can do to make patients feel individually valued is to keep track of little details about their lives, work, and booking preferences.

For example, if a patient works nights, has children, or frequently travels for work, you’ll want to make sure that when you call them about bookings, they aren’t repeating the same information every time. Appointment scheduling software that includes options for making notes about patients’ preferences is the best way to provide each patient with personalized service that will make them feel genuinely valued.

The healthcare industry is different from other industries in some important ways, but receptionists need to remember that patients’ expectations of your dental practice are shaped by the customer service treatment they receive in other industries – such as their favourite restaurants and spas. If you want to make patients feel truly cared for, you’ll need to offer comparable service.

3. Make the Most of the Tools at Your Disposal

A big part of any receptionist’s job is entering data, remaining aware of scheduling changes, and managing patient preferences. This is a lot of work and the more patients you have the more difficult it can be to stay on top of everything.

This is why we designed ABELDent software to optimize workflows and system navigation. While learning new software systems may seem daunting at first, it is important for receptionists to remember that these tools will save huge amounts of time down the road. A few hours invested in mastering the software today will save days of work in the future!

4. Accurate Data Starts at the Receptionist’s Desk

There’s an old saying in business that if you want to know how a company or clinic is really doing, you should talk to the receptionist. Receptionists have their fingers on the pulse of their organization, and they’re the ones who can tell you whether bookings are up or down and which patients are choosing to re-book.

As an executive, I know that my entire operation relies on dedicated front-line staff members who are keeping track of the information I need in order to make informed decisions about the direction of my company.

Without solid data, dental practice management is a guessing game. That’s why it is so important for receptionists to have the right reporting and analytics tools to pass that data on to the dentists and practice managers.

ABELDent’s analytic tools give any practice the means to monitor demographic trends and practice growth, while also mapping productivity and scheduling efficiency.

Your reception team needs to stay on top of this technology in order to maximize productivity – after all, if the data isn’t being entered correctly, even the best dental management software won’t be able to make a difference.

Fortunately, ABELDent’s distinctive software tools can equip any receptionist, empowering them to offer superstar service to each and every one of your patients.

4 Skills That Make Effective Healthcare Leaders

No matter what your particular area of specialization, as a healthcare professional you wear a lot of different hats. If you run a dental clinic, a lot is required of you – in addition to knowing everything there is to know about dental health, you are also tasked with making your patients feel welcome and cared for, being a supportive boss to your staff, and navigating the healthcare economy as a small business owner.

I know first hand how difficult it can be to keep all of these different balls in the air. I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with dentists who feel they weren’t nearly as well prepared as they should have been for the business side of the job. Most of the concerns I hear come down to one particular thing: leadership.

As a dentist, you are the owner of your practice and a main service provider to your patients. But you are also a business leader who needs to have a vision and plan that addresses the challenges of today’s competitive landscape and ensures that your dental practice sees long-term growth.

This can be a scary responsibility, especially for those who are just getting started or have had little business training. The good news is that leadership is a skill that can be cultivated over time. In fact, as a business owner I feel it’s a skill I’m still developing and continually working on improving!

If you want to become a better leader for your dental team, here are four skills you can start sharpening today that will help you thrive in your leadership role:

1. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is an important skill for any healthcare professional to develop, but for dentists it is indispensable. As many as one fifth of North Americans avoid going to the dentist due to dental anxiety, so if you want your practice to succeed, you need to be able to empathize with your patients’ anxieties and concerns – even if they seem irrational to you!

It isn’t just your patients you need to empathize with, though; you also need to model a sensitive and caring approach to healthcare service for your staff. Staying positive at work can be hard for any staff member when the patients are sometimes resistant to the services being offered, so it’s important to support your team and make sure they also have the resources to thrive. This will help ensure that they offer the best care to patients.

2. Communication

No dentist can serve patients well without strong communication skills. Everything from making the patient feel comfortable to explaining treatment options requires a strong sense for how to make complex information understandable.

But as business owners, dentists also need to develop good lines of communication with their staff. As the video below explains, communication is actually the essence of what a leader does. If you aren’t communicating effectively, you aren’t leading effectively.

3. Technological Management

In a modern-day clinic, everything from patient records to appointment schedules are kept digitally, and as the person in charge of ensuring that the whole operation runs smoothly, you’ll want to make sure that you have the right technological tools in place.

At ABELDent, we understand how challenging this can be: after all, you’re a health professional, not a technology expert! That’s why we’ve designed dental practice management software that offers a complete and secure integrated solution that covers appointment scheduling, clinical charting, treatment management, image management, records, electronic claims, and financial and insurance needs.

These tools make it easy to streamline your entire practice – which gives you more time to focus on the hands-on elements of your practice. Explaining to patients how you are using the latest validated technology for diagnostics and treatment planning enhances your credibility and also sends a message to patients that you are a leader in your field.

4. Relationship Development

Being able to inspire others is at the heart of leadership, and this means fostering good relationships with those around you. From the patient putting their health in your hands to the hygienist relying on your guidance, you need to be able to develop strong, mutually respectful relationships with the people you interact with every day.

Relationship development skills can be learned, and every dentist can develop strategies that will help them become an effective leader in their workplace. Remember, if you put a little bit of work into making people feel valued and listened to, you will get a lot back in terms of loyalty, trust and dedication.

Dentistry is a science, an art and a business and dentists need to develop the skills to succeed as business owners in addition to honing their skills as healthcare providers.

In summary, the best leaders are constant learners and cultivating emotional intelligence, strong communication skills, adaptive decision-making, and managing the technology to run a digital dental office will help you become a true leader in your field.