Thanks to your hard work, your patients aren't suffering from toothaches — but you may be suffering from some headaches that are common to most dental practices. If the following problems are becoming a real pain at your office, read on to find out how you can get relief.
Headache 1: Ouch, looking at your bank balance is painful. Your practice can be profitable in theory, but cash-poor in reality. Delays in insurance reimbursements, shrinking reimbursement rates and late-paying patients can all leave your practice in the red.
Solution: Often, cash flow problems stem from a laissez-faire attitude. Don't assume that payments and reimbursements will come in on time — use your accounting, billing and invoicing apps to stay on top of both payables and receivables. Make it a rule to invoice patients and bill insurers promptly. Follow up on late payments as soon as they’re late; don't wait until 60 or 90 days have elapsed. For major treatments, you may want to require partial payment upfront. Paying in advance also helps ensure that patients keep their appointments (dental appointment confirmation tools like Lighthouse 360 help, too).
Headache 2: You’re losing patients faster than a kindergartner loses teeth. Dentistry has become extremely competitive, and some patients go from dentist to dentist looking for the lowest prices. Too much patient attrition can leave your practice without a steady workload.
Solution: You can't do anything about bargain-happy patients, but you can work to keep your other patients happy. Stay in touch with patients through email newsletters, social media marketing and regular reminders about upcoming appointments. Also be sure you devote time to marketing that attracts new patients. Lighthouse 360 automatically collects reviews from your happy patients and posts them on popular review sites as well as on your Facebook page.
Headache 3: You’re suffering from empty chairs or crowded waiting rooms. It can be difficult to strike the right balance between overbooking and underbooking appointments. Empty chairs cost you money, and long waits can cost you patients.
Solution: By tracking how long each procedure takes on average, and working to improve efficiency, you'll be better able to schedule realistic appointment times and patient loads. Use dental appointment confirmation tools to make sure patients keep their appointments and arrive on time. Lighthouse 360 can automatically email, text or call patients with appointment reminders and confirmations. The Cancellation Fill-In feature can even detect last-minute cancellations and automatically contact patients who may be interested in the opening.
Headache 4: Insurance claims are your sore spot. Ever-changing insurance rules can really hurt your practice’s finances if it takes too long to get reimbursed. Plus, dealing with paperwork is a pain for all involved.
Solution: Reduce red tape and speed things up by submitting insurance claims electronically whenever possible. Take time to make sure codes are correct and claims are billed properly. Getting coverage estimates for patients before a procedure can help prevent problems later on. You can also consider starting a discount membership plan. Members get a certain number of hygiene appointments, X-rays and exams per year for a set annual membership fee. They also receive a discount on any additional treatments. You get paid without insurance hassles, and patients don't have to deal with paperwork.
Headache 5: Staff morale is giving you a migraine. Your dental office staff is a major factor in whether patients stay loyal to your practice … or move on. Poor morale and negative attitudes on the part of one or two employees can quickly infect the entire practice.
Solution: Be aware of what's going on in your office on a personal level. Use regular staff meetings not only to share information but also to uncover and resolve any concerns, conflicts or other problems. Technology that makes your staff's jobs easier can also help improve their attitudes. Lighthouse 360’s patient communication, marketing and scheduling tools can automate everything from dental appointment confirmations to filling cancellations and more.