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Every dental practice staff member knows the true lynchpin of the operation is the office manager.  This multi-skilled superstar must keep on top of the day-to-day running of the business, manage a team of disparate individuals, keep stock levels up to date, check insurance claims are being pursued in a timely manner and keep an eye on the bottom line.

Combining the job descriptions of logistics expert, sergeant major, accountant and agony aunt takes an incredibly special individual.  If you find a talented office manager, hold onto them with everything you’ve got. If your office manager isn’t properly supported, their effectively spinning plates and it’s only a matter of time before one comes crashing down! 

Three areas for immediate improvement

In what ways can you help this most crucial staff member manage their workload and keep everything running smoothly? It comes down to three things:

  1. Time management – allocating their responsibilities effectively
  2. Process support – providing software or serviced solutions that make day to day operations simpler
  3. Financial management – feeling secure that things are on an even keel

With the above in mind, we’ve put together eight tips to help you support your office manager.

Eight strategies to help your office manager

1) Keep them off the phone

Ideally your office manager should not be covering the phones at all. They need to have an overview of the business. Instead, it’s your receptionist’s responsibility to help patients with booking appointments or spending time on the phone with insurance companies. Remember, it’s more cost-effective to hire extra reception staff than replace a burnt-out OM.

2) Automate or find faster solutions to routine activities

Insurance verification is one of the most mundane and repetitive tasks involved in running a dental practice.  

As the office manager staff at Waterview Dental reports: “One of the key time consumers for receptionists is insurance verification. Freeing up time from the receptionist in verifying insurance may be one of the keys to improving overall office efficiency.”

Your office manager and reception staff should not need to chase after patients’ eligibility. Fortunately, there are solutions that allow you to outsource insurance verification and billing claims. You can pre-verify patients before they turn up for their appointments and keep your office manager off of the phone with insurance companies.

Worry-free insurance verification

Opencare takes the guesswork and effort out of insurance verification.

3) Know the bottom line

Regularly check the practice’s financial performance against hard targets. This is perhaps the most important responsibility of a good practice manager. It may seem complex and stressful working out how the business is doing, but in fact it’s straightforward arithmetic. 

There are around 192 working days in the year for the typical dentist. Your practice should have at least an annual target but a monthly target is much more effective (T). Let’s say you have two hygienists pulling in a set amount per day (H). The daily target for your doctors’ daily billings is therefore:

T – (H*192) + 10%) / 192

The 10% is margin for error and allows for contingencies you can’t predict.  

4) Reinvent team roles

 Firstly, look at what aspects of your office manager’s role properly belong to administrators, reception staff or hygienists. It’s all too common for the OM role to become a catch-all for tasks that nobody else wants to do.

Secondly, start to think of your team as sharing in revenue generation. You can use automation and data pushed to desktops and even smartphones to demonstrate to assistants, hygienists, and doctors how they are performing and where they might upsell or prevent that most costly of syndromes – cancellations.

5) Invest in solutions

Proactively research ways to support them with software or outsourced services that optimize day to day efficiency. Whether it’s sending email marketing campaigns to customers, or scheduling appointment reminders or follow-up appointment prompts by text, there are straightforward and effective technological solutions to help generate revenue and keep those bookings rolling in.

6) Develop a claims schedule

Rather than applying an ad hoc approach to revenue protection, set aside a regular time slot each day, or each week, to chase up unreimbursed claims. This will improve cash flow, reducing anxiety. Revenue cycle management is key to a practice’s ongoing performance, and the good news is that much of this can be optimized through software solutions too.

7) Provide continual professional development

Make sure your office manager has protected time to keep up to date with new billing codes, new business practices, and developments within the industry. This ensures they remain integrated in the success of the business, and able to relay news to the team at the regular team meetings we sincerely hope you’re having!

8) Stick to tangible goals

Specified, concrete KPIs that can be measured are infinitely preferable to vague objectives. Make sure your OM buys into this process and that they devise a realistic set of goals against which to measure practice performance.  Reviews should take place at regular intervals. Remember, you are not primarily measuring their performance, but rather the success of the business.

Bonus tip: talk about it

And one more thing… when everyone’s frantically busy it can be hard to find time to take stock. But you need to do this. If it means closing the office for a Team Building Day, so be it.  

Perhaps you can combine a fun morning activity with open and honest conversation in the afternoon. It’s best not to attempt both simultaneously, however – it can be hard to offer meaningful criticism when you’re dodging paintball bullets or riding the rapids!

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There should be no hierarchies at play when talking openly – and no consequences (other than business improvement) for anyone speaking their mind. If problems are brought up, make the conversation about ideas and creative solutions, rather than blame allocation.

Once you’ve talked about the practice, what’s working and what’s not, you should see an immediate boost in morale. Now everyone owns the solutions you’ve jointly agreed on.

Follow these tips and your office manager (and the rest of the team) will feel the benefit.

Dr. Afif, DDS approves the information presented here

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