The one true statement that can be said about working at the front desk of a dental office is that no two days are alike. Regardless of how organized you think you are, how detailed your to-do list is or how amazing you feel ready to take on the day when you walk in, things get thrown at you all the time that can change any of that in a heartbeat. I know this is one of the biggest challenges the employees face at the front desk and I have been asked over and over for a check list or a daily duty outline to help address this challenge. The problem with either of those documents is each day is different and judgment calls must be made on the fly deciding what is a priority and what can wait.
There are always high-priority tasks that must be handled immediately. There are also tasks that need to be handled every day, every week and then some that can be on the “get to” list during a time when things slow down. Every office is different but I have created a general outline of how to prioritize the day and handle each task at appropriate intervals.
These tasks or when these issues arise, they take precedence over everything else until they are handled.
- Mornings: There are certain things that should be done first thing each morning, for example unlock the office, un-forward phones or check messages, ensure computers are up and running, handle any last-minute schedule changes, host a productive huddle and be ready with a smile on your face at the front desk when the first patients walk in.
- Schedule Issues: There are three days to direct your attention to when it comes to the schedule: Today, tomorrow and the next day. The schedule will always take the highest priority over any other tasks until it is where you want it. If today’s schedule is not where it should be for the daily production goal, the focus should start there.
- What opportunities are there to add to the schedule to hit the goal? Work on that!
- If today’s schedule looks good, then start working on tomorrow by filling any holes in the schedule and confirming patients that have not yet confirmed with the office.
- Once you have done what you need to do to make tomorrow’s schedule achieve the daily goal, then work on the next day with confirmation calls and determining if any patients can move up to today or tomorrow if needed.
- If something happens during the schedule review process and you find yourself with an opening for today, go back and today your priority.
- Scheduling issues should be addressed and confirmation calls complete by lunch each day, which gives you the rest of the day to hear back from patients and continue on fix the schedule.
- Handling Patients in The Office: Patients are the number one priority, because they are why we all have jobs. Handle each patient with exceptional customer service and care. It is important to know prior to the patient’s arrival if they have a balance, if they have outstanding treatment, if they have family members that have not appointed yet or whether they have a referral to the office. When the patient is in office, these issues should be discussed with them either at the beginning or the end of their appointment. Most importantly, if you have a patient with financial concerns, for example a balance and/or a patient that is upset for some reason, that becomes a priority and should be handled immediately.
These tasks should be completed on a daily basis and should be squeezed in between or after the other higher priority issues listed above.
- Outstanding Treatment Plan Calls and Overdue Recare Calls: It is imperative on a daily basis that you are reaching out to patients that have not scheduled treatment yet. This should be done on a daily basis because if they are not completed daily, they pile up with the best intention to get to them at some point during the week, which many times never happens.
- Submitting Insurance Claims, Entering Patient Payments from the Mail and Sending Statements: Make sure that claims are submitted to the insurance companies on a daily basis and as insurance checks are entered, that statements are sent daily to patients who have a balance after insurance payments. If you are using your Practice Management Software correctly, these processes will not take a ton of time and can be completed any point during the day, as long as they are happening daily.
- Entering Insurance Payments: Payments should be done on a daily basis, but these are not an extreme necessity. Getting insurance payments can be fun because everyone likes it when the office is making money, but it can also be very time consuming. Once the checks are received in your office, they are not going anywhere. There is no need to put aside other higher priority activities to enter payments right away. In fact, they can even sit for a day or so if you have bigger issues that need your attention regarding patient care, production or the schedule. Additionally, checks do not all have to be entered on one day. Sometimes that stack of insurance checks is huge, which may take hours to enter. To make it more manageable, divide it up over a few days.
- End of Day Procedures: Every day, end your day and ensure everything is accounted for in the office. Each office has their own end of day procedures but it is important to note the reason it is important to maintain those procedures is to catch any outstanding issues, potential mistakes that need to be fixed and then start tomorrow fresh.
Weekly Tasks – These tasks need to be completed regularly but not necessarily on a certain day or time. These are perfect tasks to do when you have slower day or time period during the day.
- Outstanding calls to insurance companies
- Sending monthly statements and making collection calls
- Paying bills or any bookkeeping duties
- Entering statistics or any other data tracking done by the office
- Meetings with co-workers, employees or doctor
This list is not all inclusive but should serve as a general overview and help you begin to think about how to structure your day and week. This is a judgement call so be sure to place the highest priority on today, then tomorrow, and finally the next day and always place the highest priority on your patients and their care.
About the Author
Laura Hatch is known internationally as the Leader in Dental Front Office Solutions and Training. A keynote speaker, author, and coach, Laura is best known as the founder of Front Office Rocks™, a virtual training platform for dental teams. Using her unique style and interactive delivery methods, Laura loves to help dental teams learn the systems and methods to achieve unprecedented results.