When it comes to a dental office’s financial success, selecting the best dental practice management software is key. Look for features in your dental software to help collect payments and keep your money secure.
Arm yourself with the tools you need to manage your dental practice’s collection process. But don’t forget to give your staff with the tools they need to track and collect your money.
When it comes to collecting money, your best friend is easy dental office software.
Why Dental Software Powers Financials
Why? The insurance and patient collection process is too cumbersome for even the best systems. “Deadbeat" insurance companies and patients need tracking, billing, and following up again and again.
Either not using or underutilizing good dental software leaves substantial amounts of money on the table. This is money that you have already earned; you have just failed to collect it.
Many doctors err in assuming that dental billing software is too expensive and too complicated to use. They assume that the software will need a computer in every operatory. Clinicians assume they need to change the way they record clinical notes, capture x-rays, and make patient appointments.
These assumptions are simply not true!
Don’t get me wrong, I do recommend a completely computerized dental office. For systems like Dentrix®, Curve Dental®, DentiMax, Eaglesoft®, Softdent®, and Practiceworks®, they do an outstanding job in providing this software solution. However, when it comes to insurance and patient collections, one computer with the right dental software still gets the job done.
Fortunately, the market now offers a few dental systems that are easy to use and not expensive.
One of the systems I recommend to friends is the single-computer version of DentiMax. It’s fabulous for collections. And – the key thing – there is an easy upgrade path to the complete system.
Key Billing and Financial Dental Software Features
Whether a first-time buyer or a veteran, look for these specific dental billing software tools to check and empower your staff:
- Security that includes advanced audit reporting
- Insurance aging and patient aging reporting
- Daily reports
- Insurance claims and patient billing statements
\ Easy-to-use payment entry ability
Prevent Embezzlement with Dental Software Security
When it comes to theft and embezzlement, don’t think that you are immune. According to TheWealthyDentist.com’s April 2007 survey, 59% of all dentists reported discovering evidence of theft in their practices.
This finding begs a question. What about the other 41% of dentists who are more complacent or removed from their office’s billing and collection process?
About three years ago, I became suspicious of an office manager who worked in one of my satellite offices. My collections went way down and I became concerned. After a quick glance at my software’s appointment book, it appeared she under collected my associate’s work.
I also noticed that the completed procedures for many of the cash patients were not being posted to the ledger. In response, I pulled progress notes my associate dentist kept. It verified my suspicion that my associate dentist had performed treatments that had not been billed to the patient!
Next, I printed an audit report. This report informed me that my office manager also deleted cash payments then later re-entered these payments at lower amounts.
Confronting an Embezzlement Situation
Hoping she would voluntarily confess, I asked her why she hadn’t billed the “cash" patient for the completed work. I also asked her why she deleted cash payments from my software.
To my surprise, she gave me a very detailed explanation that addressed my question. I wanted to believe her, but I could not ignore the information my software provided me. So, I called the patient and informed her we were auditing our books – the patient confirmed all of my suspicions.
Obviously, the first line of defense against embezzlement is to hire honest people. But beyond reviewing their work history and calling their references, you cannot guarantee that your staff will never steal from you.
To be blunt, without good software, you cannot properly protect yourself from employee theft. I would not have caught this office manager without my software program. I shudder to think about the amount of money she could have stolen from me. Secure dental software saves money for your practice.
Good dental software will allow you to set up customized security.
Good software will allow you to customize your security settings and give reports you need to check your staff. This means that you get to define in what your staff members have access to and to what degree. If you don’t want your front desk deleting ledger items without your consent, then limit their access rights.
Ledger Settings to Prevent Embezzlement
You could set it up so your front desk can add and edit but not drop items in the ledger. You also want the ability to print an audit report by your usernames. This report will tell you what items your employees have either added or deleted from your software.
For example, you could run an audit under your office manager’s username to see if they deleted cash payments.
During the Cold War, Ronald Reagan quoted an old Russian maxim to Mikhail Gorbachev, “Trust but verify." Do the best you can in hiring trustworthy employees, but use your software capabilities to verify that they are honest.
Routinely verifying that your employees are honest will further increase your trust and appreciation for them. And, perchance you find something. It will allow you to take immediate corrective action before a problem balloons into something large-scale.
Insurance and Patient Aging
A few years ago, one of my friends experienced turnover with his front desk staff. He hired a new office manager to help. She quickly found his accounts receivables for insurance and patients were double to triple from her two earlier places of employment.
Fortunately, my friend’s software provided great aging reports. It included information his new office manager needed to collect his money.
Make sure your front desk employees know how to both print and understand insurance and patient aging reports. These show outstanding aging balances in increments of 0 to 30, 30 to 60, and up to 120+ days past due.
Your insurance aging reports should also display the following:
- Corresponding patient’s name
- Date of birth
- Subscriber ID
- Group name and number
- Any other information requested by insurance companies
The most important thing your software can offer is the ability to collect both insurance company and patient money. And, when it comes to collecting, your front desk people need comprehensive and correct aging reports to do their job.
The day sheet report displays the daily details of your charges as well as the totals for the current day. The day sheet report displays the daily details of your charges as well as the totals for the current day.
You’ve just finished working a long day and feel exhausted. You know the clinical details on your back office work (several crown preps, a first molar root canal, etc.). But do you know the exact amount associated with it and if it’s getting collected?
Well, here’s a way to quickly bring yourself up to speed:
At the end of each day, briefly review a few key reports. I don’t encourage spending time over every detail, but keep a finger on the financial pulse of your practice. You’ll want to scan the day sheet, as well as your payment and production reports.
Most software programs include a “Day Sheet" report. This will display the daily details of your charges and your receipts, as well as the “totals" for that current day. Maybe you’re concerned about charging out today’s completed procedures.
Or maybe you feel concerned about receiving payments from a certain patient. Maybe you simply wonder what today’s totals were for patient and insurance payments. Your day sheet should give answers to these and other “daily" questions in a simple and easy to understand format.
Like the day sheet, you should check the payment and production reports frequently. These reports give very specific information on your practice’s performance.
The production report will display the dollars associated with the work that you, your hygienist and any associate dentists have completed.
And the payment report will display the actual dollars collected from patients and insurance companies for this completed work.
Most production and payment reports let you limit their information to whatever ranges you specify. If you wonder how much money you collected the last month from your hygienist’s work, simply plug-in the right ranges. By doing that, your payment report will display how much insurance, Visa credit card, and other payments you collected.
DentiMax provides a great visual summary of the production report.
Visually Appealing Reports
For visually oriented people who don’t particularly enjoy reading payment and production reports, some software programs offer great visual substitutions. Dentrix provides a Scheduled Production screen which displays your practice’s production dollars by day. DentiMax’s appointment book one-ups Dentrix by displaying more in a monthly calendar. This includes your practice’s payments by dollars, the scheduled production, and its completed work.
I have a friend who has confessed that he gets addicted to viewing this graphical revenue screen. And I can understand why – at a glance, you can easily view the answers to many of your pressing financial concerns. Here are the kinds of features you can find to answer those concerns:
- Graphically view how much money you really collected for work produced by your hygienist
- Check what kind of dollars you’ll make for the appointments scheduled for next month
- Review what you will eventually be paid for today’s completed work
- And many more answers to other financial questions
Many offices get A’s for creating and correctly interpreting their financial reports. But they deserve a “C" for applying this information accurately to further its financial performance. One common mistake many offices make is the failure to actually improve the way they collect the practice’s money.
Don’t be the office that makes this mistake. Your staff needs these tools to decrease the amount of time it takes to get patient and insurance payments.
Increase the speed of insurance payments by sending all of your insurance claims electronically. This simple action will help you decrease the time insurance companies take to reimburse you from weeks or months to days. Turnaround time for electronic claims can go fast enough to pay you on Thursday for the work finished on Monday!
Patient Billing Statements
Don’t make the mistake of delaying your patients’ payments by sending confusing statements. Send accurate statements with all the information your patients need. This way they can simply pay you instead of calling your staff with questions. Your software should allow your front desk to print walkout statements and send monthly billing statements to the head of the household.
The monthly statement you send to patients may only include charges that have already received their corresponding insurance payments. Or, these monthly statements may include charges that are still awaiting an insurance payment. Or they include an estimate of what these payments will be.
If your monthly statement estimates insurance payments, make sure the data used to generate this information is current and accurate. If your patients feel confused by the statement, they’re not going to pay — they’re going to call.
Easy-to-se Payment Entry Capability
Dental software’s primary purpose is to enable your practice to efficiently bill patients, insurance companies, and ultimately receive their payments. That’s why many of us create dental offices. Your software’s crowning moment is when it completes a payment and your staff enters it to your patient’s ledger.
Make sure that your software does not fall short in this most important area. Your staff’s ability to easily enter patient and insurance payments and display this information is of utmost importance. If your front desk incorrectly enters payments, all of your financial reports will be wrong.
And, from a financial standpoint, your practice will be lost.
Your software should provide an easy way for your staff to capture the various details of an insurance management. Your software should give an easy way for your staff to capture the various details of an insurance payment.
Collecting Insurance Checks
Insurance checks are usually accompanied by an explanation of benefits (EOB) statement from the insurance company. This document provides instructions on how to apply the insurance check payment to its corresponding patients and their procedures. The EOB also indicates if there were deductibles on certain patient procedures.
In the case of a preferred provider office (PPO), it indicates what dollar amounts to write off. You want this info to show the correct amounts owed by patients, met deductibles, and accurate outstanding balance aging.
Collecting Patient Payments
Your software will need the ability to easily divide and apply for patient payments.
Patient payments are usually easier to record than insurance payments. However, there are scenarios where recording a patient payment can get complicated. Often patients write checks not only towards their own appointment and outstanding balances but also to their family members’. Your software will need the ability to easily divide and apply for the patient payment among the various family members’ ledgers.
Breaking Up Patient and Insurance Payments
The way you compensate your providers may also complicate the process of entering payments. If you base pay for your hygienists and/or associate dentists on their collections, then you’ll need to break up patient and insurance payments.
For example, a patient who pays for an exam would be assigned to the doctor. However, the prophy part of the payment would be assigned to the hygienist. This way your payment and other financial reports will accurately reflect the associated dollars for the work completed by your providers.
Buying software that can’t handle core billing and paying duties is like buying a sports car with a lawnmower engine. Don’t be the doctor who gives the office a Porsche with a Yugo engine! Understand core financial features. Look under your dental management software’s hood. And make sure you have the horsepower for the job.
Dental Office Financial Success – Next Steps
Don’t feel guilty because you ignored the way your dental office bills and collects your hard-earned money. Instead, get involved with your financials by using your computer software to check and measure your staff’s collection performance. This will also help make sure your software has the right tools. Your practice’s proper use of computer software can become the key to your financial success.