Why Office Managers LOVE ❤️ Data
"Dental Intelligence has paid for itself 10x over. It’s the best dental practice management tool I’ve ever experienced."
Are you an office manager? Raise your hand if this sounds familiar.
It’s 7:00am. You’ve been in the office for almost an hour. Four voice messages were waiting for you when you walked in the door. Two hygiene cancellations and also a two-hour appointment with the dentist that needs to reschedule. The doctor’s not going to be happy. The fourth message? It was from Amy, your front-desk coordinator. Turns out the cough she had yesterday has gotten worse, and she won’t be in today, which means YOU will now be the front-desk coordinator. Oh boy.
Your huddle starts at 7:30. Everyone will be expecting to see how their schedule looks for the day, if there are any holes, and who they’ll be treating. Each and every day, you print out those schedules and add notes unique to each clinician, which is a ton of work. Not to mention…
- Managing that huddle, day after day
- Calling the copier repair company
- Getting the collections report done for the month
- Answering 217 phone calls
- Ordering lunch for the doctor
- Meeting with the treatment coordinator to discuss goals
- Figuring out what the smell is in the woman’s bathroom
- And on…And on…And on…
Being an office manager is one of the most demanding roles in dentistry. High stress. Long hours. Heavy workload. You’re taking care of a hundred different things, often all at the same time. No wonder you sometimes head home with a headache, sore feet, and maybe even a few tears.
This is exactly what Margaret, office manager for Greenwood Dental in American Fork, Utah, was experiencing as she managed this large, well-established family practice. With almost 3,000 active patients, Greenwood Dental has a reputation for friendly, personalized treatment while using many state-of-the-art tools and solutions to provide their patients with the best possible care.
All this being true, Margaret and her team were struggling to overcome several significant hurdles that were keeping them from further growth. Like many practices, they'd hit a wall and couldn’t seem to get over it. Two of their biggest pain points were ones common to every other dental practice: Recall and holes in the schedule created by cancellations & no-shows, and the impact these problems had on their office culture. What they discovered and how they overcame these and other challenges can help your practice as you face and attempt to solve similar obstacles.
“Recall was my worst nightmare”
When asked what her most frustrating day-to-day obstacle was, Margaret didn’t hesitate. “The biggest pain for me was recall. In Dentrix, you have to print out a 100-page report showing all cancellations, after which you then need to review the report, double-checking to see if they are really still current patients. You also have to look for specific things, like how long ago they were diagnosed and how likely they would be to get back on the schedule. You’re also in the dark about whether or not there were any additional undocumented conversations regarding treatment plans, payment, etc.”
Margaret recalled literally going through every single patient on the report, one by one, and deciding whether or not they should be called to try and reschedule. “It was such a pain! I had no way to filter these names by any custom criteria,” she said. The printed report was also out of date after one day, which meant it had to be generated each time she wanted to make more calls. “This wasn’t something you could do in five minutes,” Margaret added. She often ended up feeling like her entire day was wasted just trying to stay on top of recall.
“The doctors would understandably get frustrated with holes in the schedule and wonder why those weren’t filled,” Margaret continued. “They understood I couldn’t help it when patients cancelled, but I was still held responsible for how I handled those cancellations.” Her response was to keep an active cancellation list and try to get someone on the schedule the moment a time opened, but this was also not optimal.
“I would get the ‘Are you doing recall?’ question at least once a week from the doctors, which I didn’t look forward to,” Margaret said. “I wanted to do my best in my job but doing recall was never my favorite. It also often felt like cold calling, which I certainly didn’t enjoy. I kind of felt like I was stuck. This was just how things had always been done and it didn’t seem like there was ever going to be a better way.”
Another issue for Margaret was trying to get help from her team. This hadn’t been part of the culture of the practice, and she wasn’t clear on how to overcome that. “I worked hard to get the assistants or hygienists to help me with recall because it was so hard to do all by myself,” she said. “I wanted them to share the burden with me whenever possible, but they were just as unhappy doing recall as I was, so I had to continually try and sell them on how important it was for the practice.”
The Impact of Practice Intelligence
After a lot of research to find a solution that would help relieve these problems with recall, Greenwood Dental learned about Dental Intelligence and began implementing their platform. Dental Intelligence is a cloud-based practice analytics company that helps dental practices use actionable metrics to grow and improve in ways that are important to them. They don’t just provide practices with a lot of statistics and reports, but instead work closely with practice owners and team members to improve patient care, team collaboration, and practice profitability.
According to Margaret, “With Dental Intel, it’s been a night and day difference from how it used to be. I excel in customer service. It’s what drives me each day – giving each patient a great experience with our practice. Having DI has made it very easy to keep track of conversations with patients, so I have more connection to them and their situation when I call them back about rescheduling. It no longer feels like I am cold calling them. I know so much more and can have much better conversations with them. I can now be a consultant, talking them through their options and helping them to make a decision. I no longer spend time trying to talk them into treatment.”
Using Dental Intel’s Follow-Ups tool, Margaret can now quickly enter her patient notes and she then no longer needs to worry about remembering what she discussed with them. “These tools are improving our relationships with our patients,” she said. “Now I’m an advocate for that patient instead of an annoyance to them. Because I know so much more about their situation, I can go to work finding a way to help them get the care they need. I’m still selling, but it’s a very different kind of selling. I still need to talk about implants and cosmetic and all the other things we do, but it’s coming from a very different place than it did before.”
Not only is Dental Intelligence helping Greenwood to relieve the pain of recall, but it’s also positively impacting their schedule. “We’re growing more than we have before,” Margaret shared. “We’re basically scheduled out solid for the next four months. Although we’re still adding new patients, our challenge now is where to fit them on the schedule.” This improvement has helped Greenwood to have new conversations about the growth of the practice and what the next year looks like for them, which is very exciting.
“We’re now filling the schedule in the right way, with the right patients,” Margaret said. “Now we’re talking about things like ‘How are we going to add new families? How can we set aside time for deep cleanings?’ DI is helping us to have new conversations that we couldn’t have before. We love the challenge of trying to juggle the schedule now to take care of all of the patients we have while still bringing in new patients. Dental Intel is also helping us to reduce the number of patients that are falling through the cracks. It’s been a game-changer.”
Another one of the most impactful tools for Margaret and her team has been the Dental Intelligence Patient Profile. “Before using the Patient Profile, I would rack my brain when a patient called, trying to remember how many kids they have, if they have unscheduled treatment, and on and on,” she said. “So many things to keep track of! Now, with Patient Profile, I just type in the patient’s name and the tool shows me everything I need to know about not just that patient, but anyone associated with that patient."
"For example, when a patient calls, I can immediately see their name and other info I need to see about them. I can also see that one of their children hasn’t had a filling done yet and can ask about that while we’re on the phone. I can also check insurance, outstanding balances, etc. The phone call will probably end up being longer, but it will also be so much more productive and once again, will help us to build that patient relationship.”
“That’s Not My Job”
A second and related challenge Greenwood Dental was trying to improve was their office culture. According to Margaret, “One of the issues we had was the ‘That’s Not My Job’ syndrome, as in, it’s not my job to…answer the phones, take a payment, clean an operatory, etc. We didn’t have an ‘All-hands-on-deck’ mentality. Dental Intel has actually helped to change our culture.”
Greenwood Dental is an experienced practice with a lot of veteran team members, so adapting to new systems doesn’t always come easily. However, with the insights from Dental Intel they now have into each team member’s performance, everyone is more motivated to improve. Margaret has learned how to take x-rays. Assistants have come up and learned how to take payments when she is on the phone. They know how to check out a patient. Hygienists are now helping assistants whenever possible.
Greenwood also now holds a monthly meeting and uses Dental Intelligence to go over their performance. “This meeting used to be dreaded and very unproductive,” Margaret shared. “No one paid attention. Now we are doing DI training during this meeting and showing everyone what can be done using data. We include a brief training on DI, discussing how you do something, so the team can see what we’re able to do. By discussing this consistently and paying attention to it, I’m having team members come up and ask me how to do something – they are wanting to learn some of our best practices, which is exciting.”
“The Best Dental Practice Management Tool I’ve Ever Experienced”
“I’ve enjoyed my job more in the past year than in any year previous,” Margaret shared. “It’s better than it has ever been before. I feel like I am excelling now and there’s a satisfaction that comes with that. It’s not about raises or bonuses – for me, it’s about the relationships I have with our patients and Dental Intel has helped make that more satisfying than in years past. DI has paid for itself 10x over. It’s the best dental practice management tool I’ve ever experienced in over four years in dentistry, and I’ve looked at or used many of them. It has made the biggest difference in our practice.”
Margaret and the team at Greenwood Dental aren’t unique. Like most successful practices, they were providing excellent care to their patients and were plenty busy. But to their credit, Greenwood wasn’t willing to settle for “good enough.” “Measuring and focusing on our key indicators has changed the culture of our entire practice,” Margaret said. “Attitude trickles down. Because I’m not stressed anymore, that impacts the rest of the practice. I’m comfortable with taking the time for an unhurried, pleasant conversation with patients and team members, which helps everyone else. I don’t leave work stressed. I come to work, I enjoy my job, I go home. I’m not sitting at home decompressing anymore – I’m not up during the night, tossing and turning. Even if I walk in the door the next morning and have one or even multiple cancellations, I’m not going to stress about it."
"I now know how to use Dental Intel to fill those holes with the right patients. Hygienists can come to visit with us at the front desk without worrying we’ll be in a bad mood. This means they’re happier too. They help more. Dental Intelligence has improved everything in the practice. My only wish is that I could’ve had access to this tool even sooner.”