Planning for the New Year

Eight areas you can focus on when making goals for your practice in the coming year.

As you prepare your practice for the upcoming year, I suggest you reflect on the previous year. What worked for your office and what didn’t, and what does your practice hope to achieve in the coming year?

First, have a meeting with the practice owner. What do they hope to achieve this year? By gathering that information, you can come up with a game plan to help them achieve those goals. Here’s some ideas of common practice goals and some thoughts on how you can achieve them.

Attract More New Patients To Your Office

  • Plan a new marketing campaign. This could consist of many things including a mailer introducing your practice or a referral reward program.
  • Consider becoming contracted with an insurance company to attract more new patients with that insurance plan. Make sure you review the fee schedule carefully to be sure it will work for your practice.

Develop a More Productive Hygiene Department

  • Extend hygiene hours. Having an appointment available early in the morning or later in the evening can be very popular with patients because it’s more convenient with their work schedule. Adding just one additional appointment per day will increase your overall hygiene production.
  • Encourage your hygienists to do more procedures during each appointment. Hygienists can do many procedures to manage and improve the patient’s oral health:
    • They can place an antimicrobial agent like Arestin in periodontal pockets.
    • They can offer the patient a fluoride treatment. Even if insurance won’t cover the fluoride treatment, patients are often willing to pay for it.
    • They can regularly record patient’s periodontal probe depths and treat periodontal issues with scaling and root planing.
    • They can even place sealants for children.
  • Remember that your hygienists are producers in your practice, and there are many procedures they can do to increase their daily production.

Reduce Cancellations and No Shows

  • Confirm appointments. Sounds obvious, but I’m not satisfied an appointment is confirmed until I have spoken to the patient or received confirmation via text message or email. Don’t assume that leaving a message on a voicemail is a confirmed appointment.
  • Use a confirmation service, like Dentrix Patient Engage to conveniently send appointment reminders by text, e-mail or automated phone call. This saves staff time from making confirmation calls, and gives patients an easy option to confirm appointments.
  • Have a strict no-show and cancellation policy. Advise your patients of your policy and be sure to enforce it.
  • Have an ASAP List available for the times you do have a last-minute cancellation so that you can fill the appointment and avoid lost revenue. Appointments can be put on the ASAP list which is available in Appointment Lists in the Appointment Book.

Close the Office for Yearly Holidays

  • Set up your office schedule for the coming year by closing the office for holidays. For example, if your office plans to take time off for the 4th of July, Labor Day, and/or between Christmas and New Year, it’s a good idea to set the office schedule before entering practice production goals, because practice production goals are generally set up based on the days the office will be seeing patients. It’s important to note when setting your office schedule, if you set a yearly holiday, it is based on a specific date. So, while this feature will work for a holiday like Christmas Day, it won’t work for a holiday that the date changes every year, like Memorial Day. For additional information, see the following:

Evaluate Your Office Fees

Increase Production

One way to increase production is to maximize every patient’s appointment:

  • Always take X-rays when the patient is due.
  • Offer fluoride to every patient, regardless of insurance coverage. Many patients are willing to pay out of pocket for it once you have explained the benefits.
  • Check if your younger patients are eligible for sealants. It’s a quick and easy procedure which will increase the production for that appointment.
  • Record periodontal probe depths regularly and place an antimicrobial agent if needed.
  • You can add dental plan exceptions in the Dental Insurance Benefits and Coverage dialog box to record all the patient’s insurance plan coverage details, age limits, and frequencies, so the entire team has easy access to this information. This will make it quicker and easier to present treatment plans to patients for these types of procedures.

Increase Collections

  • Be sure to always collect patient portions at time of service. Over the counter collections can be tracked on the Dentrix Practice Advisor Report. You can set up the payment types that should be considered as over-the-counter collections in the Practice Advisor setup. It’s recommended that you collect 30-40 percent of production at the time of service.
  • Use the Collections Manager in Dentrix to follow up on patients who have an outstanding balance.
    Follow up on outstanding insurance claims using the Insurance Aging Report. Make detailed notes in the Claim Status Notes to remind you of why the claim is delayed in being paid.
  • If you’re using Dentrix Pay, you can securely save credit card information and apply payments to Payment Agreements. This will ensure balances are paid in a timely manner.

Improve Interoffice Communication

  • Use an instant messaging system to communicate throughout the office. This can save a lot of time going back and forth to tell the doctor that the hygienist is ready for an exam, or to tell the office manager that she has a phone call. Communicating via text message also avoids patients overhearing conversations that may be about another patient.
  • Use Patient Route Slips or Patient Visit Forms to communicate from the clinical team to the administrative team information like procedures that were completed for a patient and what their next visit should be. This eliminates confusion when setting appointments complete.

Once you’ve had a conversation with the practice owner and come up with your yearly goals and how you want to implement them, have a meeting with the entire team. It’s important to have everyone on the same page and understand the direction the practice is heading.

Whatever your goals are for your practice in the new year, Dentrix offers many great features to help you implement them.

Learn More

For additional information, read the following :

By Charlotte Skaggs
Certified Dentrix Trainer and The Dentrix Office Manager columnist

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for over 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at