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6 Easy Dental Practice Automation Hacks

Short-staffed, going paperless, or just want to reduce your workload? Dental practice automation is where it’s at! With the right tools, you can significantly cut hours spent on tedious backend tasks and free yourself to focus on what matters most. Six of our favorite automation tips and tools are covered below.

1. Appointment Reminders

Tired of playing phone tag and missed production from no-shows? Automating your appointment reminders will help. Practices using our patient texting service, pwConnect, report a 70-90 percent reduction in reminder calls and near-elimination of no-shows.

When you use a service that’s affordably priced like pwConnect, even a small practice only seeing 15 patients per day and spending two minutes per call will break even on the monthly cost with about a week of use, while larger practices and those still using methods like postcards will start banking time and money within days—purely using the texting service for reminders versus reactivations, marketing, and all the other things it can help you with!

How Appointment Reminder Automation Works

With pwConnect, you can send out a “save the date” message as soon as an appointment is made, a reminder text a few weeks before the appointment, and a confirmation text that automatically populates your schedule with a confirmation mark as soon as a patient responds.

2. Digital Lists

Still working with printed lists of overdue and unscheduled patients that are outdated almost as soon as they’re printed? Like placing confirmation calls, contacting all these patients manually eats up immense amounts of time and all too often results in an endless game of phone tag. Plus, notes tend to get jumbled, so staff is constantly moving between various paper documents and notes within your software.

However, when you work with digital lists, your list is always current and all notes are kept in one place, so it’s easy to see the communication trail and ensure patients are followed up with at your preferred intervals. Perhaps most importantly, digital lists can work alongside your favorite communication automation tools, such as pwConnect. That means you can message everyone at once or send individual messages on-demand with a click.  Even smaller practices save hours each week through this type of automation, but the real magic is in the production boost, as a single booked appointment can cover the monthly subscription fee for a patient communication tool by itself.

How List Automation Works

In Practice-Web, we call digital lists Appointment Lists and they’re included in the base software at no additional cost. Choose from options such as:

3. Intake Paperwork and Health History Updates

A recent survey of 223,000 patients by Healthcare Dive shows 51 percent of people rate convenience and access to care as the most important factor when they’re making healthcare decisions, beating quality of care by a 16-point margin. That means it’s imperative to streamline the patient experience as much as possible. Giving patients the option to complete their paperwork in advance wherever they’re most comfortable is an easy way to do this, plus can speed up intake times dramatically.

When you opt for paperless forms, you can eliminate manual entry as well, easily freeing your team of five to ten minutes of needless work per patient and eliminating bottlenecks at the front desk. Considering manual entry typically results in about one error per page according to UNLV research (a stat that holds true even when people doublecheck their work), eliminating it can improve the accuracy of your records and patient care too.

How Patient Form Automation Works

If you use Practice-Web, online paperless patient forms are included with your paid Support. A variety of premade forms are automatically available in the software, which you can customize to your liking, or you can create your own. From there, you can add the forms to your website or send them by text and email. Completed forms are automatically sent to your practice for review and import. Consent forms work in a similar fashion, though are typically signed via a Topaz signature pad or similar.

Because not all patients will have access to mobile devices and some may not remember to complete forms in advance, Practice-Web also offers an iPad registrations and forms Smart Tool.  It allows patients to check themselves in, update their records, and even take their own headshot and photos of insurance cards using your practice’s iPad.

4. Scheduling

More than two-thirds of patients prefer to book online according to GetApp surveys. Research shows a large portion of millennials will only book online too. When asked why, patients say they’re frustrated with common issues like long hold times and waiting for a practice to open. Virtually all survey respondents say they’d consider switching to a new provider based purely on the ability to book online as well.

Meanwhile, practices typically report spending seven to ten minutes per new patient call. That means a practice attracting just 50 new patients per month is devoting more than eight hours to intake calls for new patients alone. It’s easy to see how a practice can save hundreds of dollars per month through scheduling automation and even attract more new patients by offering self-scheduling tools.

How Scheduling Automation Works

The Practice-Web Online Scheduling Smart Tool is designed to work seamlessly with our practice management software. Once it’s set up, you’ll simply share your online booking link. Add it to your website and social media profiles or share it via text and email. Then, watch as your schedule automatically populates with the appointments booked online. Everything falls into your natural workflows, including confirmations, so you can automate the entire intake process from start to finish.

5. Notes

Solid clinical notes are imperative for effectively managing patient care, insurance, and legal compliance, but they can also be a major drain of time and it’s not always easy to get everyone on the same page with their note-taking styles. Practices often have difficulty tracking patient communication as well, but good notes can make all the difference in the world when it comes to keeping front and back-office staff aligned. Thankfully, it’s possible to automate your chart notes, so they’re standardized and can be made quickly.

How Note Automation Works

Practice-Web offers two forms of note automation: Quick Notes and Auto Notes. Quick Notes are designed to automatically add key words or phrases with a single prompt. Some come standard with the program but you can add your own too. For example, you may type the phrase ?anx and the system will write the word “anxiety.”

Auto Notes are designed to record longer bits of information and will walk you through a series of prompts to ensure your notes include all required details in a standardized format. For example, you might create a template for SOAP notes or one for fillings that prompts you to enter details such as the type of anesthetic applied and the number of carpules as well as the shade used. If there’s a wide variance of options, you may want to use a text prompt to host free-form text. You can also set the system to offer a pick list when only a single appropriate choice or use the multi-response option to allow the note-taker to select multiple checkboxes.

6. Insurance Processes

We often think of insurance in terms of the time it takes to bill the insurance company, but dental offices spend a considerable amount of time across a variety of insurance processes that can be greatly reduced by moving to electronic methods that include some automation. Data below shows the average time to complete common insurance processes manually vs electronically according to the latest CAQH Index.

  • Eligibility and Benefit Verification: 13 minutes vs 3 minutes
  • Claim Submission: 6 minutes vs 2 minutes
  • Claim Status Inquiry: 17 minutes vs 3 minutes
  • Remittance Advice: 9 minutes vs 3 minutes
  • Claim Payment: 6 minutes vs 3 minutes

In other words, practices get a total of 37 minutes per patient back by using electronic insurance processes. That works out to over 21 hours per day if your practice sees 35 patients. If your practice has partially adopted electronic options, you’ll save around 11 minutes per patient or around 6.5 hours if your practice sees 35 patients per day.

There are also cost savings of automating and going electronic which CAQH places at over $6,000 per year.

How Automating Insurance Processes Works

Although Practice-Web doesn’t directly manage insurance processes, as is the case with virtually all dental software, it integrates with most clearinghouses and we typically recommend DentalXChange.  In this sense, you’ll carry out most processes via your Practice-Web interface and DentalXChange picks up the process on the back end and works with the insurance company to complete actions.  

Rather than calling insurance companies to find out if a patient is eligible and what their plan offers, you’ll simply use your software to check and then import the data. Claims, including electronic attachments such as x-rays and perio charting, may also be processed through the software—no need to print, copy, and snail-mail claims!

When you’re set up with the full suite, you’ll also get notifications of any claim-related issues, so you can correct them right away and get paid faster. You’ll also have the option of getting electronic EOBs and payments sent directly to your account, so you don’t need to spend hours processing paper checks anymore.

Practices leveraging Smart Caller ID, a call pop-style Smart Tool, also have the option of including insurance verification in the service. When a patient calls, the tool automatically pops up with patient details such as recall and treatment needs and balances, so it’s easy to see important details and direct the conversation in a way that improves patient care and maximizes both production and collections.

Get Help Automating Your Dental Practice

Already leveraging these dental automation strategies and want to make sure you’re maximizing their benefit or interesting in adding them to your practice? Drop us a line and let us know how we can help.

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