The duties of dental office managers are many. Running a successful dental practice is a challenge every single day.
Kevin Tighe spells out many of the responsibilities of dental office managers. How much do you have to tackle?
The purpose of a dental office manager is to assist all staff in any way possible to become more efficient, productive, and competent, thus helping to create a profitable practice that delivers excellent service to patients.
Office managers must maintain a high level of competence and integrity that is not only witnessed, but mirrored by all staff. The office manager, along with the practice owner, sets the bar for competence and integrity. If employees find themselves working for someone whose competence and integrity is lower than their own, they will eventually jump ship. How can they work for someone they don’t respect?
Office manager mission statement
1. To help create an efficient and profitable practice that is well known in the community for excellent service to its patients.
2. To help create a harmonious work environment.
3. To ensure that quality patient care guides all decision-making.
Two critical systems
These two systems are critical to keep a practice from running into trouble. An office manager needs to be aware of these and adept at using them.
1. The office manager needs to establish and maintain a monthly budget to exercise control over the operating expenses, such as supplies, equipment, payroll, and more. The term “budget” is often misconstrued to mean “can’t spend money.” According to the Oxford Concise English Dictionary, budget means, “The amount of money needed or available. Estimate of revenue or income and expenditure made by a company, family, private individual, etc.”
2. The office manager needs to create job description manuals that are customized for every position in the practice. The purpose of this is to provide written procedures that are specific to each position in the office. Having written policies and procedures gives an office manager an effective means of training and correcting staff by referring to established protocols that have been approved by the owner.
It is not efficient to correct something an employee has been doing wrong without having a written policy or procedure to provide reference and direction. Without that piece of paper, it can become very tense and often results in bad morale. This is one of the main reasons owners and office managers seldom confront and deal with employees until they’ve reached the point of firing them.
Many good and capable staff have quit or been fired unnecessarily. The reverse is also true—many negative and nonproductive staff members have remained when they should not have been allowed to stay. To save everyone a lot of headaches, get your “how to” policies in writing and keep them up to date.
Code of conduct
People who work together require guidelines. The purpose of such guidelines is to improve staff relationships and enhance production. Guidelines should be enforced in a constructive manner. It is important to clearly define and make these guidelines available in writing so staff can become familiar with what is expected. As a result, disciplinary action becomes predictable and not based on opinions or bias.
Violation of acceptable conduct may result in a verbal or written warning and possible discharge. To arrive at the proper action, consider the seriousness of the violation, the past record of the employee, the circumstances surrounding the matter, and the consequences that resulted from the violation.
Although it’s impossible to identify every violation in a code of conduct, here is a partial list of violations that may result in warnings or discharge:
1. Ineffective use of work time
2. Failure to maintain effective working relationships with fellow employees, management, and patients
4. Divulging confidential information
5. Negligence or deliberate inattention to patient care
6. Frequent and unexcused absence or tardiness
7. Creating a disturbance in the workplace
8. Reporting to work in an unfit condition
Keep the doctor focused
It’s best for the practice owner not to spend a lot of time on managing the practice. Instead, the practice owner should focus on servicing as many patients as possible with the best possible care. The office manager should stay focused on helping patients, not on the money. The money will come if the focus of the practice is on helping as many people as possible by improving the quality of their lives through excellent dentistry and communication.
Office manager daily checklist
1. Be at least five minutes early for the morning huddle.
2. Start the morning meeting at the proper time.
3. Make sure the receptionist has a daily report filled out prior to the morning huddle.
4. Quickly review the schedule and patient charts.
5. Encourage staff to increase production for the upcoming day.
6. Get an agreement from staff on attaining the production and patient visit goal for the day.
7. Start seeing patients on time.
8. Stay on time throughout the day while creating extra production as needed in coordination with the staff.
9. Review the accounts receivable with the accounts manager. Ensure that past due accounts are followed up on.
10. Meet with the scheduling coordinator. Find out how many new patients are scheduled and how much production is booked for the next day and the next two weeks.
11. Complete paperwork during breaks between patients, and handle any patient paperwork backlogs.
12. Personally meet at least every fifth day with each employee and ask how each person is doing and what help they need to become better trained or improve their skill sets. Make sure to follow through with the help they need.
13. Answer or file all communication daily. Be a good example regarding quickly answering communications.
14. Refer staff to written procedures when asked about something already covered in the policy or procedures.
Office manager weekly checklist
1. Make sure all front office staff are fully trained. Write a weekly report on the progress each employee made that week toward completing any training. Part of the report should be the target date for training completion.
2. Meet with the owner about his or her week. Coordinate activities regarding patients and the upcoming week. Strive toward improving communication between the two of you. Review and validate the office production, especially if a new level was reached that week.
3. At the end of the week, review the bills. This report should have:
• A list of all vendors with invoices due
• A list of late bills
• Amounts checked as to which ones you recommend to be paid that week
• Amount collected and put into the bank that week
• Amount in checking account
• Budget amount indicated for the week
• Initial each amount (by vendor) that you want paid that week. Have the checks printed (if not paying online) and sent.
• Ensure all bills are paid and savings deposits are made no later than Friday at 5 p.m.
4. Conduct an end-of-the-week (can also be bi-monthly or monthly) staff meeting.
• Staff members should report on their production and the highlights of their week.
• Staff should be briefed on any new developments or plans.
• Staff should be validated for jobs well done.
• Any needed coordination between the front and back should be discussed.
• Goals should be set for the next week or month and everyone should agree on their goals.
• New policies should be distributed and discussed as needed.
• Staff should be invited to share success stories from patients.
• Needed training such as role playing should be conducted.
• An upbeat acknowledgement or instructions should end the meeting.
5. Review your written plans. Check off any things to do that were completed that week and mark the ones to be completed in the upcoming week.
6. Develop an action plan for the week and carry over any incomplete projects from one day to the next until they’re done.
Office manager apprenticeship checklist
There is no time limit for the apprenticeship checklist. The practice owner is the only one who should sign off on each task. The office manager should meet a minimum of once a week to review progress on the checklist until it’s complete. The practice owner should refer the office manager to the appropriate policies for any needed reviews or new information relating to the office manager job.
____1) Communicates well with patients.
____2) Communicates well with the dentist and staff.
____3) Competently runs the morning huddles.
____4) Has the respect of all staff as the office manager.
____5) Competently interviews and hires staff.
____6) Competently trains staff for their jobs by helping them through their required exams and apprenticeships.
____7) Provides each employee with a training program.
____8) Knows how to competently perform job duty reviews with staff.
____9) Knows how to take good x-rays when necessary.
____10) Works closely with the assistants and receptionist to encourage all patients to complete their treatment plans.
____11) Sets a good example for other staff.
____12) Contributes to an upbeat and harmonious dental practice through his or her actions and attitude toward patients, staff, and doctors.
____13) Keeps patients informed of the practice’s internal referral program and encourages patients to refer family and friends.
____14) Adheres to the policies and procedures of the office.
____15) Maintains a good appearance.
____16) Is competent with the office’s practice management software and can train others.
____17) Refers others to appropriate company policies as opposed to giving verbal opinions on policy and procedures.
____18) Has proven the ability to get insurance companies to pay promptly.
____19) Has a proven ability to handle upset patients.
____20) Ensures accounts receivable is very low.
____21) Provides the owner with an up-to-date summary of the bills each month.
____22) Stays on top of expenses and helps maintain an excellent profit for the practice.