Dental Practice Automation & Dental Practices
Opportunities and Key Considerations
This week, let’s talk about dental practice automation—the process of automating previously manual functions to improve accuracy, information security, speed, and efficiency.
Automation allows your practice team to focus on other tasks, such as managing patients and providing a better patient experience. Automation and outsourcing are not always mutually exclusive solutions for your practice. Many times they are, in fact, interconnected.
The reason is that some outsourcing experts provide automation of practice tasks as part of their services. Indeed, many outsourcing specialists’ attractive pricing is often a function of scale generated through task automation across multiple practices. For this article, however, we will discuss continuing to keep dental practice operations in-house while applying automation to improve efficiency, speed, and accuracy.
Here we will look at the most common dental practice functions that can be automated, as well as essential factors to consider:
Several platforms out there today allow you to load your patients’ database and then automate everyday marketing tasks such as:
- Social media posts
- Landing page creation for your website
- Other functions
You have the flexibility to create emails and posts by dragging and dropping images and text and auto-schedule the distribution of communications. You can prepare multiple email formats to auto-send upcoming reminders and follow-ups for cleaning, reach out to lapsed patients, and send promotions and offers. Equally important, these systems allow you to analyze who opened your communications, as well as what text and images they clicked on. With this information, you can refine your future marketing strategies.
Besides some of the most well-known dental marketing software in the market, there are HubSpot and MailChimp. These are two popular platforms that have made marketing automation simple and accessible without technical complexity for the user. They offer tiered pricing based on your patient database’s size, making them very affordable to small businesses.
Why not send out electronic forms to new patients to gather their specific information, rather than handing them a clipboard when they first arrive in your office?
COVID-19 forced many dental offices to review their practices by implementing some system automation to ensure everyone’s safety. But, if you are one of the few who still work with a clipboard for patient intake, you should consider the benefits of automating this simple task.
The benefit is improved accuracy of data capture as your staff no longer need to decode messy handwriting. It also helps maintain your appointment schedule. Patients arriving a little late to their appointment will no longer spend additional time filling out your new patient form upon arrival. Today’s electronic form systems are user friendly enough to allow your patients to fill out their information on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone. Plus, many patients, especially those who are younger, appreciate the increased efficiency at their end as well.
Patient Communication: Appointment Reminders, Patient Reviews, and Surveys
Automating appointment confirmations, reminders, re-care follow-ups, requests for patient reviews, and survey feedback is a great way to off-load tasks and reap tremendous benefits from technology.
The market is inundated with such systems that can auto-send first, second, third, etc., reminders by email, text, and even phone calls. They are a great way to re-contact lapsed patients to motivate them back into your practice. Automation can also manage the reassignment of openings caused by canceled appointments. A patient receives a text to confirm an upcoming appointment chooses ‘cancel’ as they can no longer make that time. Automatically, the system reassigns this appointment slot to a patient on your waiting list, saving your team from scrambling to do this manually.
After each visit, how about automatically sending a communication asking for a review? You can even include links to the most popular review sites such as Yelp, Facebook, and Google. In a previous article, we talked about how gathering reviews is essential to your practice’s marketing efforts. Automating that process can better ensure your patients review you without your team spending time to follow-up individually.
The chances are good that you already have some form of automation in place for this. The days of manual, paper accounts are long gone. However, there are dental-specific solutions out there, which in addition to tracking your revenue and expenses, offer the ability to examine your financial performance across specific dental practice metrics such as Daily Production and Collection, Average Cost Per Treatment, etc. You’re then able to make more informed decisions about how to manage your practice.
How long does it take for your insurance coordinator to check patient eligibility for your daily schedule? Consider all the time your staff spends holding on a phone call then waiting for” faxes or emails” detailing the insurance breakdown.
There are solutions in the market that can directly connect your practice management software to the insurance company portal. Subsequently, the automation connection uploads the patient eligibility, and break-down files into the patient account, updating the patient’s insurance information.
If your practice sees more than 50 patients per day, you might consider learning more about how this small investment can support your business growth long term.
Learning online reduces employee downtime by about 40% compared with instructor-led training, increasing productivity, and generating more billable hours.
➡ IMPORTANT: What To Consider When Automating
While several tasks can be automated, the decision to do so requires careful consideration. Here are some of the most important considerations facing dental practice owners:
1) Size of your practice
- How many practices do you have? How big is your patient database? The costs of dental practice automation become more affordable when spread over multiple dental practices. Small dental offices can still benefit from automation, but it will mean that some functions are more affordable than others.
2) Implementation comes with hidden costs
In addition to the cost of subscribing to a marketing platform, dental financial system, or auto-contact system, there’s also the cost of readying your practice for automation. For example, a marketing platform or auto-contact system will require integration with your patient database. Each week, you take on new patients, and they all need to automatically transfer to become part of the regular schedule of emails, posts, and reminders. Integrating systems can come with several costs:
- Software. The cost of additional software or hardware that may be required to execute the automated task. Software is usually a monthly fee and will be a tiered price depending on the number of transactions or user licenses.
- System integration costs. There may be costs to or integrate your existing system with the new platform. Additional software plug-ins, or even programming expertise, may be needed to ensure seamless information transfer and functionality.
- Hardware. You may also find yourself needing to upgrade hardware to get the most out of the automated platforms.
- Technology expertise. Lastly, you may need an expert to supervise and execute the automation process. Most platforms include some set-up and servicing hours within their pricing. However, these may not cover all of your needs. You may need to hire a 3rd party technician to help you through this process. The good news is there is expertise out there specific to the dental and healthcare industries.
- A system is only as good as the way people use it. If used incorrectly or only half used, then any potential benefits will be lost. Ensure those team members using the automated system are well-versed in its features and understand that using it properly is now part of their job function.
4) Communicate any new expectations to the team
- Many team members will welcome automation. It allows them to work on more enjoyable parts of their job instead of menial or time-consuming tasks. Simultaneously, others may see it as a threat or a signal that their previous work was less than satisfactory. Make sure to plan out how you will communicate the upcoming changes and expectations to your practice team.
Automation can be a great way to improve your practice efficiency, freeing up your team to work on other important tasks and, in some cases, even keep your staffing costs down.
Automation also allows you to keep everything in-house, which offers a sense of control and reassurance for some dental practice owners. Take care to automate the functions that will not impact the quality of interaction with your patients. A superb practice experience is what keeps your patients coming back. We’ve all had negative experiences dealing with automated systems that get our details wrong, send us irrelevant messages, and impersonally treat us like numbers. Staying focused on how your automation improves your business AND your patient’s practice experience will ensure you make the right automation choices.
About NGT Academy
We are one of the few turnkey Learning Management System providers that specializes in the dental industry. Our platform contains dental-specific eLearning courses designed to help you with dental practice operations and all other aspects of dental practice management.
Did you know eLearning typically costs at least 30% less than conventional training? It could be a truly efficient solution for your dental organization.