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Tips for Hiring an Office Manager

If your name is on the door, you’re more than just a dentist: you’re also head coach, recruiter, decision-maker, ruffled-feather-smoother, and more. The best ones are the glue that holds everything together and the oil that makes it run smoothly.

Efficient leaders must rely on an entire arsenal of skills and talents, but they also need to be able to rely on their second-in-command; in the case of running a practice, that person is almost always the office manager. From making sure the schedule is spaced and filled all the way to keeping work spaces decluttered to reduce stress, everything that happens in your practice can be helped or hurt by the effectiveness of your office manager.

But how does one go about recruiting top talent to ensure growth and stability? What’s the best way to find a future leader? We have some suggestions that may help.

Look Everywhere…but Start at Home.

When searching for a replacement for a successful office manager, there tend to be two camps: on the one hand is a tendency to seek out candidates that will serve as their predecessor’s clone. On the other hand are those who automatically jump to searching for candidates outside of the organization. Your best bet is to run simultaneous internal and external searches, judging all candidates against the same criteria.

Selective hiring, particularly in periods of growth, is essential for stability and sustainability. Hiring decisions may be influenced by what has worked in the past, but make sure you’re keeping the future needs of the business in mind. There’s something to be said for knowing the company well from Day One, but new ideas may be exactly what your organization needs.

Interview Professionally, Not Formally.

When it comes time to start the interviewing process, taking a more casual approach allows for a natural, free-flowing conversation…and that’s truly the best way to get to know an interviewee on a real-life basis. Going beyond the resume, as it were, provides a greater opportunity to tell whether the person will be a strong match with your practice’s needs … and with the office culture.

Although a strong work ethic is one of the most important traits you should look for in an office manager, being organized is also reflected in one’s ability to balance work and personal lives. Employees who can strike this balance are less likely to burn out, increasing the odds of them staying with the position for the long-haul.

Look for Organization.

We can’t really stress this enough: Organizational skills are essential for the office manager role:

  • Time-Management. Knowing how to manage time is critical when it comes to keeping everyone on task. The best OMs are keenly aware of the appointment schedule, striving to keep it full enough to maximize revenue but still retain flexibility. This allows everyone to stay busy but not overwhelmed.
  • Physical Skills. As we mentioned earlier, a cluttered workspace causes stress. Loose papers lying around, pens and markers without a proper place, personal items strewn about haphazardly: these not only lead to misplaced items, they can also pose a safety risk. Look for candidates that can present themselves and their work neatly and professionally.
  • Resource Handling. When it comes to smooth operations, knowing where and how to use resources is paramount. The organized office manager will have a history of knowing how to delegate tasks to others, rather than trying to handle everything solo. The best candidates will be able to demonstrate they know who to trust with what tasks, to take things off your plate and make sure that everything is handled in an efficient manner.

As a leader yourself, you should constantly be on the lookout for candidates who are adaptable and exhibit strong organizational skills. Such abilities are vital to an efficient and productive workforce, but they are absolutely critical when it comes to your office manager.

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Data Breaches and Dental Practices

As a practicing dentist, you understand the importance of taking care of your equipment. And it’s a no-brainer that you have to take care of your patients, and staff. But how much thought have you put into taking care of your data?

If you think your practice is too small to be a target for hackers, you’re fooling yourself: nearly two-thirds of all cyberattacks these days are directed at small businesses … and that includes yours.

And whether you realize it or not, you have a lot to lose: we keep important client information on our computers: names, addresses, phone numbers, and sometimes more. Can you imagine those clients’ faces if we had to say “Sorry, my computer was hacked, and your info is now on the Dark Net.”? It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

According to Lloyd’s of London, the estimated cost of cyberattacks is $400 billion annually … and that number is predicted to jump to nearly $2 TRILLION by the end of this year. One financial tech expert called the impending disaster an “ecommerce Armageddon.”

And that’s all for a typical retail business; as medical practitioners, we also have to consider the impact of HIPAA. A data breach of sensitive medical information can produce massive fines and possibly criminal penalties if you are found to be negligent. Even if you’re in the clear as far as blame, the average cost per compromised healthcare record is around $400. Multiply that number by the number of patients—even just one-time patients—in your practice, and it quickly become obvious that the final result could be devastating.

If knowing all this doesn’t cause you a little anxiety, you might want to re-read it. The question, of course, is whether there is anything you can do about it.

Of course there is.

In reality, there are multiple steps you can take, most of them fairly simple. First and foremost, you need to protect your practice and its computer systems using things like firewalls, virus protection, server monitoring, and data encryption. You should also perform regular security risk assessments to identify “weak links” where your data could be vulnerable.

Any cybersecurity software you install should run through the cloud (as opposed to a local server) and needs to go on all of your computers and any mobile devices such as tablets you might use in your practice.

Automated computer backups are a good thing, too. Again, whenever you do this, you should move data to the cloud—although it never hurts to have a back-up of the back-up on a portable drive you keep in a safety deposit box or somewhere else off the premises.

One thing you have to be especially vigilant about is credit card data. It’s great to have the ability to integrate credit card payments with your practice management systems, such as Dentrix. But keeping credit card data on-site is just asking for trouble, either from hackers or HIPAA. Again: thieves can’t steal it if you don’t have it.

Other proactive steps you can take:

  • Invest in cyber liability insurance
  • Train staff to spot the warning signs of “phishy” emails
  • Enable two-factor authentication

Some 60% of smaller businesses go out of business after of a cyberattack. Don’t become a statistic: take steps now to insure your data’s security.

In a future post, I’ll talk more about HIPAA and credit card processing.

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Marrying Denistry with Business

Your dental practice is more than the sum of its parts. This is your livelihood, so you want to treat it as well as you can. Sure, dental care is what you offer, but you’re also a business. Successful dental offices run on efficiency, co-operation, and an enhanced workflow that synchronizes management, systems, and product offerings. Does that describe your practice? If not, read on as we offer some hints to running the most effective office.

Take Care of Communication

It’s a given that you need to take of patients in your chair … but that is really only a tiny speck of their time. If you wait until you have a patient in the chair to start responding to him or her, you’re in trouble.

For starters, the patient will most likely talk to your staff members long before talking to you. The first interaction between your patient and your practice is usually by phone. That means it is crucial to train your staff on answering and returning phone calls in a professional manner.

Your staff also functions as a de facto sales force, as well, so it’s a good idea to train them on basic sales techniques. We’re not suggesting “used car salesman” techniques, but it’s easy enough to create a sense of urgency, especially when we’re talking about the importance of oral hygiene. Your office staff should feel comfortable suggesting callers make an appointment now, “… as our calendar fills up fast.” If callers seem concerned about finances, make sure staff lists out both payment options and how stalling can lead to even greater expense down the road.

Take Care of Your Staff

Make sure your people have the tools they need to do the job you’re asking of them. The latest customer service management software programs help track patient visits, insurance issues, and more. Better yet, most of these systems are designed to be accessed from anywhere in the office, ensuring that the latest, most accurate information is available to everyone.

Beyond technology, think in terms of your staff’s comfort. They spend a lot of time in your office: do what you can to make it as pleasant as possible. One dentist we know, after having is office completely renovated, overheard his staff members complaining about “the chairs from hell.” He immediately went out and purchased five completely different office chairs. Over the next two weeks, everyone was instructed to try out every new chair for two full days and decide which was preferred.

In the end, three people chose one style, one chose another style, and yet another decided she was happiest with her original chair. His chairs no long match his office, but his team members are happier.

Take Care of Your Numbers

Traditional billing methods are time intensive and susceptible to human error. If you haven’t done so by now, it’s time to consider switching to automated billing. Not only does automated billing save you time during the day, it also provides your staff with more access to insurance programs and payment options.

Paper billing systems can take days or even weeks to go through the payments system. And since paper billing systems are being phased out of many insurance companies, printed claims processing will take significantly longer in the future. Upgrading to an automated billing system means your office sees revenue in the fastest, easiest, and most secure way possible.

This is especially important as more practices are accepting credit cards for payment. The longer the time period between payment and processing, the more opportunities for criminal fraud … and the greater the risk of chargebacks. There is also a greater risk of so-called “friendly fraud,” which one chargeback expert labeled the “enemy of small business.”

And that’s what a dental practice is: a small business. Some dentists can become fixated on the patient care or most recent techniques—both good things. But anything that causes you to lose site of the fact that you are operating a business is a sure recipe for disaster.