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.