Are you and your team fully up to speed with ever-changing industry parameters? Your profitability and overall success depend on it.
THE ADVENT OF SPRING inevitably feels like a time of renewal and fresh starts. The changing of the season is also a reminder that for dentists, it’s never to late to bring yourself fully up to speed on fees and codes — which will, in turn, help you get your overall financial house in order. Although the January-through-February crush of patients with updated benefits to use and a new year’s yen for self-improvement is likely diminishing, you can still make 2017 a year of unprecedented success — and implement fiscal strategies that will serve you well for years, even decades, to come.
Start by broadly assessing both income and outlays. Did your lab fees rise in 2016? Your corresponding restorative or orthodontic fees also ought to go up. Did you experience an increase in disposables? Your fees for evaluations and hygiene should reflect this change, especially given that they’re likely your most common procedures. Did the cost of your medicaments and antimicrobials for periodontal treatments rise? Give yourself a thorough audit: Ask these questions for every aspect of your practice so you can better gauge the relationship between providing treatment and absorbing the associated cost.
Likewise, consider your mindset when it comes to your fees. Are yours in the fiftieth industry percentile? The eightieth? Wherever you determine that they land, are you comfortable with that measure? Offices with higher fees will be successful only if the team members are comfortable presenting and explaining the practice’s investment to patients. A single team member whose confidence wavers when presenting fees can do great damage to the financial health of even a great clinician. If patients don’t regard your staff as seeing the value in your services, they’ll be highly unlikely to do so themselves.
The American Dental Association amends the Current Dental Terminology codes (CDT) every year. Your practice-management software most likely issued an update in December, and the new codes became effective January 1. Several changes are nothing more than rewordings of basic descriptions, but there are some important new codes that will be of interest to most practitioners. Code D4346, for example — concerning scaling in the presence of inflammation — has become the big conversation piece in my Webinars and lectures of late. The codes have great potential to accurately track patient care, but only if your team understands them.
Even more so than most years, 2017 looks likely to be a time of change and great anticipation in dentistry. Stricter benefit guidelines for patients mean your practice simply must stay current in its insurance knowledge. Keep an eye on ICD codes (used for medical billing) and the impending introduction of dental diagnostic codes. These two factors alone mean every dental office will need to up its documentation game to be profitable and successful. Are you ready?
TERESA DUNCAN, president of Odyssey Management, is also an international lecturer who focuses on maximizing dental offices’ income opportunities. Insurance and accounts-receivable systems are her specialty. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; visit OdysseyMgmt.com to sign up for its regular insurance-and-billing newsletter.