Is your front office overloaded with time-sensitive administrative tasks? Wondering if it’s possible to have a stress-free office, and how to go about it?
This guide will open your eyes to how front office staff feel about their administrative responsibilities, along with keying in on 2 main factors:
(1) What are the primary stress factors causing front desk burnout? and
(2) What are sensible strategies that eliminate workload, resolve staff shortage issues, and create an organized, efficient front office?
What Do Studies Show?
A study conducted by Athenahealth aimed to find out how stressed out front office staff are. The study surveyed 139 healthcare administrative staff to gather feedback about their experience and sentiment toward their work environment. A comparison was made between front-office staff, office management, and back-office staff. The survey assessed the following:
- How inspired were they to put in the extra effort in their work?
- How much were they inclined to continue with their current work for three more years?
- How motivated did they feel to recommend their organization to others for receiving top care?
The study found the following:
- Only 83% of front-office staff reported feeling inspired to put in the extra effort, compared to 97% of back-office staff, and 94% of office management.
- Only 75% of front-office staff reported the intention to stay another 3 years, compared to 81% of back-office staff, and 89% of office management.
- Only 81% of front-office staff recommended their organization for top care, compared to 91% of back-office staff, and 93% of office management.
The take away from this study is that “front office staff reported more negative sentiment toward their workplace” overall than back-office staff or management.1 17% felt less inspired to put in the extra effort, 25% were possibly looking for a new job, and 19% did not feel that their organization offered top quality care. Mary Jo, office manager of Lift Dental hit this point on the mark, when she described her daily routine, “Every patient that came through the door, we had to have them fill out (paper) forms. I had to put it into the computer (manually), scan it in for the signature, and it was a nightmare.”
Always feeling pressed for time, Cindy McCourt, practice manager at Lake Highlands Dental, detailed her challenges with traditional intake processes: “There were six pages to fill out by hand… they had to fill it, print it and bring it in… and the staff would scan it into the computer. One out five patients would have written errors with the DOB, phone #, etc. Paperwork was around a 30 minute process.” Mundane, tedious tasks that are expected of front desk staff on a daily basis, like those mentioned by Cindy and Mary Jo, are causes of tension and negative feelings towards work, and high staff turnover rate.
Is a Stress-Free Office Possible?
Nine out of ten dental offices are looking to create a stress-free workplace with high staff retention, but haven’t found a solid solution that produces real results. By analyzing your office routine via the below insightful questions, you’ll be better equipped to strategize an effective plan:
- What does becoming a perfect dental office entail?
- How can we make it happen?
- What mundane tasks are front office staff doing routinely that cause stress?
- What steps are needed to create positive staff sentiment?
- What can we automate to improve front desk operations?
Let’s go over more detail on how to produce practical answers to these questions.
3 Keys to Eliminating Office Stress
A revolutionary change has been experienced by 5000+ practices via implementing a powerful, yet simple method that combines 3 essential elements:
Empowerment | Tech Utilization | Optimization
Let’s walk through the 3 elements step-by-step
Empowerment, the first key to transformation, involves autonomy, making your front office feel valued by maximizing their time and energy in tasks they identify as “empowering,” and by giving them a sense of independence. Front office staff are seen by patients as the outlet for unloading all their complaints about insurance, billing, and wait time. The reality is that administrative team members feel underappreciated when they work so hard, but don’t bear the fruits of their labor, via positive recognition from patients. Automating tedious tasks (like intake processes, insurance verifications, appointment scheduling, and reminders), and training front office staff in more dental related care enables them to connect with patients better, and empowers them to feel that they are contributing at a higher level.
Athenahealth’s study backed this up by going a step further in surveying staff that reported having flexibility and empowerment at work. The results show that out of those who had more freedom and independence at work, 96% felt empowered to go beyond what was expected, 89% had the intention of remaining at their work, and 94% recommended their office to a friend or family member. The effects autonomy has on promoting a positive sentiment in the workplace speak volumes. The study proves that by giving staff independence and freedom from mundane tasks, they develop a favorable attitude, and are more likely to stay long-term.
We interviewed some of the busiest dental practices to gather more detailed feedback. Stefanie, CDA, QOA from Boonsboro Family Dentistry & Orthodontics shared her relief about having more freedom after her office eliminated manual tasks, saying: “(Automation) is definitely an asset for our practice because it helps out with not having all that paperwork, not having to scan things.” Staff at Sonja Gill Dentistry chimed in with their own experience of independence from tedious manual administrative tasks, “(Automation) simplifies trying to juggle 30 patients on the schedule who all need to have paperwork updated.”
Based on feedback we collected from dental staff, freeing them from laborious tasks (like manual data insertion, paperwork, scanning, etc) empowers them, and creates a much more positive work attitude.
Tech utilization is the second essential element needed to de-stress your practice. What role does technology play in helping build a stress-free workplace? Using advanced technology to create an automated, self-service model for patients will free up your staff of endless burdens. An effective model can include the following:
- Automating your entire intake process
- Allowing patients to self-schedule
- Fast-paced insurance verifications
- Self-completion of digital patient forms from home
- Self-capturing of IDs, insurance cards, and photos remotely
- Syncing all digital forms into your PMS
- Instant 2-way SMS communication channel without phone calls
Technology is a perfect avenue for eliminating front office stress, and saving backbreaking hours of workload. Smart practices take advantage of streamlining with advanced technology to free up their front desk staff.
Optimizing the capability of your front office is a third essential part of creating a stress-free office. How exactly do you optimize your front office? When you escalate the type of work your staff are responsible for to a higher level of value, they’ll feel more important and your practice will save thousands in costs. If staff are limited to wearisome tasks of entering patient data into the computer, scanning documents, printing forms, arranging clipboards, manually scheduling appointments, calling patients with appointment reminders, and so forth… their tasks become robotic and dull.
Jay, a team member at Signature Dentistry of Macon nails this point clearly when he says, “(Digitizing) makes life much, much easier for sure. We typically see 25-30 new patients a month which means we have a whole host of paperwork. Using (paperless software) saves a lot of paperwork. It’s a huge benefit that we’re able to pull out patient information as needed. We don’t have to go back in the system to enter things manually.” Optimization, when implemented via technology, can do wonders for improving your office workflow and staff satisfaction.
Steps to Transform Your Front office
Now that we’ve identified some stress-causing factors for dental front desk staff, let’s get down to actual steps that’ll get your practice on track to becoming stress-free for good. We’ve narrowed down the list of top stress factors that we’ll pinpoint:
- Tiring Patient Documentation Process
- Scanning/Printing/Faxing Information
- Manual Data Entries & Errors
- Lengthy Insurance Verification & Claim Denials
- Tied to the Phone with Appointment Scheduling & Reminders
- Patient Frustrations
- Billing Issues
- Unqualified patients wasting away time
- Fear of Viral Transmission
(1) Patient Intake Forms
Paper documentation comes with a heavy load for your front desk, like waiting on patients to fill out paperwork, keeping forms organized, running after patients for missing signatures or illegible handwriting, and searching for lost charts. These administrative burdens create tension between staff and patients that lead to exhaustion.
What’s the solution?
Digital intake forms resolve these challenges, making forms and patient documents readily available with little effort from your front desk.
This innovative software syncs with your PMS, enabling you to skyrocket staff efficiency, reduce administrative burdens, and improve patient satisfaction and retention, simultaneously. Small and large dental practices alike have been cutting down 35% of front desk documentation time by streamlining the check-in process with paperless intake forms that integrate into major Practice Management Systems including Dentrix, Eaglesoft, and Open Dental.
Eliminating the headaches of manual administrative burdens relieves your front desk of having to juggle multiple tasks, improves staff-customer relations, and boosts efficiency. Grace, business coordinator from The Extra Smile Dental summed up her experience after taking on digital forms, “We can now use our time to get important things done.”
With HIPAA compliant Digital Intake forms, your staff will no longer feel the burden of:
- Collecting or scrambling through paper forms
- Manually inserting patient data into the computer
- Deciphering illegible handwriting
- Running after patients for missing signatures
- Searching for lost charts
- Keeping forms organized
- Shredding files
Paperless Intake forms have benefited 5000+ practices with the following:
- Customizable, branded forms are available in Digital Systems: Registration, consents, HIPAA forms, medical history, and more
- Patients can remotely complete all online forms, along with capturing:
- Insurance cards
- Medication list
- Patients e-sign and submit, all before the visit
- Directly integrates into major PMS systems
- Slows the spread of viral transmission
- Reduces waiting room time
- Decreases staff burnout - no manual labor
- Creates environmentally friendly practices
- Cuts down on paper-related expenses
- Provides convenience for patients
For patients who prefer In-Office Digital Forms, Branded On-Site iPad Apps speed up the intake process.
In-Office iPad App Intake forms include:
- Treatment Plans & Consent Forms E-signed Right On the iPad
- High-resolution Patient Photos captured with One Tap
- Insurance cards & IDs synced with your PMS System
- Direct transfer of completed forms to the provider’s PMS
(2) Lengthy Insurance Verifications
Hours on the phone verifying insurance eligibility is definitely a contributor to front desk tension. Traditional eligibility verification methods are known for inaccuracies, costly rejections, and frustrated patients. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, an average of $496 billion was spent by payers and providers on billing and insurance-related administrative costs in 2019, with 50% of front desk time exhausted on insurance verification of patients.2
It doesn’t have to be that way at your dental office. Technology has advanced to enable insurance verification within 10 seconds or less. That means eligibility reports will be at your fingertips in a flash, saving your office hours each day. What will new insurance verification software bring to your office?
- Reduce Billing Errors, Claim Delays, and Denials
- Eligibility Reports in 10 seconds or less
- Eliminates patient-front office tension
- 40% decrease in waiting room time
- Prevents mishaps before they occur
- Improves Efficiency and Productivity
- Integrates with Opendental, Eaglesoft, and Dentrix, along with over 180 major insurance carriers
- Reduces unexpected out-of-pocket payments for patients
- Access to insurance eligibility reports 24/7 from any location
- Auto-upload eligibility reports to patient’s charts in your PMS
Why fall into the endless loophole of claim denials, lost money, and wasted time, when you deserve better?
(3) Appointment Scheduling and Reminders
Front desk administrators spend hours on the phone trying to balance appointment scheduling, appointment reminders, and a plethora of other daily tasks at once.
What’s an easy, effective way to lighten their load?
Embracing 24/7 online scheduling and Automated Appointment Reminders will create happy staff and patients.
Online scheduling serves as an ultimate tool to take the weight off front desk tasks and gives patients the convenience of booking appointments without a single phone call. It’s available 24/7, 365 days a year, from any device and any location. No more tedious phone calls that waste your staff’s time and energy.
Customizable Online scheduling combines the convenience of being able to send appointment reminders and intake forms to patients via SMS/Email. Digital intake forms can be completed remotely, and patients can capture IDs, insurance cards, and any other requested documents from home. Online Scheduling integrates with Dentrix, Eaglesoft, and Open Dental, making it a breeze on your front desk.
Automated Appointment Reminders are proven to be the #1 preferred choice by patients, and guarantee higher show-up rates. Your front desk will no longer need to waste time manually calling patients with appointment reminders. Your Appointment Reminders can be customized and scheduled to reach patients via text/email, a week/day/hour prior to the appointment. Patients can reply with a confirmation that will be received by the provider instantly. Automated Appointment Reminders simplify the process, while boosting your team’s efficiency and productivity. Monique, office manager of the dental office of Christopher S Wyckoff, DMD shares her positive experience, stating, “(Automated) appointment reminders have truly changed the way we operate… allowing (patients) to be in control. They can cancel, change the date and add any appointment notes, helping our office be more productive with fewer cancellations. It’s easy to keep track, and less stressful.”
Benefits of Online Scheduling & Automated Appointment Reminders
- Perfect solution for front desk staff shortage
- No More Tedious Phone Calls
- Improves Customer Satisfaction
- Integration with Dentrix, Eaglesoft, and Open Dental
- Office phone # used for SMS Services
- Enables Patients to Book Appointments Online 24/7
- Reduces No-Shows & Boosts Revenue
- Customizable Appointment Reminders
- 2-Way Texting Included
- Pre-scheduled reminders received by patients via text/email (eg. 7 Days / 1 Day / 1 Hour Prior to Appointment)
- Intake Forms automatically sent with Reminders
- Patient Confirms Appointment & Provider Instantly Receives Confirmation Response
(4) Patient Communication
When patients feel upset about not being able to get quick replies to their inquiries or concerns, their frustration will rub off onto your front desk team. Front desk staff typically receive the complaints and suffer from emotional drainage for any defaults in communication. This issue is magnified when there’s a shortage of staff.
How can this be resolved?
2-Way SMS has become the perfect channel to quickly communicate with patients. It’s a lot simpler and easier on staff than being tied to the office phone for hours. We know that the average patient uses their smartphone for texting everyday, so why not meet them where they are, by using their preferred avenue of communication? No phone call needed.
2-Way SMS keeps team members and patients in sync about inquiries, follow-up information, appointments, patient status, unexpected occurrences, and so much more.
Both staff and patients love the ease of being able to send a quick SMS message to reschedule an appointment, or to let staff know about a cancellation or a delay in reaching the office for their appointment time. Waitlisted patients can be notified of last minute openings, via text, preventing lost revenue.
Instant 2-Way SMS boosts staff productivity, patient-provider relations, and improves revenue. It enables patients to get their questions answered quickly, saves staff the burden of having to call and track down patients, and prevents miscommunication.
What are some benefits of 2-Way SMS?
- Answer Patients’ Questions
- Appointment Reminders & receive confirmation replies
- Rescheduling Appointments
- Request Insurance Card, ID & Documents
- Billing reminders / Invoices
- Send and receive attachments
- Recovery care instructions
- Important Notifications
- Send Educational Resources
- Video informational links
- Relevant medication info
“Two-way texting is a great way to send messages to patients. The auto response is quick and easy to initiate…we can be in communication with our patients even when we’re not in the office. It’s faster than calling on the phone, and helps us note specific concerns each patient may have prior to arriving at the office,” Monique, Office Manager at the office of Christopher S Wyckoff, DMD.
(5) Keeping Track of Billing & Payments
Staying on top of overdue payments, collections, and billing can place a heavy burden on your front office. Relieve their load using an organized and accurate accounts receivable tool that enables you to send & collect online payments from patients, and track balances. It keeps your practice alert to payment status, and provides the following:
- Providers Collect payments immediately
- Practices can Text or Email payment links to patients
- Helps Practices avoid collections or missing payments
- User-friendly dashboard for tracking balances with a few clicks:
- Outstanding Balances
- Pending Payments
- Payments Received
- Integrated with Open Dental, Dentrix, and Eaglesoft
- Faster payment verification process than EMR systems alone
(6) Unqualified Patients Taking up Time
Booking appointments for patients without knowing if you’ll be able to offer treatment, or if you’ll need to refer them out, can be a huge waste of time for your front office and staff. What if there was an easy way to qualify patients before the visit?
Virtual consultations offer cosmetic dentists the convenience of one-on-one communication by directly connecting providers with interested prospects.
Potential clients can request a virtual consultation via the practice’s website, submitting the needed information, like selfies of their teeth, and what the consultation is for. Dentists can customize the available time slots to accommodate their schedule, even outside of work hours. Virtual consults are tailored to meet the needs of growing dental offices.
5 Reasons Patients Prefer Virtual Consults
- Convenient Way to Find out if their Dental Issues are Fixable
- Perfect Opportunity to Evaluate the Dentist Before Committing
- Estimated Cost Can be Given in Advance
- Eliminates the Need to Sacrifice Work Hours
- Personal Engagement from the comfort of their own home
5 Reasons Why Cosmetic Dentists Love Virtual Consults
- Qualify Patients Before They Take up Chair Time
- Convenience of Connecting with Prospects on Provider’s Own Time
- Directly Interact with Patients - Breaks Down Communication Gaps
- Prevent Delayed Decisions by Conveying Information Upfront
- Affordable & Fully Secured
(7) Telehealth and Viral Transmissions
The fear of viral transmissions is real for front desk staff, who are in continuous face-to-face contact with patients. What if there was an avenue to lessen the amount of in-person traffic and accommodate patients from home?
Telehealth’s virtual visits do just that. By providing dental care delivery to patients in the comfort of their own home, these virtual visits have become indispensable, and have enabled dentists to streamline office operations, including patients’ record maintenance, appointment scheduling, patient registration, and management of inquiries.
Patients use Telehealth for a number of visits:
- Initial Consultations
- Triage Emergency Visits
- Pre-visit Screenings
- Posts-Op Visits without the Hassle of In-Office Appointments
- Discuss Treatment Plans with Patients Virtually
- Live Group Video Interactions with Referrals
Dental practices embracing low-cost telehealth software enjoy many features:
- Interactive HD video and audio
- Link provided for communication services
- Accessible on any device
- Send online consent forms, packets and reminders to patients via email and text
- Customer support services
- Send payment requests to patients via email and text
- Collect payments remotely and provide online receipts
- Detailed billing information
- Secured end-to-end encryption of collection, storage and transmission of data
Front office stress in dental practices is more common than ever and leads to negative work sentiment. If you’re noticing increased staff fatigue, frustration, and inability to keep up with tasks, you’ll benefit from innovative solutions that ease the strain and workload on your team. The success of your office depends heavily on your front desk. By making healthy adjustments to office operations, you can eliminate the heavy burden on your team’s shoulders, and improve work sentiment. Streamlining your office with self-service tools for patients, and automation including: Digital Intake Forms, Online Patient Scheduling, Automated Appointment Reminders, 2-Way SMS, Accounts Receivable, and Virtual Consultations & Telehealth, will save hours of manual labor, and improve staff and patient satisfaction. Learn how mConsent can help you achieve the perfect dental front office.
1 Athenahealth study
2 SRS Web Solutions, Inc survey of 2,500 dental practices