Starting Your Office 101 (A Quick Guide for Dental Professionals)
If you’re a new dental office manager or are working within a newly established practice, here are the bread-and-butter must-haves you need to get the business officially up and running.
Starting your office guide
1. Office handbook
Every office should have a handbook, but is your handbook a blanket or cookie cutter? If so, you need an update!
A handbook of a single doctor practice in Florida is not going to be the same as one in a multi-specialty practice in New Jersey. Nor should it. Every office is different, just as every state has different standards, policies, and regulations.
Your handbook is a key communication piece between you and your employees. It helps set the standards of the practice and provides the employee with the rules and regulations of your practice.
2. Policy and procedures manual
This manual is how your office is run on a day to day basis. It includes everything like sterilization, clinical chairside, front desk, treatment plans, etc. This is your “how-to” book.
Reading this manual should allow your employees to troubleshoot, provide checklists, and define the chain of command in your office. This tool is a key assistant in their training. It is constantly updating with technology changes, procedure updates, and policies to put in place, whether financial or clinical.
3. OSHA manual
Each state has its own requirements when it comes to OSHA. There are both federal and state regulations each office must abide by in order to have a safe work environment for your employees. Keep yours up to date.
4. What about the patient?
All this talk about the employees, but what about the patient? Without loyal, solid, trained employees, you can kiss your patients goodbye. They are as crucial as the dentist when it comes to patient care.
5. HIPAA manual
The HIPAA manual provides a safety guide for handling your patient’s information. You want to make sure your office is PCI compliant, and what better way to do that than to have a HIPAA Manual with your specific office policy.
This policy should have procedures for both internal and external breaches. With this new age we live in, we also have to worry about cyber-attacks. But the worst are the ones that can be prevented and are due to carelessness.
State regulations are constantly updating, and your offices should be evolving over time, as should all your manuals.
What to look out for when starting your office
Keep your eyes open, or your doors may get shut! With the manual work aside, there are many other items to put in place. Here are a brief few to watch out for – especially when starting your office.
1. Cyber scares
With healthcare and dentistry changing to electronic medical records (EMR), it’s crucial to make sure you have the proper firewalls and cyber policy in case there was a breach in your patient’s PCI. This can fall under your HIPAA manual, and your IT department should be up to speed on it.
Not only should you watch out for outside hackers, ransomware, and phishing scams, but make sure you train your employees to be aware of unfamiliar emails, phone calls, faxes, invoices, updating their passwords often (never sharing this information), and to stop, slow down, and see what they are doing.
Audit is such a scary word! Everyone dreads them. We can get audits from the state with our licenses, audits from insurance companies, audits from accounting, etc.
But audits don’t have to be scary! Don’t let it intimidate you.
All the audit is doing is double-checking and making sure all your t’s are crossed.
As dental office managers, we should be performing our own audits in our office. We need to audit our clinic to make sure they are coding correctly, audit our insurance companies to make sure they are paying us correctly, audit our front desk when making transactions, and even as far as how their customer service sounds.
One crummy employee can ruin your office’s reputation faster than you can say, “Jack Robinson.” If you want to increase your patients, improve your customer service!
3. Credentialing, PPOs, A/R, oh my!
Insurances can be the worst, can’t they? We have so many policies and rules in place, but when it comes to playing insurance, it’s like every ounce of your morals and ethics gets sucked away. The curses come out to the insurance gods, and you shake your fist up and yell, “Why?!” I’ve been there.
Again, don’t let insurance companies EVER dictate how you treat a patient or run your practice!
When it comes to insurance, there are so many outlets out there that can help you with your PPO write-offs, fee schedules, accounts receivables, and even credentialing to make your job SO much easier!
4. Your dental manager support group
The last “dental pearl” advice I have when starting your office 101, is to FIND YOUR TRIBE!
The American Association of Dental Office Managers and the local Tennessee Valley Chapter have been a tremendous asset throughout my career as a dental business manager.
They are a huge resource to utilize, and anytime I have a question or issue that pops up, there is always someone who knows the answer or can point me in the right direction to find it.
As a practice manager, we wear many hats: counselor, accountant, IT, interior designer, marketer, human resources, customer service representative, babysitter, electrician, telepathic communicator… You get the idea.
There’s always something going on, but it is crucial we stay up to date with the latest information, further our education, and make life connections that show us managing a practice doesn’t have to be a lonely world. Instead, it can be a world full of joy, excitement, challenges, and ultimately accomplishments.
Meet the Author
Jenny has been a dental assistant since 2008, and also holds a degree in public health. She currently manages two offices with East Brainerd Oral Surgery, consisting of four surgeons and over 25 employees.
Jenny is the founding president of the AADOM Tennessee Valley Chapter and a lifetime AADOM member, receiving her Fellowship in 2017.
In her free time, she enjoys playing the piano, reading, blogging, traveling, and spending time with her family. She married Robby in May 2011, and they adopted their two daughters in 2018.