Many dentists are missing out on benefits from their existing Practice Management Software (PMS) because they're not implementing procedures to ensure that the information they are generating is of value.
One of the overall benefits of investing in software for a practice is that the principal is able to achieve greater awareness and control. This leads to greater efficiency, better decision-making and ultimately greater profitability.
Computers have immediate data processing capabilities and their ability to take raw data and process it into meaningful information is of great significance. This ability to carry out automatically and with great speed and accuracy tasks once only performed over many hours with pen and paper is fundamental to the usefulness of computerisation.
A common management saying in relation to IT systems is "garbage in - garbage out"; in other words, the usefulness and effectiveness of the information generated by your computer software will only be as good as the accuracy, consistency and uniformity of the raw data that is entered in the first place.
A practice will not be able to rely on the reports that they generate from their practice management software unless there are policies in place that ensure the information being entered is complete and accurate.
The challenge of generating complete and accurate reports starts from the first time a patient arrives and fills out a New Patient Form. Do you ensure that that ALL questions have been completed by the patient? Will the front desk team member take responsibility for asking the patient for any details that have been omitted? Is the New Patient Form thoughtfully prepared so that as much information and details about your valuable new patient is acquired?
By ensuring that all the above have been addressed, this will leave the practice with a database that can then be used for increased awareness, increased marketing opportunities and increased patient care.
Increased awareness relates to the fact that you will be able to generate reports on patient demographics, such as Number of Patients and Turnover by Suburbs, Age Group or Types of Patients (Vet Affairs, Private, Medicare, etc). It will allow you to determine how the patients heard about the practice (i.e. Yellow Pages, Google, www.dentist.com.au, referred by another patient, saw the practice sign, etc).
This will then allow you to determine how you can best spend your marketing budget and determine its current effectiveness (of course you hope to see in the report that most of your patients are indeed being referred by other patients!).
A good practice management system such as OASIS or EXACT should allow you to customise these fields to create your own 'contact codes'. A New Patient Form should allow you to enter the name of the patient who referred them to the practice. This should then be automatically recorded. A report at the end of the day, week, month or year will then show you how many patients have been referred by a particular patient and the dollar value attributed to that (i.e. how much those patients have spent). It is up to you as practice principal to implement a reward system for those referrers based on numbers referred and/or dollar value referred. Of course the opportunity to do so will be lost if the team have not asked for or not entered these details from the New Patient Form in the first place.
Yet another missed opportunity as a result of incomplete or inaccurate patient data includes ineffective appointment and recall follow up procedures.
Recording the preferred method of appointment reminder and recall reminder will allow the practice to implement effective and patient specific procedures for sending out recalls and contacting patients for their appointment reminders. The practice will simply SMS, email or telephone those patients that have requested so, minimising wasted time and expense and providing increased levels of service.
Generating reports on a timely basis will allow the principal to clearly see whether the fields have been entered correctly and completely. If not, then it is up to them to ensure that the policies laid out by the practice are correctly followed in the future.
It should be noted that a report on its own will not solve any inefficiency. After reports have been generated, the information should be analysed and any areas of concern noted. This analysis and review can highlight the need for an increased effort to be made by the team, or a particular team member.
Remember - it is your responsibility to initiate action. Without this initiative, the practice is a ship without a sail.