Friday, February 10, 2012
Many years ago in the BC era (Before Computers) when office data was on paper, work flow meant; where does the chart go and who does what task.
Technology, good technology, frees us from mundane busy work jobs and allows us more time for relationships and creativity. With digital data and the internet many time-consuming forms of dental office drudgery have disappeared,
When our office data was on paper or film or even a plaster model, it (the data) could only be in one place at a time and moving it from place to place is time consuming and relatively expensive. Thus we assign work to a specific place (like a front desk) and a specific person (the front desk person) to that place.
The result is the back office – front office divide. Work flow means; where does the chart go and who does what task. Once a dental office develops a paperless (digital) system of records, charting and scheduling the work flow changes significantly. Digital data can be accessed anywhere there is a computer, in the back, at the front or somewhere in the cloud. Workflow can now be described in terms of tasks not places. People are freed from the drudgery of filing, typing, looking for lost records and doing all the rest of the busy work needed to maintain a paper system.
With paper records there was only one paper appointment book, only one paper chart, only one set of current radiographs and one plaster model. If one of the pieces is missing, say the chart is lost in a stack on the doctor’s desk the functions of the office stop.
Once a dental office develops a paperless system digital data can be accessed anywhere there is a computer, in the back, at the front or somewhere in the cloud. Workflow is not dependent on having a specific piece of paper at a specific place.
This new pattern of doing things has been called Front Desklessness.
Does that mean there is no actual desk? No, Front Desklessness is not about tossing out a piece of furniture or eliminating a staff person. It is all about workflow, doing the non clinical business functions in a different way because technology allows us to handle data in a much more efficient manner.
For example, why make all the appointments at the front desk? If you use an electronic schedule with treatment room based computers why not schedule from the treatment room? Who better to make the appointment than the chairside assistant? She has just heard the dentist and the patient discussing the treatment. She knows exactly what needs to be done next. She knows if the patient is a gagger who needs extra time. She knows if there is lab work involved or any of the other clinical considerations, which would affect the appointment time. Just make the appointment.
When we switch to electronic records we gather digital data (the patient’s name, their insurance carrier and their next appointment) simply as a byproduct of doing business with a computer.
Often work flow tasks with digital data do not need a person of any kind. For instance making reminder calls, reactivating non-compliant patients, sending bills or getting insurance information can be done in the cloud as an e-service.
For example; your office computer has the digital information. That is a patient name, an appointment date, a scheduled treatment, the insurer and plan number. An e-service extracts the pertinent information from your local computer, contacts the appropriate insurance computer through the Internet and extracts the pertinent data from the insurance computer. That is; is this patient covered for this treatment and what is the coverage?
The e-service like Dentrix eCentral will then go back to your local office computer and download the information sometimes even going so far as to insert the data in the proper charts and appointments. So every day you can look ahead to the next day and know who and what is covered with no staff time, 800 numbers or music on hold.
Practice Activator is an online e-service that contacts and re-activates non-responsive patients.
The service examines records and discovers patients who have not been seen in a couple of years or who may have uncompleted treatment plans and sends custom tailored messages to those people
The computer tracks the responses and learns what works and what doesn’t and modifies its search and response tactics as a result. This is a type of artificial intelligence called a self learning system. And like most e-services it is automatic, all your office staff needs to do is answer the phone when the patient calls to schedule.
The team members are now free to interact with patients, one on one, building a strong relationship based practice. What allows them to build these relationships is technology and the Internet using e-services. Rather than being impersonal and dehumanizing (as it is often portrayed) good technology and e-services actually strengthen relationship. The future is coming and it will be amazing!