Five Easy Steps to Fix Your Front Desk Information Pipeline

The front desk is the intake point of nearly every important piece of information a dental practice needs to work with on a daily basis, but the vast majority of dental offices report systematic inefficiencies with their front desk-to-dentist pipeline. Here are five ways to fix your information sourcing and get the information you need, without distractions.

  1. Make a "must talk" list: dental labs, malpractice carriers, "VIP patients"... There are some people who absolutely must talk to the dentist immediately, or for whom a speedy response is desired. Don’t leave staff to guess at this – create a "cheat sheet" of relevant parties and whom they should be connected with immediately to improve your customer service and make those important parties feel valued.
  2. Have a catch-up meeting at regular periods throughout the day. Consider consolidating the various important but non-emergency messages into regular two-minute meetings interspersed throughout the day, where the front office can present a quick "digest" of the preceding hours’ action, thus allowing the doctor to quickly and efficiently decide which messages are priority, and schedule their follow-ups accordingly as their time between patients permits.
  3. Ask the right questions. Don’t let your staff just say, "we’ll get back to you" and hang up. Before ending the call, make sure to get the question, the desired party to respond, and the time frame in which an answer is desired. Additionally, don’t end the call without writing down the name of a contact person on the other end. Asking for a person by name dramatically speeds up the process of getting through to a decisionmaker.
  4. Designate "point people" for different kinds of calls. Not everything needs to go immediately to the dentist. Try to direct information to the Office Manager when possible, and if too many questions need to go "up the chain," consider cross training staff on commonly-asked topics.
  5. Mic up! In chronically busy offices consider using a handsfree radio system to keep everyone apprised of the goings-on. Many of these systems can be configured to allow different channels for the staff, dentist, and office manager to avoid transmitting non-essential information to someone who doesn’t need it. Earpiece use is necessary to avoid HIPAA violations, but these systems are of immense value in high-volume practices regardless of the minor hassle of charging and distributing walkie-talkies every morning.
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