Any dental practice that wants to succeed needs to have a capable office manager at its helm. While you could hire anyone with the right background, the first rule Dandy offers is this: hire for character, train for skill.
Know the Skills
The skills you seek in an office manager are as extensive as the dental field itself. Their responsibilities will touch every part of your practice. So, select someone who knows about management, finance, customer service, marketing, and, of course, administration. Yet, they must still be the human-first face that greets patients daily. It’s as if your office manager needs to have domain expertise in each competency. However, let’s discuss what exactly is expected of a good Dental Office Manager.
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Dental Office Managers: What should they do?
Like any manager, a Dental Office Manager is presumed to oversee the entire organization of a dental practice, especially administration and Human Resources (HR) duties. They are the foundation so dental practitioners can perform their responsibilities. Dentists will need them to oversee and delegate tasks to everyone in the office, beginning with the reception staff.
Office Managers are behind the front desk to ensure that patients are greeted warmly. They should also know and explain answers to questions about everything from appointment schedules, billing, and insurance, to treatment plans and case acceptance. Ultimately, they let the Dentists and Hygienists do their jobs, which is to concentrate on the patient.
It is not uncommon for Dental Office Managers to be responsible for employee payroll, as well. They should be able to create payment schedules and know how an employee desires to be paid, either with direct deposit or dispersed checks to employees in person.
What do they do every day?
Dental Office Managers are the trusted individuals who open the dentist’s office daily. They should immediately review the appointments for that day and be prepared to discuss them with the dentist and staff.
Dental Office Managers will likely meet and greet patients, vendors or their representatives, and delivery personnel as the day begins. They may have to sit with patients to help fill out forms and enter the required patient and insurance information into computers. They often are responsible for setting up payment plans for services or referring the patient to the appropriate third-party dental financiers.
Office Managers oversee employees and the office itself. Dental and office supplies do not magically appear. The manager is responsible for maintaining inventory, knowing delivery status, and placing orders when needed. There are also the tools and dental office equipment that Dentists and Hygienists use that need to be maintained, replaced, upgraded, and repaired when necessary.
Dental Office Managers are the voice of the office. They must determine how best to communicate with the office staff. Regular staff meetings should not be a challenge for them. Managers should make them fun and encouraging. There is also the issue of work schedules. That means understanding which staff members will be scheduled over selected time periods and discussing their time off needs with them. Lastly, most offices have events planned year-round. The Dental Office Manager ensures that such events occur seamlessly and may even come up with ideas to decorate or celebrate in the office.
Are They Qualified?
All Dental Office Managers require some kind of leadership background or skills. In their work experience, solid communication and conflict management history should exist. If they have never been in the position before, consider someone with a previous customer relations role so that they are ready to handle issues with patients or staff in the event they occur. There is also an excited and experienced dental receptionist or dental assistant to consider. Sometimes, having a dental background gives your office manager an edge in understanding the practice’s needs. Remember, however, you can train for skill, but you can’t replace good character.
These are not the only leadership skills they should possess. Assess them to see if they are natural motivators. Dental Office Managers need to get along with all staff members and set the tone and example of a culture-driven practice. They also must have the ability to supervise and coordinate daily procedures smoothly, knowing the doctor-patient daily schedules. Lastly, they should be people who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. They cannot be the type of person who shirks responsibility but is happy to pick up the slack when needed.
Organizational skills are a definite must for people in this role. They have to understand established filing systems or have the ability to create new ones. Since they are responsible for keeping your office running smoothly, they must be keenly aware of privacy laws and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards. Additionally, safety regulations should be in their repertoire as they will ensure all compliance standards are up-to-date, such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. They have to be knowledgeable and keep necessary paperwork filed in a timely manner. If they see something wrong, they have to have an assertive personality type to report it, enforce it and terminate any employee unwilling to comply with such rules.
Much of a Dental Office Manager’s time will be spent behind the computer screen. That means they should have a comfortable working relationship with computers and related software for scheduling, correspondence with providers and patients, and all financial transactions.
Education, Training, and Experience Requirements
It should be expected that any Dental Office Manager’s minimum education should be a high-school diploma or GED. However, it is not uncommon for applicants to hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Still, don’t be put off by a knowledgeable individual who brings years of on-the-job experience to the table but doesn’t have a diploma or degree. On-the-job mentorship and training should also be taken into consideration. Training like practice software programs and certification, local seminars on best practices and procedures, or anything that can up-level the patient care of your office is a bonus.
The American Association of Dental Management is an organization that provides e-courses with online training for the new manager, classes on team member management, HR and Compliance, and many other pertinent subjects. They also offer exclusive education from industry leaders. Another organization, known as the DALE Foundation, provides dental office management certification courses for anyone wanting to transition into the field. These classes include subjects such as HR Fundamentals, Financial Reporting and Accounts Management, and HIPAA 101 for Dental Team Members. Look for these certifications on your applicant’s resume.
Who is the Boss?
Ultimately, every Dental Office Manager must answer to a higher authority—the Head Dentist. This dental practitioner may be the owner or part of a franchise or chain. Either way, they are the ones whose name is on the door. Every Dental Office Manager must report to the Head Dentist and have a good working relationship. Together they will be responsible for hiring staff members, assisting in patient relationships, and being brought in on significant purchases. They could also assist in new marketing ideas, compose online ads or help design a website, and maintain social media for the practice.
The Dental Office Manager is the right hand of the Head Dentist. They are creators of the office culture and are there to get the job done. While work experience is always good to have, don’t be afraid to search for those qualities that fit in and add to your ecosystem. Review their resumes, talk to references, but always go for the positive attitude. These are the people you want running your practice while you are with the patient.