Posted under Uncategorized
This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on August 31, 2006
Posted under Uncategorized
This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on August 31, 2006
“Your ability to select your most important task, to begin it and then to concentrate on it single mindedly until it is complete is the key to high levels of performance and personal productivity. “ So says Brian Tracy.
I agree with him, but I have to admit that I struggled with that concept when I managed my husband’s dental practice and even more when I started trying to consult other offices on time management.
The health provider’s office is a unique office environment. We don’t have complete control over our time. There are always emergencies and things coming up that demand control over our otherwise perfectly laid out day. I’ve noticed two attitudes that exist, however, that are counter-productive to both the practice and the worker’s personal productivity.
The first is the attitude of, “Since I can’t control emergencies and other things that happen to my time throughout the day, I might as well just not even try. Why bother? As soon as I get started on a project and going good, the phone rings, I have to answer it, and then I have to start all over again on my big project. It’s useless to try to practice time management in a dental office.”
The second is the attitude of, “I will control my time no matter what. I will not be distracted. I will control those distractions and if anyone interrupts me, whoa, watch out!” This is the person who, when they take a phone call in the middle of a project, acts irritated at the caller because we were supposed to know she was busy and not to be interrupted.
Let’s talk about the, “Why bother,” attitude. First, stop overreacting and being so dramatic. You do have control over your time, it’s just in little bits and pieces and I know you have some days when the phone is not as busy. If you don’t, that’s actually great, but schedule some time to come in when the practice is closed, you can leave the answering machine or service to take calls, and get those big projects out of the way. I found that allowing just one day a month for this helped me get and stay caught up on everything. Lose the attitude of, “Why should I work if the doctor isn’t here?” Maybe because she’s paying you? Maybe because you want to get control of your days? Maybe because you want to sleep better at night? If you have a Dentist who doesn’t want to pay overtime, work out a plan where you go home on a less busy day in order to come in and work when the practice is closed.
The Dentists I work with would love to have employees like this if they don’t and will even offer other special allowances for employees who voluntarily figure out ways to make things work. Communication here is crucial. If you are not willing to do this, find another job. Stop wasting everyone’s time by being in an industry for which you are not suited. Find what you love to do and do that – even if it’s staying home.
Now, let’s discuss the practical implications of changing the “why bother” attitude. How do you stay “on task” when the phone is ringing? Choose smaller projects, remove everything else from your desk, within reason, except the project you are working on. Re-read my post, Clutter Around You Creates Clutter In Your Brain. This will allow you to re-focus more quickly once you are off the phone. Try this for a couple of weeks, and soon you’ll find that you can get right back to where you left off much faster. What you’re doing now, is thinking about it too much. Don’t allow yourself to think about the interruption. Just get right back to work. Let me know how it goes.
Now, for the “I will not be distracted attitude.” As I said earlier, this person allows their emotions to show. They are short with people on the phone and usually even in person. We’ve all had the experience where we knew we were interrupting someone’s work.
To this person I say, “Get over it already!” Everyone’s time is valuable and everyone’s time gets interrupted. What if you need to ask a question about the project you are working on – wouldn’t you have to interrupt someone? You’re doing more harm than good by being rude to a patient or potential patient just to stay focused on your task. While it is important to get things done by managing your time well, getting patients in the door is more important.
The same techniques I described above will work for this type of attitude as well. Clear off your desk and work on one project at a time – this will help keep you from feeling overwhelmed and “angry at the world.” Plan to come in on a day when the practice is closed for big projects.
Here are some other things I learned about time management in the dental practice.
Yes, it might take you all day to complete a two-hour project when the phone is ringing off the hook. That’s okay, just get it done and be nice to everybody.
No, it’s not okay to take all day to complete a two-hour project when your interruptions are your co-workers, personal phone calls, personal e-mails, surfing the internet, etc. When you are at work, work. That’s what you’re getting paid to do. It’s a funny thing that happens when people finally grow up and get this. (Taking advantage of employers happens everywhere and in every industry – not just dentistry.) People who have “seen the light” and changed their work habits find that their income goes up along with their productivity. If you are on a bonus system of any kind, I bet you would get more money if you “earned” it. If you stopped doing personal business on the clock and actually put your full energy into your job, the practice’s revenues would increase and you would earn more bonuses. Most people want it the other way around – they want to make more money, without earning it, thinking they will work harder afterwards. It does not work that way, folks.
Prioritize your projects and tasks. By focusing single mindedly on your most important task, you can reduce the time required to complete it by 50% or more – even with interruptions. Realize this, even when you are interrupted during a project, it still takes less time to go back to what you were working on than to start something new. Doesn’t that make sense? Keep urging yourself onward by repeating the words “Back to work!” over and over whenever you are tempted to do something else. Don’t stop until the most important task of the day is complete. You will have a better feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day if you complete one important task than if you complete a bunch of not so important ones.
When you prepare thoroughly, (by listing everything you need to do and then prioritizing your list,) and then begin the project, refusing to stop until the job is done, you develop energy, enthusiasm and motivation. You get better and more productive. You work faster and more efficiently. And the best part is, this way of working becomes a habit – effortless and enjoyable.
I’d love to hear from you. What ways have you found to better control your time in the dental office? What are you still struggling with?
Posted under Dental Practice Management
This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on August 31, 2006
“Accounts receivable” is an accounting term used to describe the money owed to a business from its patrons at the end of a business cycle. Historically, businesses tracked accounts receivable annually because people could be trusted to pay their debts. Over time, businesses became more intense with their tracking due to people becoming less reliable about paying their debts as agreed.
In dentistry, specifically, “accounts receivable” refers to the money owed to the practice by patients. This money could be due from the patients’ insurance companies, so the “insurance portion” is included in a practice’s accounts receivable. The remainder is from patients who somehow got out of the office without paying at time of service, or whose insurance company paid less than estimated.
Just to be perfectly clear, any money owed to the practice from vendors is not treated as accounts receivable. So, for example, if you have returned an order but not received the refund yet, that is not accounts receivable. Even though the vendor technically owes you money, we are not dealing with that here.
Why is accounts receivable such an issue for Dentists? Half the problem is that a lot of patients lump Dentists in with medical doctors thinking that there is an obligation to treat “the sick.” The other half is that a lot of Dentists think this way as well. You graduate from dental school with a sincere desire to help people believing that the money will automatically follow. When it doesn’t, you get upset. I have witnessed a few Dentists who then go the opposite direction and try to screen phone calls based on where the call is coming from in an attempt to guess as to whether the potential patient has money. It’s time to look at reality.
Your moral obligation to treating patients in dental pain is simply to get them out of pain. You know what that means – better than I do. But what too many Dentists end up doing is thousands of dollars worth of treatment with no financial agreement whatsoever from the patient. Getting a person out of pain does not cost $1,000. The ideal treatment for the tooth might be $1,000, but is that the only route? Usually not.
Have you had a situation where eliminating the patient’s pain was over $1,000? I’d love to hear your story.
This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on August 29, 2006
The number one miscommunication in the dental practice between the dentist, team, and patients is the subject of insurance. I used to work for a major insurance company that, at that time – about 10 years ago – had over 1200 different dental plans. Take that number times the number of insurance companies and it’s no wonder everyone is confused and frustrated.
Most patients think their dental insurance is the same as their medical insurance. We can sit around and complain about that, or we can start educating our patients. The first step is educating yourself and your team. When I ask a team in a training scenario the definition of “participation,” and “assignment,” on the rare occasion that someone attempts to explain them to me, she is usually wrong. So I am going to define them now.
At least five scenarios are possible with the term, “participate.” Forgetting everything else for a moment, let’s look at how various insurance companies treat the word “participate.”
A. Some insurance companies pay benefits regardless of where the patient receives treatment. No “participation” is required. We will call this group the “A Companies.”
B. Some insurance companies pay benefits based on where the patient receives treatment in an attempt to control pricing. Said another way, if you “participate” with this insurance company, the patient will have less out of pocket. So the patient always wants you to participate. We will call this group the “B Companies.”
C. Some insurance companies will pay only their “participating” providers, so that if the patient receives treatment from a non-participating practice, the patient receives the reimbursement. We will call this group the “C Companies.”
D. Some insurance companies will pay only their “participating” providers, so that if the patient receives treatment from a non-participating practice, the patient receives no benefits. We will call this group the “D Companies.”
E. A few insurance companies are coming along with dental plans that simply reimburse the patient. We will call this group the “E Companies.”There are probably more out there by now, but these are the ones we deal with every day. If you discover a new scenario, please let me know so that we all can be forewarned!
Now let’s take a look at what assignment really means. “I hereby authorize payment of the dental benefits otherwise payable to me directly to the below named dental entity.” Do you know where that statement exists? It’s on the ADA standard dental claim form. Depending upon which version of the standard form you use the wording could be a little different, but it is there. Assuming that the patient signs in the appropriate location on your account registration form, you will mark the corresponding box in your practice management software so that field is completed when the insurance claim is generated. But I still haven’t explained what it means, have I?
All it means is that the patient has agreed to allow their insurance benefits to be paid to the practice. They have “assigned” their benefits to you, the practice. For example, if a patient receives $5,000 worth of dentistry and the insurance company will pay $1,000 of that, the patient agrees to have the $1,000 sent to the practice.
While most dental offices still accept assignment of benefits from their patients, there are some insurance companies out there who will not assign benefits if you are non-participating. See – now it’s getting really good, isn’t it?
So remember, three entities have to agree on assignment: the patient, the insurance company, and the practice. If any one party is unwilling to participate, the deal is off. How does that affect your practice? It means you need to collect all $5,000 from your patient because he/she will receive the $1,000 check from the insurance company. I do not know of one dental practice that has not been stung by the patient who fraudulently agrees to bring the check in as soon as they receive it from the insurance company but then never does. We find out later the patient used the money for a down payment on a new car or something. It hurts, but we’ve all been there and we need to learn from it. Remember, the only thing you can do about the past is learn from it. So learn!
Now that you understand the basic terms of participation and assignment, how do you explain it to your patients? I like to keep things as simple as possible when dealing with patients whether it’s discussing their clinical treatment, or their financial responsibility. Patients who want details will ask for them. So here is what I do.
Most of the time, you know what the insurance company is going to pay. Your practice management software will record what plans pay and keep that in history for you updating all future treatment plans. With new plans, I set the software to estimate low. Depending upon the insurance carrier, I might enter a percentage that is half of what the representative quoted me over the phone.
For example, let’s say I have a new patient come in with a dental plan from AYZ Insurance Company. I do not have the plan’s history or the employer in my practice management software. I call for benefits and they tell me that they basically pay 50% on everything routine. Based on my previous experience with the company overall, they pay about half of that – if the patient is lucky! So I enter into our software that this plan pays 25%. If I have no experience with the carrier at all, I definitely estimate low.
When presenting fees to the patient, I never speak negatively about an insurance company. Doing so only serves to raise questions and fears in the patient’s mind about you – or the dentist. I present using a form, giving the total fee, the insurance estimate, and their remaining balance. You can download a copy of my form here. Since we accept assignment of benefits, and assuming the other two parties agree to that, the patient only pays the portion that is estimated to be their balance. Any discounts they wish to take advantage of apply only to the amount they pay. If they want to get a discount on the insurance portion, they must pre-pay that amount as well and have the insurance company’s check(s) sent to them.
What’s a good script to use when a patient asks, “why is my insurance company paying so little?” Here is what I have used.
“Mr. Smith, most of our patients don’t even have dental insurance. Your insurance company is paying what they have agreed to according to the terms of your agreement with them. Does that make sense?”
The patient normally just says, “okay,” or makes some kind of comment about how something is better than nothing – to which I always agree. If they keep pressing and want to know, for example, why their maximum is $1,000 and the insurance will only pay $500, I will explain how much they would have to spend in order to get all $1,000, and if that doesn’t work I’ll end with, “I guess they are under a lot of pressure to show a profit to their shareholders. Isn’t that a shame?”
Please notice that I do not get defensive and I do not pretend to have all the answers. Why? Because I don’t! There are so many variables involved it would take a year to research and explain to every patient why their plan with their insurance company through their employer pays precisely the way it does and by the time we got the answers the answers would have changed. Do not take that on. Focus on your priorities. Remember, your job is to maximize your profits while providing excellent care and service in the field of dentistry. Also remember this:
How you react in a situation reflects on you – not the person or thing you are reacting to.
For example. Have you ever witnessed two people get into a confrontation where one person just totally lost control over her emotions? Which one did you end up feeling sorry for? The one who was wrong, or the one who lost control because she was wronged? Even when we are right and “fighting for a good cause,” if we lose control we look bad. Really bad.
The insurance battle is not yours to win or lose. Focus on providing the best dentistry you are capable of, and move on.
I’d love to hear from you. What ways have you discovered to easily explain insurance coverage to patients?
Posted under Dental Practice Management
This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on August 28, 2006
The last episode of Feasting on Asphalt is showing tonight on the Food Network at 7 PM EDST. I highly recommend it. I am a fan of Alton Brown because of his humor and scientific approach to cooking. His summer special, again, Feasting on Asphalt, was enlightening as well as entertaining. Alton traveled across the USA on a motorcycle, with his camera crew, giving viewers an historical and honest review of rare and endangered eateries.
My favorite was episode #2 because he came through Kentucky, but all four episodes are worth watching. As a traveler, I especially appreciate learning what to look for in various local spots, and what to stay away from!
For a description of each episode, along with photos and restaurant listing, click here.
Posted under Education
This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on August 27, 2006
My niece, Kami, and my nephew, Bobby started college this week. Everyone is so proud and happy for them. Now that the dust has settled and they have discovered that this is a truly new and unique experience, I wanted to pass on some “words of wisdom.”
This is not an all-inclusive list, there are hundreds of things to enjoy while attending college and just as many to avoid, but these are the ones that came to mind based on my experience and observations of others’ experiences. Now, don’t think for a moment that I did everything on the Avoid list or was perfect enough to Enjoy everything on that list. These are suggestions I am making using hindsight. I’ll never tell what I did and did not do!
Also, this article is not directed at Kami or Bobby based on their personalities or past problems. They have both been quite exemplary in their studies and in their personal lives. I want this article to have mass appeal and be a reference for all college students.
I am going to start with the “Avoid” list because I want to leave you at the end with plenty of things to “Enjoy.” You will find some overlap in the two, but I have tried to avoid redundancy.
1. The obvious – drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex. I am not going to dwell on this one since I know everyone has heard this already. But don’t. Don’t do drugs, don’t abuse alcohol, and don’t have unprotected sex. It’s really not worth it. I can give you dozens of stories of people who abused their “freedom” and are regretting it every day, or, are not alive to regret it every day, or are not in their right mind to regret it every day. The surest way to prove to yourself and the world that you are not ready to be on your own and not ready for adulthood is to do stupid things that you know better than to do. Don’t be stupid. Be safe and smart. The two really do go hand in hand.
2. Becoming Lazy. This is one that most college students struggle with. You no longer have someone looking over your shoulder, making sure you are doing your homework. Neither will anyone ask you before you go to bed at night if you’ve done your homework. Your instructors will not care, ultimately, if you fail to turn in your homework – you probably won’t turn it in – they will know based on your next test score. And they still won’t really care. When will you care? Five years from now when you are going out for your first really big, important job, your employer will want to know what kind of grades you received and might even want specifically to know the grade you received in Biology. So don’t be lazy. Do your homework and study. One advantage to this is that if you learn concepts as you go, there’s very little “cramming” required come test time.
3. Becoming an adult too quickly. Remember that you are still a student. You’re not a kid, but you are not yet an adult either. Don’t think about getting married and starting a family. Take this time to find out who you really are and, more importantly, who you want to become. You will be glad you did. Most of my friends who got married in college are now divorced, from those spouses at least, and the ones who didn’t laugh about how they are glad they didn’t marry the guys they dated in college. Are there exceptions, sure, always, but they are few and far between.
4. Skipping class. There will be classes that you don’t have to attend to get a good grade. But sometimes, those instructors give out little pieces of information that are on the test that you need to know in order to get the A, or they give out an important assignment in the middle of the class. You will appreciate every A you get, so go to all classes. If it’s really that boring, take something else to work on while you’re there!
5. Skipping social events. You’ve got to put yourself out there and meet new people. For me, this was never a problem. But for some, social events are painful. Remember, you’re not in high school any more. The popular kids are gone. You will be as popular as you want to be and just need to seek out your own group. Remember, “Birds of a feather flock together”? You will find your flock – but only if you look for them!
6. Going back home every weekend. It’s time to learn to rely on yourself and that does mean spending some time alone to think about who you want to become, do your homework, run errands, etc. You have a responsibility to take care of your room, keeping it organized and clean. You will also need time to spend with your new friends – weekends are good for this. Besides, you will soon find that you have less and less in common with your friends back home who did not go to college. That’s okay. It may be awkward for a few years, but things will even out. Your professional degree and successful life will make it all worthwhile. You need to develop friendships and relationships with people who will be in a position to help you down the road. That, more than likely is not your high school friends who are now babysitting full time. (Or whatever.) There will be lots of kids at college who are thousands of miles away from home and would enjoy your company. Get to know them. There may be times when going home is not a possibility. It’s important to be at home with yourself – no matter what the circumstances.
7. Relying on your mother to do your laundry. Again, it’s time to start growing up and taking on some of your own responsibilities. When you do go home, do your laundry first; don’t dump it on Mom.
8. Feeling guilty for much of anything – especially changing your mind. Look, just like you had a practice period before walking, and junior high before high school, this is your time to practice being an adult. You are going to make mistakes in every area of your adult life. Might as well get as much of that practicing in now while you still have a good excuse. “I’m a college student,” works for just about every dumb thing you could do. Guilt brings you down and causes you to do things out of a sense of obligation. It is time for you to become your own person – don’t feel guilty for not being all things to all people.
¼br /> 9. Making excuses. While “I’m a college student,” will get you out of a lot of steamy situations with adults, in your mind, know that you made a mistake, why you made it, what caused you to make it, learn from it, own up to it, and apologize for it. As in, swear you’ll never to do that again. If you mess up, just say so. You’re allowed. You’re trying new things and even when you try to do all the right things, you’re going to make mistakes. Being responsible for yourself and your actions is the first step toward true adulthood. So from now on, you have no one to blame but yourself. Everything that happens to you and for you does so because of the decisions you make and actions you take. Your parents may have held you back or pushed you too hard, but once you turn 18, and especially if you are smart enough to go to college, you are responsible for you.
10. Blaming someone else for your problems. It’s time to start taking responsibility for your mistakes. They are all yours. Even if someone else talked you into doing something dumb, you allowed that person to control you. You made the decision. You are your responsibility. If finances are involved, own up to it and make a promise to pay with a schedule. Tell your parents and have a plan for how you are going to come up with the money. While it is their responsibility to pay for your education, it is not their responsibility to pay for your mistakes. Besides, when you pay for them, you remember them. When you remember them, you’re less likely to repeat them.
11. Letting someone else take credit for your work/happiness/achievements. Now is the time to learn to speak up for yourself. If another student tries to take credit for your work, let that person and your instructor know about it. If an instructor tries to diminish something you’ve done, let him or her know that you don’t appreciate it. Make these confrontations in private, but make them.
12. Fitting in with the crowd. Again, you’re not in high school anymore. In college, what will get you noticed by all the right people is being yourself. Every single person in this world is different in some way. So when you’re tempted to be like every one else, and you don’t know who you are yet to be yourself, just be different. If everyone else is wearing blue, wear red. (Okay, maybe not to a football game where the other team’s colors are red—wear white.) Be different. Stand out. Get noticed. Getting noticed is a good thing. It is time to start thinking about your career. It is still a few years off, but successful people are always thinking 5 to 10 years down the road. Start thinking like a successful person. You are still developing your personality, so until you can be yourself, be different.
13. Slouching. It just looks bad. Stand up straight with a high sternum. Lift your head. You’ll feel better and look better. Slouching gives the impression that you’re bored, lonely, depressed, and unapproachable. Not good qualities for a successful college student.
14. Frowning all the time. If you really want to stand apart from the crowd, wear a smile everywhere you go. College age students are always frowning. You’re trying to look serious, but you look depressed and unimpressive. Smile. Not a stupid smile! Show some teeth but don’t be fake. Practice good oral hygiene to keep your teeth white and your breath fresh so that you don’t offend people with a foul odor. In fact, practice good general hygiene as well. Not having to worry a bout hygiene problems will give you the confidence to be outgoing, which will win you friends and help you later in life – and not that much later. Get out of bed early enough to take a shower, brush and floss your teeth, fix your hair, and shave or put on make-up. (Hopefully not both!) Again, you will feel better and look better.
15. Letting someone take advantage of you, your parents, or your money. Since you are not going to know everyone, especially at first, you will probably be nice to everyone you meet. That’s fine, but you should know that there are people out there laying in wait to take advantage of someone nice. If you are thinking of taking in a roommate who says, “Oh, my current roommates and I have a great arrangement. When one of us has money, that person buys all the groceries. Then when someone else does, that person buys everything, etc. It’s a really great arrangement and it always works out about even.” Clue? NOT! This person is a leach. Stay away from her. I don’t know how many guys and gals were taken advantage of by this person in college. If this person is your sister – okay. If not, stay away. If you’ve met someone brand new and they want to go home with you for the weekend “to get to know where you came from better.” STAY AWAY! I know of a situation like this where the girl’s parents were robbed that night and as it turned out, the thief was not a student at that school. So know people you take home fairly well. Don’t borrow money; don’t loan money. Period. Don’t tell anyone how much money you have. Your finances are between you and your parents and that’s it. A true friend will not ask about your finances unless she is totally uncouth in which case, educate her, or dump her.
Okay, enough of the negative stuff. Now that I have you completely scared and ready to stay home for the rest of your life, let’s look at what’s great about going to college.
1. Creating your future self. If you hated high school, you’re not alone. If you don’t like how you came across to others when you were in high school, now is the chance to change that. You have an opportunity to portray yourself as the person you know you can and should be. Even if you see old high school mates, they have changed as well and will not say a word except maybe about how you’ve changed and how great you look. Now is the time to discover who you really want to become. Experiment with who you are and want to become. The truly great news is this: You can try being all kinds of different people with different personalities. I know a guy who tried a different personality with each class, just to see which suited him best. It worked! You can try different clothing styles, different paradigms, different languages – you name it. You are going to be impressed by so many new things, you may want to try them all. Go for it. You will know when you find yourself. You’ll just know. You get to decide, each and every day, the type of person you become and the future you will have. Take time to think about how you would like to live your adult life. What type of work do you see yourself doing? Do you like working with people, or alone? What do you like to do now in your spare time? Is there a way to make a living at that? Start doing what is necessary today to make that life become reality. What classes do you need to take? Are there any courses you need to drop – remember to focus. Don’t use focus as an excuse to quit something hard, make absolutely certain that class in no way could affect your future, but do drop it if it’s not in your big plan.
2. The freedom to make your own choices. No matter how much they call, your parents are not at college with you. (Hopefully!) Now is the time to learn how to make good choices. Remember, everything you are and everything you are about to become will be based on the choices you make today, right now. Make good ones.
3. Becoming an adult. Learning to live on your own, make decisions on your own, make mistakes on your own, all of these contribute to your adulthood. Enjoy your adult chores. Just think, you have finally arrived.
4. Meeting different people – culturally different. Some people are “different” simply because they have a different background from you. Others are “different.” Enjoy getting to know people who come from different backgrounds and people who are a little different. Just make sure it’s a good kind of different. While you need to find “birds of a feather,” diversity is important. In order to become a well-rounded adult, you need to be exposed to lots of different cultures. College is the perfect place for this. I’m talking here about students from other countries – not other “worlds” if you know what I mean. When you have a chance to study with someone from India, for example, do it. You will be amazed at how much you can learn from him/her and you might be surprised at how much you have in common.
5. Staying up as late as you want and sleeping in as late as you want – on weekends. As I said earlier, don’t skip classes, do your homework, party safely, and enjoy every minute of college life. It will never be this way again.
6. Learning how to work smart and hard. Focus on what you need to focus on in the moment. For example, if it’s time to study, really study. Do the assigned homework and use it as study time. Really learn the concepts being taught during class. If you learn the ideas and principles as you go, there will be less cramming to do come test time. You’ve probably heard the old adage that successful people learn how to work smart, not hard. Actually, today’s truly successful people have learned to work smart and hard, and to focus their work. I know of a guy who finished two Bachelor’s degrees, one in mathematics, the other in computer science, in three semesters. You can read how he did it here.
7. Developing relationships with professors and fellow students. You will create bonds and foster relationships now that will last a lifetime. Three to five years from now you will need recommendations from your professors in lieu of employers. Get to know your favorite instructors; help them when you can. It will pay off. The same goes for fellow students. Bonds created now will help you years down the road.
8. Impromptu road trips with new friends. When your work is complete and you are ready to reward yourself for a job well-done, do something a little crazy. Drive to a nearby city with some classmates and see a movie or do some shopping. For fall or spring break, take a road trip a little further away and just enjoy the open road, the free time, the camaraderie and fun! Just drive safely.
9. Figuring things out for yourself. Learn by doing. That has always been my motto. Don’t call Mom for every little thing. Don’t know how much detergent to use? Read the box! Good grief, Charlie Brown, you are in college after all!
10. Learning how to be an adult. Making you own decisions and being totally and completely responsible for yourself is tough. But it’s also liberating and extremely educational. Now is the time to learn as many of life’s lessons as you can, make mistakes, and have a good humor about it. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect. And don’t think for a moment that you’re going to learn everything about being an adult in college either. We are all constantly learning. There’s always more to learn. Learning how to be an adult means realizing that things are not always black or white, making your own decisions even if it means making a mistake, taking responsibility for yourself, and handling conflicts, even making confrontations on your behalf sometimes. Enjoy this process – don’t avoid it.
11. Thinking on a higher level. You will begin to think differently. Up until now, you’ve mostly been task oriented; do this to accomplish that. But you will now be asked to ponder the reason behind doing things. Instructors will push you to consider the meaning of various things. They will challenge your existing concepts and truths: Two plus two equals four, except try it with drops of water and you get one. This is to challenge your thinking and cause you to learn at a higher level. This level of thinking is one of the reasons why college graduates make more money. The person who knows how to do something will always have a job. The person who knows why that something is being done will always be his boss.
12. Preparing to change the world. Because of this new way of thinking, you are going to discover new processes, new needs, and new ways to meet those needs that will literally change the world. Each generation contributes something of great significance to the world at large. You are on the verge of that contribution. Take time to ponder what that is going to be, because the people who think about it now, become the leaders of that change. You want to be a leader, don’t you?
13. Developing confidence. The more you choose options that are in line with the future self you want to become, the more your confidence will grow. Everything either increases your confidence or decreases it. Increase the activities that improve your confidence and eliminate the things that don’t. In high school, you might have been expected to do a little of everything, including things you knew were not for you. You don’t have to do that anymore. It’s okay to be a little “unbalanced.” It means you’re specializing in something. They do call it a “major” after all. Be honest with yourself. It’s not about choosing what is easy, although the things you are naturally interested in do seem easy. That is what confuses a lot of people. The word, “work,” makes us think that what we choose to do for a living should be hard. That’s not the case. Sure, what you’re choosing would be difficult for anyone not interested in it. But for you, if you love it, it will seem easy. My business and education courses to me were the easiest I had, yet many people flunked out of those programs. Get it? I loved those classes so I thought they were easy. I even enjoyed the homework because I could fly through it in no time. (With the exception of Business Statistics.)
14. Dating. Definitely have a social life. Honestly, you really don’t know what type of person you like yet. You’re too young. Period. Date different people, develop relationships as they feel right to you, but know when to cut it off. Don’t do anything out of a sense of obligation; it will not work out in the long run. Marriage is for life. Dating can be too. Somewhere in the middle, you’ll figure it out. Enjoy the process. Don’t let anyone talk you into anything you’re not ready for. Enjoy the process.
15. Setting your own rules. While you are still bound by the laws of this land and certain rules your parents may have set regarding your money, you are now free to establish your own set of principles by which to run your life. You’ve been bound by things that you know are not right for you, and you have probably broken rules that you knew were right for you. This is a good time to think about what is and is not good for the person you want to be and make your own rules to follow. Some of these will fall in line with rules your parents have set for you, some will not. Some will fall in line with rules the college you’re attending has set for you and some will not. The most important thing to remember when thinking of breaking someone else’s rule is what consequences you will suffer. Sometimes, there are none – rules can be created for crazy reasons – not necessarily good reasons. It’s time to start thinking about your actions and decisions in an adult manner. To got out and break every rule in the book just because you can is childish – don’t do it. But take time to reflect on what your conscious is telling you is right for you. For example, to use a simple one, I had a friend whose parents tried to set a bedtime for their child when he went to college – something ridiculous like 9 PM. (!) They would call to make sure he was in his dorm room at 8:55. So, of course, he always was. What do you think he did as soon as that call ended? Yep – that’s right – he went out partying. He would sometimes stay out all night. When you stay out all night on a regular basis, it becomes impossible to attend classes. When you don’t attend classes, you fail. He almost did. Then he finally figured out that he didn’t have to use an all-or-nothing approach. Since his first class was at 9:10 AM, he stayed up until midnight, got up around 8 each morning and made it to all classes just fine. See, come college students do have common sense, it just takes us a while to figure it out!
I hope you have enjoyed my article. Again, not every item applies to every person in every situation, so please take what applies to you and learn from it.
I’d love to hear from you. What questions do you have about college life or adulthood?
Posted under Uncategorized
This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on August 26, 2006
When I am called into an office to help with the collections process, the Dentist will often say something like, ”Debra, I’ve told her a dozen times to call people every day until she gets in touch with them. But she just won’t do it. She’s not assertive enough to pick up the phone. She just keeps sending letters. Will you please go over with her the importance of reaching these people by phone?”
I agree that the phone is the best way to get people to realize that you are serious about collecting money. I’ve never had money come in from a difficult collection just by sending a letter or statement. The statements only work for the people who routinely pay their bills. Collection letters work for the next level of patient – the ones who only pay if they think they must to avoid legal action. But nothing works as good as a phone call.
So I meet with the financial coordinator and here is most often what I hear in regards to, “Why do you avoid calling patients about their overdue account?”
“What am I supposed to say?”
Somehow, this person managed to get assigned the duty of collecting accounts receivable without ever receiving adequate training. I’ve attended several accounts receivable training courses that I was really excited about only to come home disappointed and having learned nothing. Often, a consultant will get so wrapped up in the process of sending out letters and collecting while in the office, that he/she forgets about the call we sometimes have to make. This is a critical part of the process, so I am going to give you some sample scripts now. Hopefully, I have covered every possible scenario with what the patient on the other end is going to say.
First, let’s talk about the pre-conceived notions that many team members have about what is going to happen on the phone call and dispel some myths. What is the fear involved with making a collection call anyway? No one can shoot you over the phone, right?
The first fear the team member often has is, “What if this person is not satisfied with the work Dr. Smith performed?” That’s the one I hear most often. Okay, if this person is truly dissatisfied, isn’t it better to know it and be able to fix it rather than have that patient blabbing all over town about Dr. Smith’s inferior work? In fact, I started to see these collection calls as a customer service opportunity after a while. There were occasions (few and far between, thankfully) when the person on the other end was truly dissatisfied with something. It does happen. Sometimes it was the doctor or his work, sometimes it was the team or our work, how we collected or did not collect from insurance as promised, etc. Handle it correctly, and you’ll have a happy, paying, and loyal patient for life. We assume that if someone has a problem, they will call us. But they don’t. They wait, put it off, just like us putting off calling them about their bill. And every time they receive a statement they “plan” to call and discuss it with us, but they hate confrontation as much as we do and assume, as we do, that we will become upset. Can you see the vicious cycle we create here?
So just call, and ask, “Mrs. Jones, I’ve noticed that your account is 60 days past due. Was everything okay with your partial/denture/crown/inlay/last visit?” (Say whatever is appropriate here obviously.)
Mrs. Jones: ‘Oh, yes, dear. Everything is wonderful. Dr. Smith is a terrific dentist isn’t he?”
“Yes, he is. Is there some other reason you have not paid your bill?”
“Well, actually, I’ve been meaning to call you. Is there any way I could make payments on that? I can hardly come up with $300 all at once you know.”
“Okay, Mrs. Jones. Could you pay $100 per month over the next 3 months?”
“Yes, I believe I could do that and that would help me a lot. I really appreciate it.”
“Okay. Can you send the first payment today?”
“I sure can.”
“Do you have our address or one of the payment envelopes we’ve sent with your statements?”
“I sure do and I will get it in the mail today. Thanks so much.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Smith.”
Now, how painful was that? For either party? I can’t count the number of times it goes like this. Then we are left feeling like, “Why didn’t she just call and tell us that?” Or “Why didn’t she just send in $100 two months ago.” The answer? Because you didn’t call her two months ago. You see, they wait until they have an agreement with you. Of course, getting signed financial agreement up front will help avoid these types of calls. I’ve talked about that before and I feel quite certain I’ll be writing about it again!
Let’s look at one now where the patient does have a problem with the doctor’s work. How would you handle that one?
“Mrs. Jones, I’ve noticed that your account is 60 days past due. Was everything okay with your partial/denture/crown/inlay?”
“Well, I’ve been meaning to call you. Actually, no, everything is not okay.”
(Long pause – you are going to have to pull it out of her.)
“Oh, my. I’m sorry to hear that Mrs. Jones. Would you like to tell me what is wrong, or would you prefer that I have Dr. Smith give you a call at his next break?”
Usually, they start describing the problem to you. After all, they are either intimidated by the doctor, or they don’t want to make her angry with them. This is a good thing, though, because it means they intend to return to the practice, so we haven’t messed up too badly. In the rare occasions where they have wanted to speak with the Dentist, it’s still usually a win-win opportunity because Dentists usually rise to the occasion and make the patient very happy.
“I just can’t wear this lower denture. It simply doesn’t fit and I can’t see paying for something that I am getting no use out of.”
“Mrs. Jones, I understand how you feel. Sometimes lower dentures can be tricky to get them to fit properly. I am certain Dr. Smith would be happy to adjust it again for you. When can you come in?” (Notice I did not bring up the payment again.)
“Well, I don’t want to be out any more money.”
“Oh we are not going to charge you, Mrs. Jones. I just want you to get a lower denture that you are satisfied with. Could you come in this afternoon?”
“Well, yes, I guess I could.”
“Would 2:00 work with your schedule?”
“Yes, I’ll be there at 2:00.”
“Great, Mrs. Jones, We are looking forward to seeing you at 2.”
When Mrs. Jones comes in, Dr. Smith is going to adjust her lower denture – again. Ask her if she is now satisfied and could take care of her bill. If not, set a task in Outlook to call her again in a couple of days. The few times that I have had this happen to me. I usually got a check in the mail for the balance before I had to make the call. When I did have to make the call, the gentleman put the balance on his credit card and was happy. (He, again, was just waiting for me to call.)
I’d love to hear from you. What scripts have you successfully used? What excuses do you hear? What are you afraid the patient on the other end is going to say?
If you don’t want to post a reply, e-mail me directly for a personal, and private, response.
This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on August 25, 2006
If you are serious about Zero Accounts Receivable™, you will immediately start utilizing an outside source of financing and virtually eliminate financing your patients’ treatment yourself. Several watch items exist that I want to cover with you now. With all the problems lately regarding E-Z Pay, I want to warn you about what I saw as a problem with that system that kept our practice from becoming one of its victims.
The first item to consider that all but new Dentists are probably already aware of is the term “recourse.” Any plan you sign up with should be Non-Recourse. Non-Recourse means that if the patient doesn’t pay, the company cannot come back on you to ask for their funds back. Some companies are “With Recourse,” and you want to stay away from these altogether. Some companies have become wise to the question “Is your plan with or without recourse?” and have created a system with a “sliding scale” feature that, based upon the patient’s credit history, the plan for which they are approved may be with recourse. This was the case with E-Z Pay. A consultant that we used once was unfamiliar with this bait and switch technique that E-Z Pay used and highly recommended them because their fees were so low. Upon doing my research, I found out that the majority of our patients, because we are in a rural area, are considered to be high risk and would only be approved for the plans that were with recourse. This was the first reason I decided to not pursue the relationship. Always do your own homework and ask point blank or read the fine print – I always do both! Sometimes the sales reps don’t even know what recourse is, or what their company is actually doing within the boundaries of the fine print!
The second item I want to discuss is the fee you will pay. As of January 1, 2006, CareCredit charges Dental Practices 5% of the processed amount on revolving payment plans, extended payment plans, and 3 months no interest accounts. They charge 6.9% on 6 months no interest plans, 9.9% on 12 months no interest, and a whopping 13.5% on their 18 month no interest plan. What does all of this mean?
Let’s say a patient comes in and agrees to finance $1,000 using CareCredit. He wants to pay it off over the next 12 months and chooses the 12 Month No Interest or “Same as Cash” plan. CareCredit will pay the practice $1,000 minus 9.9% ($99) for a total of $901 on behalf of that patient. You accept the $901 as payment in full and begin treatment immediately.
Some Dentists think this fee is high. I am not going to argue with you because the phrase “too high” is too subjective to argue. My point simply is this: Would you prefer to have $901 or $0? Because most of the time, if the patient doesn’t have the money now, he is not going to have it later. If you try to finance it yourself to save the $99 you risk collecting none of it or only a small portion of the full amount. If you try to charge interest and you do not have the patient sign a Truth-In-Lending statement, you are probably violating Truth in Lending laws depending upon where you practice and the laws in your state. You also have the opportunity cost and administrative cost of collecting that money over one year’s time. Save yourself the hassle and headache and outsource it.
The greatest advantage to using outside financing is that your practice will grow. Patients will accept more treatment if they can make smaller payments over a longer period of time, but you don’t have to be bothered with the administration of it. It’s a win-win-win. You win, the patient wins, and the finance companies win.
The previous example I used was almost the highest withhold at 9.9%. If the patient accepts a $5,000 treatment plan and finances it over 2 years, your withhold is only 5% or $250. Again, would you rather have $4,750 or $0? I know which I’d rather have.
The third item is to get the company’s history. Find out where their money is coming from. Why is this important? In the case with E-Z Pay, they were self-funded, always moving money around. (We know now.) Care Credit is owned by GE Capital. CitiHealth is owned by CitiBank. Dental Fee Plan (DFP) became Capital One Healthcare Finance because Capital One bought it. Most of our larger lenders are either in the business of healthcare financing already or are getting into it because there’s money in it – for them. They know what they’re doing, the can take the risk. The know how to risk, so let them do it. You’re a dentist, not a banker, and not a lender. With that said, stick with the big guys. Don’t risk these fly-by-night firms that you can’t get any information on. That was the final straw for me in deciding whether or not do deal with E-Z Pay – I couldn’t get much information about the company. They seemed shady. And as it turns out, they were. (By the way, from what I understand they are now doing business as MyDDS.com – consider yourself warned.)
Someone always asks me, “Debra, what if we ran a credit check ourselves and only extended credit to people with good credit scores? Wouldn’t that save us money?” I thought of that too – it doesn’t work – for lots of reasons. I could type out a list several pages long of reasons why people with good credit didn’t pay me but still paid all of their other bills. Every time I made an exception and extended credit to someone I didn’t know, I regretted it for one reason or another. There is also the issue of administration. You still have to get Truth-in-lending statements signed, send statements, follow up, make sure your practice management software is calculating interest and late fees properly, and pay someone to manage all of this. Then if the patient doesn’t pay, you’re out even more money sending them to collections or taking them to court. The bottom line is this: It doesn’t work – don’t go there. I can prove to you on paper that you are not saving money.
The only exception that works, is your returning patients who have been with you for more than 2 years and you are absolutely certain they will pay. I’ve used the example before of my mother’s elementary school teacher. Nicest lady in the world, honest and trustworthy. She’s been in this community her entire life – over 70 years – and has been a patient since the doors opened 25 years ago. There are still a few around like her, thankfully. Other business people in the community who own their business and are known for paying their debts are always “good risks.” The funny thing is, none of these people ever ask to pay in a way that is too imposing on our cash flow. You know what I mean, asking to pay $10 a month on a $2,000 treatment plan. They understand what the issues are and always offer up a plan to pay it off in 90 days or less. Even my mother’s teacher who is on a fixed income paid me within 60 days. I’ve learned as a result of this that if the patient seems to be wanting to take advantage of you, it’s a good sign that they are not worth the trouble. Send them to an outside agency no matter who they are, unless you want to do their dentistry for free.
Once you’ve been in practice for a while, you will get a feel for who’s a good risk. The amazing thing to me is the number of Dentists who “know” when a patient is not a good risk, yet do the treatment anyway. I know it’s because you’re desperate for the work. Just know when you do it that you are likely doing it pro bono.
The other perplexing issue for me is the Dentist who allows her staff to decide who gets credit (or free dentistry) – with no guidelines whatsoever. (And sometimes the Dentist has established guidelines, but allows the staff to ignore them.) When I took over the management of my husband’s practice, the woman previously in charge of his receivables took entirely too much risk and I inherited a huge accounts receivable balance. Why did he allow her to let things get in so bad a shape? He trusted her. He did not have the time to manage everything himself and he believed she had his best interest at heart. She might have; will we ever really know? But without a strong desire to see the practice achieve success, we lose sight of what’s important in order to spare feelings and avoid confrontation. That’s why it is vital to develop a system that works, put it in place, follow it to the letter, then let it work for you.
That’s also why I believe it is best, especially in a new practice, to treat everyone the same and make everyone go through an outside firm. The practices that do this are hugely successful (profitable) with it and are never asked to extend credit.
At the time of this writing, our practice uses CareCredit exclusively. However, I am not trying to sell you CareCredit and I do not work for them. (Actually, I do trainings for them but I am not in their sales department.) I advise all of my consulting clients to try as many firms in their area that they want to try and that are non-recourse. Use local finance companies as available; you might get a great rate and they probably have established relationships with your patients already. New Dentists should sign up with all plans that are non-recourse, test them and see which ones work the best in your area. It just so happens that in our area, CareCredit works best for us. Capital One might work best for you. We’ve used several over the years and by process of elimination have settled on CareCredit.
I’d love to hear from you. Have you found a good way to determine a good risk from a bad one? Is there a finance company you’re using that you love?
Posted under Dental Practice Management
This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on August 24, 2006
Not long after I got out of college, one of my first jobs was as a bookkeeper for a local executive who owned twenty-one separate businesses. Grouped under two separate entities, I kept the books for one business, and another bookkeeper kept the books for the other.
Under her umbrella were a set of stores – gas stations—that allowed customers to charge gasoline and pay monthly. The owner started this extension of credit with one company that paid every month like clockwork and it was a good relationship. As other companies found out about this advantage they, too wanted in on the deal and the owner agreed. The logic was that since his price was a couple of cents higher than most other suppliers, if he could increase business by extending credit to reputable companies, he would create a loyal customer. However, we soon learned that not everyone pays their bill every month and some companies got very behind. To make a long story short, cash flow got so bad that when that other bookkeeper and I ran payroll on Friday morning, we would go to the bank to cash our checks because we knew there was not enough money in the bank to cover all of the checks that had been written.
The problem continued and became worse until the owner finally sold the gas stations because he did not have the personality to handle the accounts receivable. He gave up, but didn’t have to. He could have simply trained me and the other bookkeeper and changed his in-store policies. We would have been happy to learn what to do – we knew that what these people were doing to our boss was wrong - But we didn’t know anything about collections. I ended up leaving that job out of pity – I felt he could not afford two bookkeepers and she was there first. Everything worked out in the end – I ended up with a position that I loved, he down-sized to the point that the other bookkeeper was able to keep up with everything, but the business could have gotten bigger and he would probably be more successful today if he had sought help and taken control of the situation.
My Zero Accounts Receivable™ Training System gives step-by-step instructions on how to get rid of existing accounts and prevent high receivables, all while growing your business. Did you know you could have a negative accounts receivable? I’ve accomplished it. I can show you how to get it as well.
Please feel free to post your questions here, or e-mail me directly.
Posted under Leadership
This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on August 23, 2006
At Flemingsburg Dental Care, I eventually got to the place where just about all I did was present and collect on large treatment plans and hygiene visits. I am often dumb-founded when I am talking about collecting pre-payments and hear the objection from a Dentist or team member, “Our patients would never go for that.” How do you know? Our patients loved it. I loved it. I never had to wonder if the patient in the chair getting the root canal therapy, post, core, and crown prep today was going to pay me gleefully or if there would be a nasty confrontation. The patients never had to lay in the chair and wonder, “How much is this costing me and how in the world am I going to pay for it?” Payment up front is a much better way to work for everyone –stress free. I have come to the conclusion that people who do not want to offer pre-pay are just people who like to be stressed!
I have actually had Dentists argue with me that they would worry all the time about their cash flow if they collected ahead of time. “I’m afraid I would spend all of the money when I got it and then not have it to pay my bills.” Okay, let’s deal with that.
Here’s what you do. HIRE SOMEONE – OUTSIDE OF THE PRACTICE IF NECESSARY– WHO MANAGES MONEY WELL TO DO YOUR BOOKKEEPING. If you do not have the discipline to budget and track your money, get someone who is. (I’ll bet your spouse is!) We use QuickBooks and create a ghost account for things we know will have to come out of a pre-paid treatment plan – like lab bills. You could set up a separate account at your bank to transfer money into to save for things like that if you want, but it’s not necessary. If you’re not a computer person, then just create a separate checkbook register and “transfer” money into it when you need to. Some people call that a “ghost” account; to your bank it does not exist, but it takes the money out of your regular register so you can’t see it or spend it.
One last comment on cash flow concerns: I have never experienced a business of any type that had better cash flow because of high accounts receivable! It just doesn’t work that way, folks!
I’d love to hear from you. What tricks have you used to hide money from yourself? Do you have a problem budgeting your money?
Posted under Dental Practice Management
This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on August 22, 2006