group dental practices DSOs and dental management

Practice management for group practices

Ever since the economic slowdown in 2008, group practices have seen a steady rise throughout the United States. This trend occurs when practices strive for efficiency in a competitive landscape. However, during this transformation, even when accounts have collaborated, and marketing efforts have coordinated, most group practices still work on systems inherited from their stakeholders. This means a set of non-compatible solutions have to be organized, and measures are taken for practice management for group practices.

There is a reason why an individual outlet of Walmart functions more efficiently than a consortium of local businesses — they run a uniform system across their locations, that is built for efficiency at scale.

How does a system that is built for scale help a dental group practice?

1) Customer Experience

A coordinated system shows visible improvement in customer experience. Patients become less frustrated when they know what to expect from all your locations. This means they will try to stick to your brand, even if they relocate or if a provider changes. We all know what to expect in any Starbucks. We walk into an outlet with full confidence in knowing what to expect. It makes our decision to walk into a Starbucks easy.

2) Better use of human resources

Another significant improvement is in human resource management. There is a steady and well-tracked utilization of human resources from both dental providers and support staff. This is the most considerable header for costs at any dental practice.

3) Increased Production

A well-coordinated system and a single database ensure faster processing of patients pre and post-treatment. This increases production and directly increases your revenue.

4) Better Cash-flow

A central billing office and dental claims management center will allow revenue to come in faster and cash-flow cycles to be shortened. This increases available cash, which can then be used to expand further. Group practices need to expand at their fastest possible pace in the current market, and establishing a system built for scale goes a long way in helping you get there.

What are the key features any group practice should look for?

It is difficult to narrow down to a specific set of features that group practices should look for, as requirements vary based on the organization. Requirements mostly fall into three main functions – centralizing control, streamlining operations, and automating tasks. Some of the features to look for under each of these areas are listed below:

Centralize Control:

Monitor and manage all operations across sites through a central console. A few examples of functions that can be centralized are:

  • Marketing and campaigns
  • Appointment Scheduling
  • Billing & Financial Reporting
  • Document management
  • Compliance
  • Access control and data security
  • Administration and business management
  • Analytics and Business Intelligence
  • Claim scrubbing and denial management
Streamline Operations:

Standardize administrative, clinical, and financial workflows across locations. The following are some of the solutions to usually mismanaged areas to ensure better streamlining and integration into the system:

  • Slot finder, wait-list and ASAP list management
  • Charting and treatment planning – with easy templates
  • Care notes with clinical decision support
  • Template-based communication for patient engagement
  • Custom forms for capturing patient conditions or allergies
  • Business rule manager for standardizing operational workflows
Automate Tasks:

Perform tasks automatically based on pre-set triggers and conditions. Automation is the next level of streamlining, where you eliminate the need for manual intervention in repetitive processes and thus free up your employee time. Features to keep an eye out for include:

  • Rule-based workflow management
  • Campaign management


Group practices must adopt a system that is built for scale. A cloud-based scalable practice management solution that features workflow automation and streamlining, along with integrated marketing and back-office functions, will be the ideal fit for the practice management for group practices.

important things to know before expanding your dental practice

Things to consider as you add more practices

The difficulty of managing a single-location practice increases exponentially as new locations get added. However, in today’s market due to increasing competition and reducing revenues, adding new practices and expanding has become the need of the hour. Let us explore the challenges that you come across as you expand your practice and arrive at potential solutions to these problems.

Challenges in expansion:

  • Lack of operational control: Being geographically distant reduces the efficiency of your day to day management and you become increasingly reliant on systems to compensate.
  • Scalability of work-flows and processes: Most single location practices run on improvised systems which may not work well in scale. The moment the system scales, many gaps become visible. It is important to change your workflows to ones that suit your requirements.
  • Problems with coordination and communication: Your patients would expect the same experience in all your locations. It becomes important to share information and transfer documents regularly between these locations.
  • Problems with efficiency: Suddenly, all your efforts to fill up the open scheduling slots are not enough. You have an increase in production and your marketing should increase multiple-fold to be able to cope up with the added production capability.
  • Problems with people management: This is especially a problem in ensuring compliance to various redundant tasks that are essential for a multi-location practice but have not been necessary when you were running a smaller practice.
  • Cash-flow: This is perhaps the most important problem to prepare for. Your overheads suddenly go up and you should have enough cash being generated to drive the new location to break-even.
  • Record keeping and data security: This becomes increasingly difficult as the processes get more and more complex and there are additional points that bring vulnerability to your data.
  • Reporting: It becomes difficult to get face to face quick summary reports from your team. A well planned reporting structure and processes are needed to keep the practice in its optimum functioning. The importance of data analytics and tracking becomes more important.

How can practice management systems assist in solving the problems of scaling?

There are several features that can help you manage a multi-location practice. However, the most important ones to look at come under the following:

Establishing better control:

Modern systems can help you establish better control over all aspects of your practice by features such as:

  • Multi location management: Add, remove or deactivate locations, providers, users and chairs into the application setup, all from a central setup console.
  • Access control & permissions: Enjoy easy and centralized control over user permissions as roles and responsibilities of users evolve over time.
  • Centralized scheduling: Set up the calendar for your practice across locations and customize to suit the exact needs of the practice and the staff.
  • Single patient record: View patient records at any location, by any provider and ensure that all users always view up-to-date and same patient information.
  • Single provider record: Give providers the freedom to work across locations and track treatment procedures across locations with a single provider record.
  • Care protocol management: Centrally create templates for care notes and configure clinical settings across locations to ensure unified care coordination
  • Clinical asset management: Centralize the storage and viewing of X-Rays and scans on the cloud through an integrated imaging solution from apteryx.
  • Document management: Maintain and access clinical, financial and patient related documents across locations through a central repository.
Streamlining operations:

Practice management systems ensure your workflows are streamlined, whether they are shared between departments or locations. The following features are helpful in streamlining operations:

  • Clinical decision support: Recommend better treatment plans to patients on the basis of similar patient profiles, leading to higher case acceptance rates.
  • Integrated patient portals: Capture patient information using an online patient portal which can also be used by patients to make payments and confirm appointments.
  • Integrated patient engagement: Set up automated communications via sms / email for appointment confirmations, festive greetings and recall reminders.
  • Collaboration portals: Securely collaborate with patients to share reports, plans and financial documents through a secure patient portal.
  • Secure messaging: Ensure collaboration and exchange of ideas through instant and direct exchange of messages without any security breach.

One of the quickest ways to get around the hassles of adding new locations is to automate as many workflows as possible. We are listing down few of the automations that can greatly enhance your efficiency:

  • Business rule manager: Set up a rules engine to prompt users across all locations to reduce errors and ensure better process control.
  • Workflow manager: Manage and automate a variety of routine tasks and office workflows across all locations using a central workflow manager.
  • Marketing automation: Engage with existing patients and acquire new patients through automated marketing campaigns across web, email and social media.
  • Patient communications: Automate patient communications across modules for functions such as clinical follow ups, appointment confirmations and festive greetings.
  • Auto scheduling: Automatic prompts suggesting the best possible date, time and provider combination for an appointment.
  • Online & Custom forms: Customize and integrate patient intake forms on the web and automate the capture of patient information.
  • Patient surveys: Automatically email patient surveys after appointments and prompt them to rate the practice experience online.
  • Automatic report generation: View reports that are generated automatically on the basis of defined rules and triggers of locations, providers and modules.
  • Personalized dashboards: Automatically create personalized and data rich visual dashboards to keep users focused on their goals and metrics.
Revenue Cycle Management:

These features are equally important while looking at a scalable practice management system. A bad revenue cycle management combined with sudden expansion is the recipe for disaster. Look for these advanced revenue cycle management functionalities in your practice management system:

  • Auto eligibility verification: Automatically verify insurance eligibility of patients through real time connectivity to thousands of payers and plans.
  • Electronic claims: With real-time eclaims and advanced billing rules, identify issues before submission and get more claims paid on the first attempt.
  • Auto ERA posting: Based on a set of remittance posting rules, auto post ERA’s and only have manual intervention to handle exceptions.
  • Auto collections & follow ups: Send details of defaulting patients automatically to clearing houses and ensure quicker collections from such patients.
  • Central insurance management: Maintain a single database of employers, carriers, plans, fee schedules and collection agencies for all locations.
  • Central billing office: Create workflows around a central billing office responsible for centralized claim creation and payment processing.
  • Reporting & Analytics: Aggregate data from multiple sources and enable centralized reporting across clinical, financial and administrative workflows.