Every business can benefit from bookkeeping services. It provides efficient ways to stay organized, stay aware of your expenses and learn from the financials of your business. For medical and dental practices, it is even more important to use an accounting service since a lot of information is being recorded everyday: patients’ personal information, prescription info, diagnoses, payments for medical tests and dealing with insurance and much, much more.
Hiring a professional bookkeeper gives your practice more freedom to focus on staff, scheduling and appointments, and most importantly, your patients’ care. Being afforded that time helps to find creative ways to make your practice more service focused.
Offering exceptional patient experiences makes your dental or medical practice stand out, leading to increased loyalty, more new patients, and a more robust bottom line. Whether you’re just now growing your practice, or you’ve been in the healthcare industry for years, patient acquisition is #1 on the list of your practice’s priorities. Recurring patients are important for the success of your practice; however, new patients can provide opportunities for more specific treatments and long-term options for repeat business.
Some patients have a lot of options when it comes to finding a medical or dental home. If they have a negative experience with your staff or office environment, they may hesitate to return to your practice. It’s important to create a meaningful experience for every patient you see.
When patients have a “four-star” experience at your practice, they will stay loyal and be more likely to refer your business to their friends and family. Happy patients give happy reviews and soon your practice has a reputation for providing top level care. More new patients create a healthier bottom-line. A bookkeeper with the particular experience and knowledge of medical and dental accounting will know how to track the costs of new patient acquisition efforts.
Here is what some of those efforts may look like:
Keep your practice comfortable and clean
Entering a medical or dental office with a cold ‘clinical’ feel doesn’t do much to put patients at ease. Some are nervous about their appointment before they even walk into the room. Stark, empty walls surrounding a collection of hard, uncomfortable chairs won’t improve their stress levels. Creating a calming environment in your waiting area will help relieve their anxiety. Try to make it feel more like a living space than a doctor’s or dentist’s office by arranging comfortable couches and roomy chairs. Use soothing colors, artwork, and plants.
Once settled in the exam room, ask the patient how they can be made more comfortable. If a procedure is to be long and involved, offer a blanket to keep them warm. If you have an audio/visual system set up, ask what they would prefer to watch or offer headphones so they can listen to music. These may seem like small gestures but will go a long way in patient appreciation.
Your practice also should be clean and tidy—both inside and out. Make sure your sign, parking lot and the outside of your building are well maintained. If not, patients could have a negative impression of your office before they even walk in. Make sure waiting areas and workstations are free of clutter and that bathrooms are scrupulously cleaned and stocked on a regular basis.
Make them feel special
All too often, patients feel like nothing more than a file number when they visit a medical or dental practice. That makes it difficult for patients to trust recommendations and leads to them looking for a second opinion.
How can you avoid this? Let patients know both the doctor and the staff care about their well-being. Train staff members to greet patients with a friendly smile as soon as they walk through the door.
It’s also important to build a rapport with your patients. Start by asking them about their family, their work. Call patients to check on them after a procedure to see how they’re feeling. None of this takes a lot of time or effort, but it all goes a long way in making patients feel special and showing that you care. And when patients know you care, they’re much more likely to stay loyal to your practice.
Make sure everyone is prepared to answer questions.
Staff members should feel comfortable answering common patient questions with consistent answers. If not, it makes it difficult for patients to trust your practice and your recommendations. To keep messaging consistent, track the most frequent questions patients ask and train staff members on how to respond to them. They’ll be more confident answering questions and patients will appreciate how knowledgeable and helpful staff members are.
To grow your patient base and your practice, you need a solid foundation of loyal patients who accept treatment and refer your practice to others. Focusing on providing first-rate customer service is a wonderful way to grow a strong patient base and improve profits.
Patient retention doesn’t have to be a complex science. Most people are happy simply when they’re recognized. Remind your patients of the value they bring to your practice. Some medical and dental practices hold annual parties, lunches, and customer appreciation days for their patients. Being able to form a relationship with your long-term patients is important, because it not only brings them back, but also spreads the word to their friends and family members. Don’t overlook the personal gratification of a “thank you” email or postcard every quarter, or anniversary cards every few years.
Resist overbooking the schedule
Suppose you overbook for a single appointment slot and both patients show up. You might not think it’s such a terrible thing! You’ll see one patient on time and the other will have to wait. The problem is this delay can set your office back for the entire day. Not only will the patient that is double booked have to wait for the appointment, but it’s possible that every appointment afterward will be delayed as well. You’ll end up with one happy patient that was seen on time, and a dozen dissatisfied patients that showed up on time and had to wait. If you try to catch up by shaving a few minutes off each appointment, your patients feel rushed. You may even overlook something important in your hurry to hustle patients in and out. Unhappy patients often look elsewhere for better customer service, and this will affect your retention efforts and future finances.
Patient Follow Up
Once you’ve managed to find patients and efficiently book their appointments, reach out to them as their scheduled date draws close. This can be an email, phone call or text reminder saying that you’re excited to see them at the office soon. A friendly confirmation gives you and your patient some wiggle room in case something happens, and their appointment needs rescheduling. Without taking this crucial step, you risk last-minute (literally, last hour) cancellations and unprofitable gaps in bookings.
Let’s Mention Internal Controls
“The policies and procedures that a business puts into place to achieve its financial and operational goals.” This definition doesn’t ‘speak’ to finding creative ways to make your practice more service focused, but it is, none the less, a factor that contributes to its bottom line. Good business management practices include not only ways to improve cash flow but finds ways to keep the cash from flowing out through leaks that are due to error or fraud.
Fraud can be particularly damaging to a small business. Fewer than half the known cases of fraud ever recover losses. A medical or dental practice of any size can stop potential malfeasance by implementing proper internal controls. The following examples are only a few of many procedures that a small professional healthcare practice may want to implement:
Segregate financial/accounting duties, rotate responsibilities.
Reconcile bank deposits recorded in the practice accounting system to the total payments recorded in the practice billing system, daily.
Reconcile bank accounts promptly after month end and monitor bank account activity daily (should be monitored by an owner or a manager).
Assign responsibility for oversight of petty cash.
Conduct background checks for EVERY employee who handles money.
Make sure checks are signed by an owner or a manager.
Strong internal controls are in everyone’s best interest. They not only protect the practice, but they also protect the reputation and careers of its professionals. Hiring a competent accountant or bookkeeper will stop cash from walking out the door. A bookkeeper with the particular experience and knowledge of medical and dental accounting will know how to protect your small business bottom line.