by Glennine Varga, AAS, RDA, CTA
In the spirit of our “How to” issue, here are some dental sleep team trade secrets for every position in dental sleep medicine. Keep in mind each office is unique and although these secrets may be organized under certain positions does not mean your office should change your operating systems. These are organized for explanation purposes only. Most team members may find themselves applying one to all of these secrets in one or multiple positions!
The Gate Keepers are those answering the phones and talking to the patients at first contact. The trade secret in this position is to schedule the patient to come in and evaluate his or her situation. The shorter the call the better! Although those in this position should be highly educated in sleep the key to this position is to schedule every appointment.
The Informers are the dental assistants or treatment coordinators that will be with each patient from the first appointment to long-term follow up. This position is responsible for 80% of the patient’s experience with oral device therapy. Trade secret: Develop a system that works for documenting SOAP notes, informed consent, checklists, office forms, follow-up, and communicating with the rest of the team. In most cases you will find this by modifying your existing dental software and or using an electronic health record specific for dental sleep medicine. If you are using both, organize what will be tracked and where. If shopping for a DSM software, ask about special features to minimize the use of double entry. When researching and watching demos, see if you and your team can visualize using it everyday.
The Enforcers are the office managers and or insurance coordinators that are responsible for making sure all the rules are being followed. This may require multiple positions. Front office requests copies of sleep tests, dental assistant works with patients to get the prescription and hygienist reminds patients to wear their AM aligner. Trade secret: Chart checklist. Create a checklist with all-team-access so each task can be checked off and evaluated.
The Marketers are responsible for getting patients to call the practice and or developing relationships with referring physicians and DME companies. Trade secret: Make sure the gate keepers are ready for all the specific questions, the team is functioning with one unified message and your marketing efforts are C-PAP friendly. If patients are asking for oral devices, find out where they heard about you and concentrate your marketing efforts there.
The Educators are the hygienists, as they have a great opportunity to talk to the patient about sleep related breathing. Trade secret: Relate signs and symptoms to each patient. Make sure patients understand the importance of obtaining a diagnosis and treating obstructed sleep breathing and how it impacts overall health and wellness.
Trade secret: Nasal breathing! Our industry is focused, as it should be, on the oral airway. However, the nose is equally important; look in to offering patients options to maximize nasal breathing such as the OASYS appliance design with nasal dilators or Max Air Nose cones that can be used with any oral device. Trust me – patients will be thanking you!
The Closers are the financial coordinators that explain to our patients that we are working with medical insurance companies at a time when we cannot guarantee the payment amount. However, we will work with their insurance to maximize benefits. Trade secret: Financial contracts. Have a financial contract the patient signs, agreeing to payment. This can explain situations such as the insurance benefit going to the patient and long term follow up appointment cost.
The Chasers are those brave folks that deal with the medical insurance companies and fight for GAP waivers and in-network benefits for deductibles. I hold a great deal of respect for this position as this is where I started my career in dentistry 19 years ago in a dental office. Trade secret: Tracking! Whether your office is doing all the billing or you have hired a third party biller, it is important to track everything! This is the best way to have insight on future insurance payments based on past processed claims. This is also the best way to stay on top of both the insurance companies and your third party biller.
Hopefully, these “Trade Secrets” are not really secrets to you but more of something you’ve known all along and now it’s time to apply them to the dental sleep medicine side to the practice. I feel patient perception is very important and everyone is the best at what they do, the more they will talk about you and the more patients you will be able to help!
This Sleep Team Column will be dedicated to the team and provide practical tips and resourceful information. Let us know your specific issues by email to: Editor@DentalSleepPractice.com, while we can’t respond to every individual. Your feedback will help us create the most useful Sleep Team Column we can!