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Inside Dentistry
July 2020
Volume 16, Issue 7

Elevate Practice Efficiency and Patient Care

Five technologies that benefit providers and their patients

Scott Wellwood

Technologic advances that streamline practice management and improve customer service help dental offices distinguish themselves in a highly competitive environment. Dental practices continue to face two escalating challenges: how to operate more efficiently and how to provide patients with better care. Increasing efficiency is vitally important because operating costs comprise a large percentage of practices' total expenses. And, as the spectrum of providers has broadened, patient expectations for care have heightened.

Fortunately, the market for tools to help dental offices meet these challenges is widening, as well. Providers now have a wealth of technologies available to them that can help to streamline practice management and improve customer service. Some of the technologies that are having the greatest positive impact on dental-practice efficiency and patient care include the following:

1. Optimized Insurance Claims Services

Now that the digital submission of insurance claims and their corresponding attachments, such as radiographs and other diagnostic tests, has become the norm, both practices and payers are increasingly demanding electronic attachment services that come with time- and effort-saving features.

For example, DentalXChange introduced a new attachment service in 2017 that eliminates the need to access another website in order to acquire an attachment request or confirm the receipt of attachments. This technology is fully integrated into the company's ClaimConnect application, which allows it to offer enhancements and improved claims management to dental offices. Claims are processed more quickly because wait times for approvals, research, editing, and pre-authorizations are virtually nonexistent, and services can be bundled for increased efficiencies, benefitting both practices and their patients.

In addition, this tool provides practices with direct connectivity to most of the major insurance companies, which improves claim filing experiences for nearly every patient.

The demand for technologies that help to facilitate the insurance claims process will likely continue to rise as providers increasingly recognize the advantages that these tools offer to their practices and their patients.

2. Integrated Revenue Management Tools

Providers are calling for technology that integrates the full revenue cycle of a dental practice with its existing practice management systems. Software services that assist dental offices in verifying patient eligibility, receiving and posting electronic payments and co-payments, and even direct credit card processing are growing in popularity.

Practices are opting for revenue management services that allow them to streamline payment processes through one integrated practice management system because these services are more intuitive for team members to use and make paying bills easier for patients. Tools that simplify revenue management for dental offices and enable quick and easy bill payments simultaneously serve today's busy dental offices and give their patients one more reason to choose them over providers who don't offer these services.

3. User-Friendly Credentialing Services

The verification of a provider's credentialsa mandatory insurance processing procedurecan significantly delay payments to a dental practice if its credentialing is managed using an older, less-developed system. Because dentists are required to recertify their licenses every 2 years, the process has the potential to create a serious cash-flow problem for today's practices.

Newer technologies can automate credential verification, dramatically shortening payment timelines and providing a more user-friendly way for dental practitioners to remain current with their licensing requirements. For example, in 2018, DentalXChange launched a co-branded digital credentialing solution in partnership with Delta Dental of Colorado, which reduced credentialing processing times by approximately 89%. The continued expansion of this service throughout 2019 and into the current year suggests a growing acceptance of and interest for the technology among providers.

With productivity demands in the dental arena increasing exponentially, the interest in software that helps practices manage providers' credentials and keep payers current on their status will likely increase going forward.

4. Digital Diagnostic and Treatment Technologies

Dental providers are increasingly seeking ways to make the patient experience easier, faster, and more comfortable, and sophisticated digital diagnostic and treatment technologies are helping to accomplish this.

Digital imaging allows practices to view a radiograph instantly, and if necessary, immediately capture another, reducing the time required for diagnostics and the number of patient visits for each procedure. New endodontic technology helps providers perform root canal treatments that are less intrusive, less painful, and less time-consuming. And advances in CAD/CAM have enabled clinicians to deliver same-day crowns right in the office, eliminating the discomfort of living with a temporary crown and the inconvenience of needing to return after the definitive restoration has been created at an off-site laboratory.

By making dental visits more pleasant, these technologies may encourage patients to be more compliant with dental appointments and more accepting of proposed treatments as well as to take better care of their oral health, which has been shown to correlate with improved overall health.

5. Automated Patient Communication Services

Thanks to technology, the interactions between dental practices and their patients have become easier in a variety of ways.

Today's patients are much more accepting of using online portals to communicate with their dentists, whether it is to schedule appointments, ask questions, learn about the provider, or pay their bills. In this regard, dental practice websites, which were formerly a rarity, are now a necessity. Online appointment scheduling tools and chat features further enhance this experience, offering patients alternative means to communicate with the practice. In addition, social media postings and interactions are also becoming an essential element of dental practices' marketing plans.

With more younger dentists opening practices and a new generation of patients who have come to expect alternatives to making a phone call, practices should consider implementing automated patient communication systems.

Catching Up to the Medical Field

Although, to date, providers in the field of medicine have been quicker to adopt new technology than those in the field of dentistry, many dental practices are beginning to make up for lost time. As dental providers seek to improve the efficiency of their practices and provide better patient care, technology will continue to play an increasingly larger role in their businesses.

By incorporating upgraded insurance claims software, integrated revenue management tools, faster credentialing services, digital diagnostic and treatment technologies, and automated patient communication systems, dental practices are arming themselves with the tools that enable continued success and improved patient outcomes.

About The Author

Scott Wellwood is the president of DentalXChange, a provider in the web-based dental electronic data interchange solutions industry.

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