What are the responsibilities of a receptionist in a dental office?
Prerequisite: Since different offices use different titles to mean different roles, read our article about “Roles And Responsibilities of Staff in a Dental Office” for a common terminology in terms of what we mean by each title in this article.
In this article, we describe the responsibilities of a receptionist in more detail. These responsibilities are what a dedicated receptionist is responsible for and doesn’t include what she/he might take from others due to consolidation of various roles. If you are consolidating roles, make sure to follow the guidelines mentioned in the first article.
Who is a receptionist in a dental office?
Receptionists are patient advocates. Firstly, they are the ones that patients communicate with when they are not in the office (eg. phone). They are also usually the ones that patients meet when they check-in for their dental appointments. They typically also verify insurance eligibilities.
As most of the tasks for receptionists involve various types of inbound and outbound patient communications, we will go over these type of communications. It’s the office manager’s job to prioritize these tasks on a daily (or at least weekly basis) based on the KPIs of a practice as discussed in the previous article.
Communication types / receptionist’s task list
Patient communications can be through various channels including phone calls, SMS, chat, or email. Each channel has its own characteristics which should be taken into account when prioritizing tasks. For example, an incoming phone call should preferably be answered right away whenever possible. It’s also impractical to assume that the person who is on a phone call can do other tasks simultaneously without compromising the quality of the communication. This is different from emails that can be responded in a non real-time fashion. That’s why it’s usually beneficial for a dental office to encourage its patients to use non phone-call channels. This might prove easier for a dental office with younger audience than a dental office with an older demographic.
Patients can contact the office at any time. They may have questions, want to book/change appointments or talk to the dentist. Patients can contact the office via a phone call, email, sms or chat (if the office allows it) or even through social channels (like Facebook). It’s important for a modern dental office to be available on all channels. This gives existing and new patients the option of communicating with the office through the medium that is easiest for them and would create a more convenient experience.
It might prove challenging for the staff to be present on all channels however. This can be overcome through the use of some tools like 2Dental that allows the receptionist to attend to any inbound query regardless of what channel they use.
There are situations that an office needs to contact patients. Depending on the nature of the communication and its urgency the channel can be different. More real-time channels (like phone calls and sms) are to be reserved for more urgent communications like same-day appointment confirmations. It’s recommended to use non realtime channels for other communications in order to avoid disrupting patients’ time unnecessarily.
Insurance Eligibility Verification
For offices that handle insurances, it’s important that the insurance information for each patient is known before the creation of the treatment plan. It’s recommended that patient information is collected before the appointment to avoid wasting time when the patient is in the office for their appointment. However, it is possible that some patients may just provide that information when they get to their appointment. In this case, the receptionist should contact the insurance companies and get the details of the coverage for the patient and update the practice management software accordingly in a timely manner.
Checking insurance eligibility is a challenging task because of the following reasons:
- Dental insurance companies may provide different information depending on the channel that they are contacted through. For example, the information that is obtained by calling an insurance company may not be the same as the information that is obtained online from the insurance company’s website or a fax back.
- Some insurance companies don’t even have an online portal and one should always call them.
- The information that is returned by different insurance companies is not standardized. A great receptionist should know what to look for and where to find it for each insurance company.
Recommendation: Use a tool like 2Dental to reduce the complexity of checking insurance eligibility. 2Dental makes it easy to check the insurance eligibility by:
- Asking the patients directly to enter their basic information (name, date of birth and member ID) and automatically pulling their information from more than 250 insurance companies. This information is visible to the patients and the staff both in an easy to understand format.
- For patients who don’t enter their own information, 2Dental provides an online/web/mobile interface for the staff to pull this information from any of the 250 insurance companies
- 2Dental standardizes the information from the insurance companies to make it easier for the staff to understand patient coverage. The information includes maximums, remaining coverage, deductible for both individual and family together with the frequency limitations and history, etc.
2Dental makes it easier for the receptionists to do their job
There are multiple impediments that can decrease the efficiency of the the dental receptionists:
- Not knowing what to do or not knowing priorities: This is addressed by the AI-office manager feature that automatically creates the tasks for the receptionists with clear guideline as how to do it.
- Not being able to monitor all communication channels: 2Dental has a unified communication platform that allows smooth communication with patients over any channel.
- Continuity: In offices that multiple people talk to patients, it’s essential to make sure that a conversation with a patient is always paid attention to even if the primary staff member who is, for example, emailing with the patient is not available. Having ghosted email inboxes can be frustrating for patients.
- HIPAA compliance: Not all channels of communication are traditionally HIPAA compliant. Having a secure platform that ensures HIPAA compliance is vital to maintain patients’ privacy.
- Collaboration: Particularly in larger offices, a patient inquiry may have to circulate multiple times between different staff members (potentially over email or other channels) before finding out what the response should be. Having confusing email email threads is not an efficient way for the staff to collaborate. 2Dental provides a way for the staff to leave internal notes for each other on a message thread and work collaboratively to respond to patient inquiries.
- Remote work: It happens from time to time that a receptionist may not be able to come to work due to family emergency. It’s also common that having the option of working remotely is attractive to many dental employees. 2Dental enables all the receptionists to perform many of their duties, including answering and making phone calls, responding to messages and more remotely.
Visit www.twodental.com for a demo to see how 2Dental can help your office be more efficient while reducing overhead.