Historically, dental practices have operated as independent small businesses. Practicing dentistry meant one dentist, running one office, handling everything from human resources and patient billing to insurance company relations and drilling fillings. Today, consolidation trends in healthcare, a shifting financial climate, and post-COVID staffing realities are changing the way dentists practice.
The Dental Service Organization (DSO) market is expected to grow to $6.9 billion by 2030 (a 6.4% increase from 2022). DSOs are attractive because they offer stability and economies of scale that are increasingly important as staffing shortages increase and dental margins thin. However, dental practices do not have to give up their independence to enjoy the safety net that DSOs provide.
One alternative to DSOs is contracting with a third-party dental billing partner. Leveraging a billing partner (also known as a revenue cycle management partner) to handle your dental practice’s billing management tasks promises more consistent cash flow, expanded staff bandwidth, and increased operational efficiency. These benefits deliver boosted practice profitability, enhanced patient care, and better work-life balance for you and your staff.
The Value of Outsourcing Dental Billing
Most dental practices are busy juggling the day-to-day necessities of managing a dental practice. If you are like more than 80% of dentists out there, you are burnt out. You operate as a CEO of a small business without any business courses and training. Adding insult to injury, the process of running a dental practice is growing increasingly complex.
As a dentist, you are your greatest asset, and it is likely that more flexibility and freedom in your career would benefit you. Since most dentistry cannot be automated, one way to find more freedom is to invest in the aspects of your practice that can be automated or outsourced without disrupting care. Billing is a prime candidate. Many elements of your revenue cycle (credentialing, billing, following up with insurance companies, identifying trends in payments), can be streamlined by automation tools dental biling companies provide.
Outsourcing dental billing management is one way you can remain independent, reinvest in yourself, and ensure you and your staff spend less time on cumbersome tasks and more time on focusing on meaningful and profitable patient work.
By working with a dental billing management partner, you can secure the benefits of selling to a DSO (buying power, economies of scale, reduced overhead, front-office support, stability), without selling your practice.
Below are the top 3 benefits of working with a dental billing expert:
1. Improved Operational Efficiency
An outsourced dental billing partner allows you to enjoy a bonus office manager without paying an additional office manager salary and benefits. Additionally, a third-party dental billing partner removes the burden of billing from you and your staff. With that off your team’s plate, you can focus more on proactive tasks and patient communication. These are just a few ways outsourced dental RCM helps with practice efficiency:
Expand staff bandwidth to help patients say “yes” to treatment
Without licking stamps, addressing bills, and calling insurance companies on their to-do list, your in-house staff can be a partner in your patients’ long-term healthcare needs and help them understand how treatment will impact their health over time. Dental patients are increasingly savvy buyers. Empowering your staff to work with these buyers and educate them on the benefits of your treatment will boost your practice’s profitability and your patients’ health.
Spend less time chasing down claims and payments
Working with an expert outsourced dental billing partner takes billing paperwork and the redundancy of claim appeal and denial management off your team’s plate. In addition, you no longer must keep track of following up with patients who have not paid or spend countless hours chasing down insurance companies over denied claims.
Collect more, faster
An outsourced dental RCM partner lives and breathes dental billing. That means your practice benefits from the lessons learned across hundreds of dental practices throughout the country. For example, your billing partner may know that an insurance company consistently denies a certain code and be aware of a successful appeal strategy. Furthermore, they have proven patient communication processes regarding a sensitive subject: money. These proven processes often increase collections and shorten patient payment times.
2. More Staff Stability
COVID-19 changed people’s priorities when it comes to work-life balance and employment. Today’s workforce wants more flexibility and more fulfilling work. More than 90% of dental practices report that post-pandemic recruiting of dental staff has been “extremely or very” challenging. Below are a couple of ways outsourced dental RCM improves staff stability.
Experience less staff burnout and turnover
Many dental offices are struggling to do more with less. Shorthanded teams do not have time for repetitive, mundane tasks (like, for example, waiting on hold with an insurance company regarding a $40 claim). What is more, they do not have the bandwidth to focus on cash flow-driving tasks such as re-care calls and generating new revenue. Instead, they often focus on the essentials of running the day-to-day practice and feel burnt-out trying to “do-it-all.” By outsourcing more of the tedious, repetitive tasks your office manager or front desk staff handle, you empower and free your staff to focus on more demanding and profitable work. This shift can help reduce staff turnover and increase staff fulfillment.
Expand the flexibility of your workforce
When you work with a billing partner, you gain a virtual office team member. This virtual team member can work more hours and focus more specifically on billing than a person in your office who is pulled in various directions. This adds stability to your workforce because you no longer must worry about falling behind if your in-house staff resigns, takes a vacation, or falls ill. This also gives you more latitude to offer your staff increased flexibility in their schedule. Even when your in-house staff is off, your outsourced partner’s systems are running. Bills, claims, and payments continue to be processed without delay.
3. Improved Cash Flow
As dentists face rising prices and overhead, collections rates and cash flow make a significant difference in practice profitability. Outsourcing dental billing is one surefire way to boost cash flow for a few reasons:
Staff can focus on revenue-generating activities
Staff that spend less time focusing on mundane billing management tasks have more time to focus on working with patients. This may include sitting with patients to workout treatment plans and financial arrangements or making more re-care calls to generate more business. The result is more patients agreeing to recommended treatment and more practice revenue.
Dedicated expertise boosts collections rates
If you are currently collecting 94-95% of patient bills, an expert partner often collects closer to 98-99%. This is because they have a dedicated staff of dental billing experts who have the knowledge of helping hundreds of dental practices across the country boost collections. In addition, your billing partner will have the bandwidth to follow-up on smaller revenue generating tasks (for example, contacting an insurance company that has requested another x-ray and image) that a staff member may not have time to deal with on top of more pressing tasks. By working with a dedicated billing partner, you are likely to collect more of the claims you would not have had time to follow up with without support.
Expanded financing options
Depending on state regulations, many dental billing partners can offer patients interest-free payment plans and flexible payment arrangements that help patients get the treatment they need, sooner, without deferring treatment due to cost. For example, our clients typically see a 7-8% increase in treatment acceptance within the first year of partnering with us due to the patient payment plans we provide.
The Bottom Line: A Dental Billing Partner Boosts Practice Efficiency, Patient Care, Profitability, and Staff Satisfaction
Innovative dental practices are adapting to thrive in the face of consolidation trends, financial pressures, and staffing challenges. By outsourcing the more tedious aspects of your dental practice’s financial system, you and your staff can enjoy more flexibility and freedom and more time to focus on patient care and revenue-generating activities. Having a dental billing expert in your corner allows you to collect more with less effort and flourish as in independent practice in today’s dentistry climate.
Empower your Dental Practice with Resolv Healthcare
For more than 60 years Resolv Healthcare (formerly First Pacific Corporation) has helped dental practice providers increase efficiency and achieve financial growth. Our dental practice partners maximize profitability, enhance patient care, and alleviate administrative headaches. Learn more about our expert RCM services for dentists and book your free consultation to learn how Resolv can support your practice today.
About the Authors
Celeste Ponvelle, Executive Vice President, Resolv Healthcare Dental
Celeste is responsible for the overall performance of the Operations, Professional Services, Finance, Client Support, R & D, Revenue Cycle and Sales teams ensuring effective and efficient processes to meet the needs of our customers. Prior to her role with Resolv Healthcare, Celeste has worked in healthcare administration since 1991; served in various healthcare management capacities in both private clinic and hospital settings coordinating staffing, billing, and administrative requirements. As owner and COO of SourceGroup CBO (2001-2020), Celeste had direct responsibility for all aspects of the business financials as well as all management aspects, client revenue cycles, practice management software implementations, training, and support. Since the acquisition of SourceGroup CBO by Harris/Resolv Healthcare, Celeste has served as VP of Strategic Services, focused on workflow efficiency, credentialing, shared services, integrations, and staffing resources.
Jeff Osborne, D.D.S. Chief Dental Officer, Resolv Healthcare Dental
Dr. Jeffrey Osborne owns 4 dental offices located throughout the DFW area in Frisco, Keller, Hurst, and Fort Worth. In addition to his role with Resolv Healthcare, Dr. Osborne serves as the Director of Sleep Dental Medicine and Orthodontics for Smile Source, a group dedicated to preserving the elite business of independent dental care. Dr. Osborne has served organized dentistry in multiple capacities throughout his career. Previously, he served as a Dental Director for Cigna Dental and was the Texas Dental Director for United Concordia Dental Insurance for many years. While at United Concordia, he oversaw the administration of the dental portion of the Texas Children’s Health Insurance Program (TChip). Dr. Osborne also served on the Board of Directors of the Greater Houston Dental Society and served as the Vice-President for two years. He earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston in 1989. He also holds an MDA in Healthcare Administration from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
John Parks – VP of Sales and Marketing, Resolv Healthcare Dental
As Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Resolv Healthcare, John is responsible for the overall marketing strategy and sales execution. John’s career has involved senior leadership positions in both dental and healthcare companies, and he has acquired and sold multiple companies in the healthcare space.