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Have you done an in office audit? Do you know what that is?

By Christine Taxin
February 21, 2018

Adding value is the foundation of a business. 

When purchasing a dental practice, the or running a long time practice you should be checking inventory. The added value in a dental practice is the patient charts, the quality of the staff, and the systems that are in place.  Systems are meant to change with time.  Just because they worked does not mean they should stay the same or that they really are working.

One of the most important ways to analyze a practice is to perform a chart audit. In a chart audit, you examine the charts one by one and look for certain information. You may examine every chart or predetermine a limited percentage. What are you looking for?

  • How many active patients are in the practice?Often the last time you even heard about active patients was when you purchased the office.  Also, the word active does mean that they are coming into your office. You demand an accurate count of this vital practice statistic. Active patients are defined as any patient that has been seen in the practice in the preceding 18 months. The numbers can fluctuate widely, even in practices with very similar gross production.
  • Are the charts user friendly and legible?How are the charts stored? Are you still using paper charts? Are they color-coded for ease of filing? Can you easily locate misfiled charts? Do the charts contain complete information and can you read the treatment notes? Inadequacies in these areas may require you to spend thousands of additional dollars to upgrade the charting system. Or are they electronic, with the SOAP documentation in the chart which provides you with the best change of complete information which is legible.
  • Are the diagnostics complete?Is the medical history updated at each exam? Does the hygienist record pocket depths in a yearly periodontal record? Does every patient have a current full-mouth series of X-rays? Does it say why you needed the x-rays and what the outcome was from the reading of the film? without that documentation it is consider incomplete. This can be looked at as a source of revenue for the practice,it must be diagnostic in nature with the why and outcome.
  • Are the treatment plans and financial records written in the chart?Treatment plans should be written in the charts; however, it is best to keep financial records separate. Complete, well-written treatment plans allow you to easily maintain continuity with the patient's treatment. Most medical malpractice carriers advise against including financial arrangements in the charts for legal reasons.
  • Is the average appointment for single or multiple restorations?What is the frequency of the various types of restorations? One of the greatest boosts to practice net income results from transitioning a practice from single-tooth dentistry to quadrant dentistry. Get a feel for the types of procedures that are being performed in the practice and decide if that fits with your vision. On a random basis, cross-reference billing records with chart notes.

 A chart audit is your protection against misrepresentation or even fraud. Even if it contains no surprises, this undertaking will make you far more familiar with how the practice actually operates. A chart audit can point you to  to areas where you may need to continue your education to better support practice production. The chart audit is one of the best tools to use in evaluating the health of a dental practice.

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