Creating Processes in your Dental Practice - Who owns which tasks?

Posted by Rachel Lenton on Sep 10, 2019 8:30:00 AM
Rachel Lenton
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It's important in a dental practice for each team member to understand who is responsible for each task in every workflow. This clarity brings unity to the team. If each person does their part they know the project will be completed thoroughly and properly.

Processes are directly connected to tasks and task lists. What are you currently using for task management? Is it a Post-It note? If it's anything other than an automated task management system, it's time to update.

Benefits of Automated Task Management Systems

Creating dental front office and practice systems and processes.Automated task management allows you to create task list templates for daily routine tasks. These lists can also be assigned to team members. This helps clarify the question of who's in charge of what. This is because with task list management the entire team can see who's actively working on a project, preventing tasks happening twice, and constant double checking or assuming another person is doing it -when it should be you.

The benefit of creating this clarity with task management is your practice will run more efficiently. Simple processes and task ownership will allow your team to be empowered to work off their list. Being thorough is part of good patient care.

Running more efficiently includes running on time. Running on time means you can see more patients in need. It can also allow for shorter working days or more time for training and continued education.


Who Owns Which Tasks?

Back to our original question, who is in charge of what? No matter the size of your practice, you can always split your practice into two teams: Front office and back office.

Back office roles and responsibilities are normally more clearly defined due to certifications and training.

Front office is more difficult to define roles because you do not need a certification or technically any experience.


Top 2 Roles in a Dental Practice:

The two most important positions in a practice are the dentist (head of the back office) and office manager (head of the front office).

A dentist's number 1 priority is to diagnose and provide oral care. Their 2nd priority is being a good business owner. That's why the first hire they should make is their office manager.


Front Office Staff

Office Manager:

An office manager runs the show of the front office, and typically the business side of things. The dentist is still involved but an office manager position is suppose to make it possible for the dentist's focus to be on each patient.

As a team, the office manager and dentist will develop procedures and policies for the practice. These policies and procedures will be written out and used when hiring and training. They can also be referenced when needed, making HR conversations easier because there have been defined expectations.

Example of an office manager's daily tasks include:

  • Checking the schedule
  • Make sure past due accounts are followed up on
  • Meet with the scheduling coordinator and find out how many new patients are scheduled
  • Ensure front office staff is properly trained and prepared for the day
  • Keep open communication with the doctor
  • Stay on top of paperwork and practice bills
  • Check KPI's, run reports, and create action plans based off them
  • Review reports with doctor


Front Desk/Receptionist

Front desk and receptionist are similar roles and the names can be interchanged. But a receptionist job description is to answer phone calls, take messages, and receive guests. This is more limited than the tasks of a front desk agent which goes beyond that into filing paperwork, making follow up calls, etc.

Example of a front desk/receptionist's daily tasks include:

  • Welcome and check in patients
  • Answer phones and take messages
  • Maintain reception area
  • Updates patient records


Scheduling Coordinator

A scheduling coordinator is often an additional role to the front desk administrator or office manager. A scheduling coordinator is in charge of making sure that the practice's schedule is full and stays full. This includes sending follow ups and appointment reminders.

Example of a scheduling coordinator's daily tasks include:

  • Checking automated follow ups/appointment reminders
  • Updating schedule on a consistent and timely basis
  • Filling broken appointments
  • Updating team's task list based on the schedule
  • Running patient value reports


Office Assistant

An office assistant's role is primarily to assist the front office's needs. This can vary from updating patient profiles and paperwork to answering phones and checking in patients.

Example of an office assistant's daily tasks include:

  • Ensure reception area is ready for patients
  • Check office supplies
  • Run errands for the front office
  • Assist Office Manager
  • Check practice's messages


Back Office Staff

Your back office team typically includes a dentist, dental assistant, dental nurse, dental technician and hygienist. The roles are more clearly defined but that doesn't mean their shouldn't still be task lists in place. Below are a few examples of typical tasks that must be completed by each back office role.



We touched on this above but a dentist mainly wears two hats. The first is being a dentist and taking care of patient needs. The second is being a small business owner.

Examples of a dentist's daily tasks include:

  • Being a part of the morning huddle
  • Reviewing any large projects or updates with staff
  • Meet with Office manager to review KPI's
  • Complete all appointments on the schedule
  • Review continued care as needed with patients
  • In-office training sessions


Dental Assistant

Example of a dental assistant's daily tasks include:

  • Assist Dentist during procedures
  • Prepares treatment rooms throughout the day
  • Educates patients on proper care
  • Maintains dental equipment
  • Maintains cleanliness of back office


Dental Nurse

A dental nurse's responsibilities are similar to those of a dental assistant but extent beyond what an assistant can do. They can do more during procedures.

Example of a dental nurse's daily tasks include:

  • Assist Dentist during procedures
  • Prepares treatment rooms throughout the day
  • Educates patients on proper care
  • Maintains dental equipment
  • Updating patient records
  • Processing radiographs


Dental Technician

Dental technicians often don't work in your office and are outsourced. Technicians work with various materials to create implants for your patients. Daily tasks would look different for an outsourced team member. A task list can still be used to get easy progress updates.

Example of a dental technician's update list include:

  • Received product order
  • Completed design
  • Completed product
  • Order shipped
  • Invoice received


Dental Hygienist

Hygienists are very busy and have a wide range of responsibility. They go between receiving patients into the practice to cleaning and follow ups.

Example of a hygienist's daily tasks include:

  • Review daily schedule and tasks for the day
  • Prep work space prior to their first appointment
  • Complete all appointments and their corresponding task lists
  • Review continued care plans with patients
  • Complete hygiene follow up tasks


Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that the front office dictates how busy the back office is and what procedures they are doing. This is because the front office manages the schedule. Systems and task lists start with the front office team. Ensuring your front office's roles are clearly defined is crucial because it's where each patient's journey begins!



Topics: Improve Dental Practice Operations, Buy and/or Sell a Dental Practice, Task Management