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Your Dental Practice May Need a Computer Upgrade

Dental Practice ManagementIf your dental practice is running on Windows XP you may have some security issues come next year.  Microsoft recently announced that effective April 8, 2014, it will no longer release any security patches or extend support for its Windows XP operating system. What does this mean for your dental practice?  If your practice is running Windows XP on its computers, you will need to upgrade to the Windows 7 or Windows 8 operating system to stay compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) laws.

Maintaining HIPAA and HITECH Compliance

What should you do to ensure you remain compliant with HIPAA and HITECH?  Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Perform an audit on your dental practice’s IT systems to determine if you have Windows XP running on your systems.
  2. If you find that you have Windows XP in your practice, determine what computers have it and what computers have the ability to run a newer operating system.
  3. For those computers that are unable to run a newer operating system, you may have to decide whether or not to replace those computers with newer ones.
  4. Consider the prospect of virtualization, and how it could cut costs for your practice.

If you find your dental practice is in a position where it needs to upgrade or replace its computer operating systems to stay compliant, it’s best you start the process sooner than later. The amount of time and effort that this project could cost your practice is potentially high, but is outweighed by the liability you could face from HIPAA and HITECH. To further assist you in your upgrade/compliance efforts, check out this Microsoft support site to determine if your computer(s) can run Windows 8 (the newest operating system).

Contact Our Dental Practice Professionals

This news may raise some concerns for your dental practice and can be overwhelming if you have to make changes.  If you need help, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Bright Dental CPAs can help you get through it and determine the steps you need to take to ensure compliance.

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Brian Garland (Dublin office) with Rea & Associates contributed to this post.

Handling the Change of a Dental Hygienist

Dental HygenistWe are creatures of habit. In fact, many of us don’t like change. Recently I had change forced upon me—my dental hygienist retired. While I wished her the best of luck, I couldn’t imagine someone else putting up with my quirks, such as having ESPN on the TV when I come in for my appointment.

When a practice undergoes change, there can be both fallout and opportunity. Here are some things to keep in mind to ensure any changes in your dental practice lead to opportunity.

  • Keep your patients informed. Upon knowing you have a dental hygienist leaving, or retiring, make sure their patients know that another hygienist will be taking care of them. This might not always be practical if you only have one hygienist, or don’t have the capacity to reassign all the patients to current hygienists as you may be in the middle of the hiring process. By keeping your patients in the loop, they’ll feel comforted that that you’re taking care of them.
  • Have an open mind. When a new hygienist joins your practice, see what best practices they picked up from other offices. If your new hygienist does something differently, and you’re okay with it, make sure they and the patient know about it. This can be a conversation topic for the dental hygienist and the patient that builds rapport.
  • Spread the word. Make an announcement about the new dental hygienist in your local paper and in your waiting room. When you make a big deal about a new employee, he or she will feel like a valued member of the team, which your patients will notice, too.
  • Solicit feedback. When following-up after a cleaning, take the time to see how the patient feels about the new dental hygienist. Watch their body language to see if they are really happy with him or her. You should also follow-up with a phone call to the patient to see how they enjoyed their visit with the new member of your office.

A new employee is a change for you and your office, but it’s also a change for your patients. While dealing with change can be hard, change brings new opportunities to grow and develop your dental practice. Be prepared to help ensure a smooth transition.

Do you have a dental hygienist retiring soon and need advice on how to hire a replacement or adjust workloads with your current team, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of bright dental CPAs can help you with make a decision that is best for your practice.

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Ten Tips for Growing Your Dental Practice

10 Ways to Grow Your Dental Practice Students are heading back to school and the busy summer months are just about over. With your schedule slimming down, now is the time to focus on growing your dental practice.

Dental Practice Growth Strategies

Promoting your dental services should be one of your top priorities this fall. How do you promote your practice, gain new patients and maintain current patients without breaking the bank? Here are a few easy tips that you can use starting today:

  1. Satisfied Patients. A happy patient is probably your best source for having a successful and busy practice. Building relationships with your dental patients can go a long way. When a relationship is formed, you’re helping them feel more comfortable and confident in your services, which will make them a returning patient.
  2.  Business Cards. Make sure your business card is on the counter where your patients are checking out. Also, have your team write appointment dates on your business card. If there is an emergency that comes up before their next visit, they will have your contact information handy.
  3.  Advertising. Developing an advertising budget is a great way to promote your dental practice. Ask your accountant to help you find dollars in your budget for an advertising campaign. Make sure you also develop a way to track results so you can measure the success of your investment.
  4.  Targeted Marketing. On new patient forms, ask your patients how they heard about your practice. Make a list or chart the responses. If you know where your patients are coming from, you can focus your attention and resources on those areas that are proven methods leading towards more dental patients.
  5.  Referral Programs. You work hard to keep your current clients happy. They appreciate it and probably know someone who could benefit from your services. A program that rewards patients for sending new patients your way could prove beneficial.
  6.  Brochures. Do you have a brochure in your lobby to promote your dental practice? That’s a great start, but also place them at schools, churches, shopping areas and various other places throughout your community. Be sure to list the services you offer along with your hours and contact information.
  7.  Direct Mail. Look for opportunities in your community to include your information in packets sent to new residents. If you include a coupon for a free cleaning or initial visit, you may bring in some new dental patients.
  8.  Newspaper Advertising. Taking out an advertisement in your local and community newspaper is still an effective approach to reaching some older prospective patients.
  9.  Website. A website is how potential dental patients will learn about your practice. Include information about yourself and your support team, the services you offer, contact information and hours of operation. Your patients will love it if you allow them to schedule appointments and ask questions online as many will probably be on your site after hours.
  10.  Social Media. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are free resources that can keep your current and potential patients informed 24 hours a day. Patients like to see pictures of who you are, who your staff is, what your office looks like and what equipment you have available.

Growing your dental practice does take some work, but it is what provides you with a competitive edge in the dental world. You need to continuously sell your skills, technical expertise and confidence. You’ve made the investment in your career now make the investment to keep your practice growing.

Dental Practice Marketing

Need help deciding what is right for your dental practice, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of adept and talented Dental CPAs can help you develop ways to promote your dental practice.

Social Security Considerations for Dentists

Social Security for DentistsDentists, like all Americans, have many things to consider when making plans for Social Security. Often, you have more questions than answers…

…When is a good time to start receiving benefits?

…Should you work at your dental practice and collect Social Security at the same time?

…Are there benefits to waiting until after your full age of retirement to start collecting your Social Security?

Retirement Planning + Social Security

The questions can go on and on and the answers vary by person. However, the following are some important things to consider when thinking about what is right for you. And these are good tips to share with other employees at your dental practice.

1) Other Sources of Income. If you are a younger dentist, you should probably count on other sources of retirement income. Social Security funds are diminishing every year and could be gone by the time you retire.

2) Claiming Early. If you’re a dentist that is approaching age 62, you should consider when it is most appropriate to claim the benefits. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age is 66, but you have the option to start receiving benefits at a reduced rate at age 62. Claiming benefits early generally makes sense only if you are strapped for cash or you do not expect to live much longer.

3) Collecting and Working. If you claim benefits before your full retirement age, they will be further reduced if you are still working at your dental practice or any job. The reductions apply if you receive income in excess of $15,120 a year. Do you plan to work beyond age 62? If so, you should consider delaying your Social Security benefits until at least age 66, (or your full retirement age.

4) Longer Life Expectancy. You could also consider waiting until the age of 70 to start receiving Social Security. By doing so, you could substantially increase your benefits received over the remainder of your life. If you believe you will have a longer life expectancy, this may be the option for you.

5) Don’t Wait Past 70. There is no benefit to waiting beyond the age of 70 to claim your benefits. No matter what, begin collecting when you hit 70.

6) Children and Retirement. Are you thinking of having a child (or adopting) in your retirement years? If so, your children would receive benefits, too. This applies for children under the age of 18 as long as you are currently receiving Social Security.

7) Survivor Benefits. If your spouse passed away, you can begin receiving survivor benefits as early as age 60 at a reduced rate. Survivor benefits are 100 percent of a worker’s benefit starting at age 66.

8) Collecting on a Former Spouse. You can collect Social Security on your former husband or wife as long as you were married at least ten years, you are not currently married and you are both at least 62 years old.

9) Higher Earning Spouse. If you are married, chances are, as a practicing dentist, you may be the higher earning spouse, too. If so, you should delay benefits as long as possible as long as one of you is in good health and you are financially able to do so.

10)  Alternate Strategies. Consider other planning strategies like “file and suspend” or “file a restricted claim for spousal benefits only .” These may make sense depending on your marital status and work history.

Not sure which options are best for you? Do you have more questions about claiming Social Security? Contact Rea & Associates. Our team of adept and talented Dental CPAs can help you determine what is right for you and your dental practice.

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Rea & Associates, Inc. | Bright Dental CPAs | 7201 Center St, Mentor, Ohio 44060-4858
phone + 440-266-0077