Are you responsible for handling the insurance and billing in your office? If so, I bet you are one busy person.

Not only do you process every claim and make sure you have every detail correct so the claims go out successfully, but then you also turn around to enter the payments and send statements when the claims close. Even if you are signed up for EFTs, you are keeping your mailman busy.

Recently, I have been in a couple of offices where the insurance/billing manager was drowning. The insurance aging had crept up to six figures, and the total aging report showed out-of-control amounts in their over-30, over-60, and over-90-days categories.

Each insurance manager knew she was way behind on following up with outstanding claims and hadn't called patients for collections in months. One manager found herself in this situation thanks to multiple dental software issues beyond her control. Another ended up deep thanks to covering for an underperforming front desk team member.

No matter the reason for ending up behind on the insurance and billing tasks, these managers felt the same. They each expressed frustration at how far behind they were with their work. As we talked about the aging reports, they shared that they were embarrassed things had gotten so bad and even felt that they were failing in their job, which was crushing because they loved their job and had been successful for many years.

Does this sound familiar?

If you are drowning in insurance and collections, perhaps it's time to reconsider how you see your job so you can find a solution. If this is your role, you know I am not kidding when I talk about being busy.

Even if you have fallen behind on your aging, I would bet it's because other tasks have taken over your days. Perhaps you are checking every patient's clinical notes to make sure there are no errors before you process the claims one at a time. Perhaps you are jumping in to answer the phone and help check out patients because your front desk team has experienced turnover.

No matter what the reason, stop and look at your team. Are you the only one trained to handle insurance and billing? If so, then that is your job.

If you just realized you are the only one who knows how to process claims and enter insurance payments, then you also know how important it is to stay on top of these tasks. You are judged based on your success with insurance and billing. Your dentist's cash flow depends upon you staying in control of the aging. If you are behind, then it's time to see your job in a different light.

Most insurance managers I know prefer to get the work done themselves, rather than manage others. Actually, every insurance manager I know has this personality trait. I don't think this is a coincidence.

However, if you are underwater with your aging, it is time to make some changes in your office. And, although change may not be your favorite thing, it is the only way to show you there is light at the end of your tunnel and get you back to being on top of the claims and collections process so you can enjoy your job again.

Your first step is to track where your time is being spent. Just like a food diary — where someone who wants to lose weight documents everything he/she eats you will document where you spend your time for the entire day. Maybe you are simply wasting time chatting with your co-workers or getting sidetracked into talking with your dentist, but you will see where your time goes when you write it down.

Next, print your aging and insurance outstanding reports and meet with your front desk team. From your list of how you spend your time, do you see any tasks your team could take over?

In one office, the insurance manager delegated the checking of the clinical notes against the claim to each clinical provider. By making the clinical team responsible for their own accuracy, the insurance manager gained several hours each week that instead could be used to follow up on outstanding claims. Hopefully, your team will be able to help for the long term, and you will gain the time needed to follow up as well.

What if your team feels like they are drowning and they can't help you? Then it's time to meet with your dentist. Take your time sheet and the notes from your meeting and talk with your dentist. Share how you are feeling about falling behind on the insurance and collections. Acknowledge that you understand how this affects cash flow for the practice. Finally, ask for guidance and recommendations.

Perhaps its time to hire another administrative staff person? Maybe it's time to train other staff to work with the insurance and billing in the office so you can delegate confidently? Maybe the technology is the issue and you need to get a faster computer or scanner?

Since I have 16-plus years experience as a dental administrator for a large group practice, I understand the world that dental front desk team members live in. I empathize with insurance/billing staff who are overwhelmed and want to dig out of their hole and feel good again.

As dentists know, the insurance/billing staff are key to the success of the practice.