Dr. Corrine Cline-Fortunato of Scotts Valley Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Overcomes Collections Challenges in a BIG Way!
Dr. Corrine Cline-Fortunato (“Dr. Corry”) admits when she got her first job in dentistry, she didn’t know how many teeth a person has, or what an amalgam was. And no, she hadn’t yet been to dental school! But because she had medical training, she was hired as an oral surgery assistant. She said it was the best and most interesting job she ever had, and looked forward to learning new things every day. She vividly recalled – “I remember the doctor taking out an odontogenic cyst and thinking, ‘Oh, this is so cool! I want to do this!”
A New Path
Many dentists know early on that they are destined for the profession. Others, like Dr. Corry, fall into it somewhat by accident. She was studying to be an Obstetrician, but during her internship in the ER, she realized she didn’t have sufficiently thick skin – “When things went well, it was fantastic. But when they didn’t, for me, it was a little too tough.”
While taking some time to decide on a new direction, she was recruited by an oral surgeon in southern California. An exciting new path had presented itself. After graduating dental school and then earning her oral and maxillofacial certificate, Dr. Corry joined a well-established group practice in Santa Cruz, CA in 1997.
For the first 10 years she was busy honing her craft, and starting a family. She appreciated that practice administration was being well-handled by her partners, so she didn’t need to be very involved in those aspects; she could trust that everything was under control.
By 2007, Dr. Corry desired a bit more autonomy, so started her own solo practice in nearby Scotts Valley. And while this was the right next step for her, she realized she had a lot to learn as a new business owner. Like so many of her colleagues, she admits to learning much through the school of hard knocks -- “When it comes to practicing oral surgery or dentistry, I feel great; the OR is where I feel very comfortable…
But when it came to establishing practice policies, HR, billing, the more executive aspects… I was intimidated by that part of having a private practice.
Overcoming the Challenges
Business Skill Development
To help strengthen her business skills, Dr. Corry took management classes specific to dentistry. She acknowledges they were very valuable in helping her to understand business foundations, but also realized, “I’m too busy during the day with patient care to actually spend a lot of time in that role. I was lucky to be building out my staff right at that time, and hired both a clinical coordinator and an office manager.”
Years later, the office manager announced she would be retiring. Rather than recruit externally, Dr. Corry preferred to promote from within. Moya Denicore – who had worked as an assistant for Dr. Corry years earlier at the group practice – was now working at Dr. Corry’s practice as a surgical assistant. When offered the soon-to-be-vacant office manager position, Moya decided moving into practice management was a natural progression.
Coming from the clinical side, Moya had the benefit of learning more of the business side by training under the outgoing office manager. In addition, she availed herself of practice management consultants who helped her build the needed skill set.
Without hesitation, Dr. Corry said the most important step she took to overcome the personnel challenges was that “I spent money on my team for training and education; I developed the people whom I felt had the personality for the positions, that I got along with well, and I knew would treat my patients the way I treat them.”
Surely a dynamic that has helped make the practice so successful is that Dr. Corry and Moya seem to be a match made in Heaven. According to Dr. Corry, “I was very, very lucky with Moya. She’s the kind of person that if you can’t get along with Moya, you can’t get along with anyone!” As a Team Leader previously, Moya already had some experience in managing people and delegating assignments; “Now it’s just a bigger picture.”
At the core of their successful relationship are several key ingredients. According to Moya, “Dr. Corry and I have known each other for so long that we’re able to communicate really well. And, we have a mutual respect.” Dr. Corry cited another as “Knowing that I can trust the person whom I’ve empowered with these important aspects of the practice. And, I fully trust Moya’s judgment. When we talk about things, I can tell she not only has the practice’s best interest in mind, but also our team’s best interest at heart.”
Consequently, Dr. Corry is not only confident delegating to Moya, but comfortable letting Moya further delegate. Although she admits, “Moya might say that was a long road, because how many dentists do you know that don’t have a little type A personality! As an owner, it can be difficult to surrender control. It’s my business and I really want to control it, but I don’t have all the skills that I need, nor can I clone myself to handle everything. And neither can Moya.”
The two are like-minded in always thinking…
What can we do to make the day easy and productive, and let us all feel like we’ve done the best we can with the skills we have? Those things for which we don’t have the best skills, we delegate to those who do.
Meet Dr. Corrine Cline-Fortunato
- Past President, Monterey Bay Dental Society
- Marsh Robinson Fellowship Recipient
- LAC/USC Oral Pathology Fellowship Recipient
- Certificate, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, LA County/Univ. of So. CA Medical Center, 1997
- DDS, Univ. of So. CA School of Dental Surgery, Dean’s Scholar, 1993
- BS, Univ. of CA - Riverside, 1988
Meet Moya Denicore
- Business Office Manager
- Progressed from Asst, to Certified O&M Surgical Asst, to Team Leader, to Office Manager
Billing & Collections
When the practice’s insurance coordinator announced she would be leaving in 2017, the time seemed right for delegation of the entire function. Based on a trusted colleague’s recommendation and a little research, Moya brought eAssist Dental Solutions on board to handle both insurance and patient portion billing and collections -- “It seemed eAssist was the perfect thing for us.”
This, too, was a match made in Heaven from the get-go. No one on the staff was reluctant to embrace eAssist as part of the team. Despite their two eAssisters being off-site, Dr. Corry liked the idea, and went on to explain – “Something that can completely ruin your day is having an unpleasant conversation with someone that you’re trying to collect money from. I really don’t want to have that kind of relationship with my patients. I want to be able to do surgery and treat them from a healthcare provider’s standpoint, and not have that really awkward, uncomfortable money thing between us.”
Of significant benefit is that patients can contact the eAssisters directly – “They can discuss what their plan means for them, the benefits, the limitations. And then when they come into the office, there’s a different person helping them try to use their benefits to their best advantage.”
It changes the whole relationship that we have with patients, and it’s much more pleasant.
They described additional benefits as: “eAssist takes care of accurate dental and medical coding, resolving coding issues, staying up-to-date on coding and date changes, and how all that plays with the various third-party payers. As a result, our in-house insurance coordinator can better serve patients as more of a treatment coordinator.”
eAssist has exceeded expectations. I find them extremely easy to work with. They’re just nice, good people who really know what they’re doing.
Although Dr. Corry rarely interacts with the eAssisters on the phone, she highly values the daily email she receives from them: “It shows what was collected, what was not and why, what our production is, and percentage of production vs. collections. Every day I get a little snapshot of what’s going on. And while our management software is great and I could look that up every day, it’s so lovely to arrive in the morning and see that daily (and monthly) snapshot in my email. I love that; it keeps me in tune, without taking me out of my treatment groove.”
Moya described the work environment at Scotts Valley OMS as very busy, and lauded the caliber of their patients and their staff of 7½. So, what’s next for the practice? Dr. Corry prides herself on always being open to new ideas. They will remain focused on continuously improving existing services by updating technology, and adding new procedures and techniques that take advantage of industry advancements in areas like patient comfort and healing times.
In addition, Dr. Corry will continue to encourage referrals and let those doctors know that “we are beholden to them, and we want to be an extension of their practice.” She does this through frequent interactions and thoughtful communication about things she has heard about or learned, or good vendors, for example – “I’m always passing on the little tidbits and pearls that make all of our lives easier, especially during this COVID pandemic. And, yes, we definitely took advantage of the resources provided by eAssist during the shutdown!”
She went on to say her colleagues are also her friends. Dr. Corry values that kind of friendship where they can call upon one another for advice, insight and recommendations, and even ask for help. She observed, “I have found that our dental community is really generous here, and we embrace a small-town approach by interfacing one-on-one with each other.”
When asked about their favorite advice to share with colleagues, Moya urges, “Be open to your patient’s needs, and really listen to them. Because that’s what they need -- they need someone to really hear what they are saying. And that starts with their first phone call to the office. You may have to listen to their story of a particular tooth for the last five years, but you need to be patient and understand that this is a big deal for them. Even though we see it every day, you have to be sensitive to the patient’s need to do that.”
Dr. Corry built on that concept by adding, “If you really listen, patients will tell you what they want. It might not always be what they need, but at least knowing what they want gives you a path to follow. And from a business standpoint, be open to saying ‘yes’ and trying new things. You can always decide it’s not for me, and stop doing it, but there’s no failure in giving something a shot.”
And on that note… may we suggest that you, too, be open to trying something new, and saying “Yes!” to outsourcing your insurance billing and collections function to eAssist Dental Solutions!