The Dental Environment and Treatment Acceptance
Dear Belle - On Monday the schedule fell apart, starting with a patient who was scheduled for scaling and root planing with the hygienist. She was running behind and the doctor was working on a child with a toothache in the room next to the reception area. The patient waiting came up to the desk and said he had to leave because the smell and the noise brought on a migraine. This is not the first time this has happened; it is difficult to discuss future treatment with patients because of the noise of the drill and the lack of a private quiet space. Patients are sensitive to what they see, hear and smell but the doctor says I am not firm enough. What do you think? - Bettie B, Dental Manager
Office design has a lot to do with patients being comfortable enough in the practice to have treatment performed. Sometimes the practice does not have much choice because there is no room to expand. While recently visiting a practice that had not been updated in years, I could see the doctor and the assistant working on a patient as I sat in the reception room. I am not a dental phobic, but being able to see what they were doing made me feel as if I were intruding on someone’s private business. Newly designed practices often have a consultation room or area built in, because studies have shown that patients want privacy when discussing health care issues.
A private area can be created by screening off part of the front desk so that the patient cannot be seen by anyone in the reception area. After presenting treatment options the conversation often moves to how the patient will pay for services. Patients don’t want to share this information with anyone within hearing distance either. For many offices, once the patient gets to the front desk, the treatment consultation is over for the clinical dental team but not for the patient. Many dentists want to improve their treatment acceptance percentages but have not realized that the most important component to doing this is private time with the patient.
The treatment coordinator should attend the diagnosis and treatment option presentation so that he/she can take over the presentation in the consultation area. It is important that the patient sees this person as “knowing what was said” and understands the procedures well enough to answer any questions.
The consultation area should have the following components:
Creating an environment that is appealing to the senses of the patient will invite the patient to return. An overpowering medicinal smell that is often overlooked by dentists and their team can be an anxiety-producing experience for the patient. No one wants to spend a lot of time in an uncomfortable environment. An automatic room deodorizer mounted on the wall that periodically infuses a shot of aromatherapy into the air is recommended to eliminate dental odors. Ask patients what they smell when they come into the office. If they say “it smells like a dental office” then a change is in order. Patients can be a good source of feedback.
It is recommended that the consultation room be sound-proofed as much as possible. Listening to the high-speed drill, model trimmers or patient outcries will not hasten a patient to sign up for more of this experience. Put yourself in the patient’s place and ask, “If I were making an important financial and long-term health care commitment, where would I like to discuss the matter?”
Want to learn more about the treatment acceptance process? Call McKenzie Management today and sign up for the Treatment Acceptance Training course for a fresh approach to communicating with your patients.Forward this article to a friend
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