10.17.14 Issue #658 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter
 


Carol Tekavec, RDH
Hygiene Consultant
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Everyday Problems; Broken Appointments, Always Late, Slow Pay, Etc.
By Carol Tekavec RDH

No matter how advanced our offices become technologically, or how devoted we are to improving the quality of dental care we provide, some everyday problems persist. The causes of many of these problems are primarily because we are dealing with human beings, not manufacturing widgets. Dealing with human beings is unpredictable, time-consuming, and stress-inducing. Even when we have devoted considerable energy to designing our appointment times so each important stage and step of treatment can be accomplished, our patients can surprise us with unexpected issues or concerns. The best we can do is address problems as they arise, and attempt to keep calm while we do it.

Broken Appointments
All of us have patients who seem to consider their appointment times to be appointment “suggestions”. When we see their names on the schedule we cringe a little, because we know they are apt to ruin our carefully crafted agenda for the day. These patients may be close friends or relatives of the dentist, making the issue even more fraught with difficulty. The office manager may want to institute a broken appointment charge but the dentist is reluctant to do so. Even if these patients are not personal friends, they are, after all, people who need treatment. If we charge them for a no-show, will they leave the practice? None of us want to simply let necessary treatment and revenue go out the door. So, how can we handle these chronically absent patients?

One suggestion might be to keep them on a list for filling in the schedule on a “today’s schedule only” basis. This means rather than putting them in the computer for two hours two weeks from now, we keep them in a separate file to fill in a hole that might occur today. This can work for patients who are able to come on short notice, who actually want to have their treatment accomplished, and who live or work fairly close to the office. Another idea might be to schedule a long appointment to complete all necessary treatment on a day when the dentist does not normally work. Reluctant or inconsiderate patients may keep this type of appointment when they know the dentist and assistant are only coming in to take care of them. All treatment is done, a very productive day is logged, and a source of headaches is removed.

Always Late
Patients who consistently arrive late wreck our schedules. As a hygienist, my time is accounted for to the last minute! This is a concept many of our patients don’t fully appreciate. Ten or fifteen minutes. What’s the big deal? An office policy about how to handle late-comers is beneficial. This way, all staff members know what to do and say and how to proceed with these patients. It only makes matters worse if sometimes the late patient is seen, and other times he or she must be rescheduled for no apparent reason. 

For example, an office policy might state that if Paul the Patient is under ten minutes late, he can be seen in the dentist and/or hygienist’s schedule for a regular appointment. If he is over ten minutes but less than twenty minutes late, he might still be seen in the dentist’s schedule for his normal treatment. Over ten minutes but less than twenty in the hygienist’s schedule might result in some portions of the appointment being delayed until another time, for example, periodontal probing or necessary radiographs. If he is over twenty minutes late in the dentist’s or hygienist’s schedule, he will need to be re-appointed.

Slow Paying
Dentists may find themselves in a bind if they offer extended payment plans to patients. After all, a dental office is not a bank, and therefore should not be responsible for loans. Accepting a variety of standard credit cards, providing CareCredit plans and/or offering patient payment arrangements with a local bank or credit union are better solutions than allowing a patient to pay a little each month directly to the dentist. If a patient has already been put on such a month-to-month type of plan, it is best to allow the patient to catch up with payments before starting any other extensive treatment.

Sensitive and “Jumpy”
Some patients are just simply hard to care for. They have difficulty with radiographs because they hurt or cause gagging, they cannot tolerate water or air directly on the teeth, hand instruments bother them and ultrasonics hurt their ears, or they anticipate discomfort with premature and exaggerated responses. Sensitive patients are simply a fact of life. Adding a little time to their appointments is often the best way to deal with these individuals. They usually do better when they are not feeling rushed and we can do what we can to make treatment easier for them.

All offices have their share of problems that occur frequently – it is just part of providing dental treatment to the public. Everyday problems occur every day! Having policies in place to help deal with these issues can make them a little less stressful to handle.

Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department?  Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

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