Stop and Listen to Your Patients
A practice may see a lot of new patients in a month. However, if that patient only comes in for one treatment with the hygienist and never returns to the practice again, how beneficial was the time spent by the doctor treatment planning the patient for thousands of dollars of treatment? Your office may never complete that treatment let alone start it.
Then you ask, why is the practice production decreasing? Why do I have so many openings in the hygiene department when I have so many new patients coming in? What are we doing wrong?
The answer may be easier said than done. Do you and your team listen to your patients? During the new patient exam is anybody asking the patient what his or her major concern is? What changes do they want to make to their mouth? What do they want? The patient is the person that will help pay your bills and may be a future referral source to your practice.
What about when the hygienist is providing a professional hygiene appointment; whether it is a prophylaxis, periodontal maintenance, or root planing, is the hygienist really listening to the patient’s concerns? The hygienists may think they are listening but perhaps they are too busy talking and telling the patient what they are concerned about. It does not matter how long a patient has been coming to your practice. The day a member of your team does not listen to the patient’s concerns is the day the patient retention may start to decline in your practice.
Some hygienists use an ultrasonic scaler on every patient. Does the hygienist take the time to find out how the patient feels about the use of the ultrasonic? Or does the hygienist just go about normal protocol? Does your hygienist provide treatment based on the patients individual needs? Does the hygienist modify treatment in order to make it a more pleasant experience for the patient? If the patient has had periodontal surgery two times and the patient informs the provider that their teeth are sensitive to the ultrasonic scaler does she/he stop using the ultrasonic scaler or just continue on? Is your hygienist, or anybody on the team, including yourself, completely aware of the patient rapport being established? Is the only patient rapport being established perhaps bad patient rapport?
When it comes to patient rapport, we as clinicians really need to take the time to listen to our patients. We should consider ways that will enable the patient to be more comfortable while allowing us to provide the quality of care needed.
If the patient does not like the use of an ultrasonic scaler because of the discomfort, then it is up to us as clinicians to find a way to make the patient more comfortable. Maybe we really do not need to use the ultrasonic on this patient. Depending on the laws in your state, if it is a periodontal maintenance appointment, anesthetize the patient in the areas that are sensitive. There is so much technology out there and the patients are more aware than they ever have been. The patient knows they have choices and they can go wherever they are going to be heard.
Therefore, it is imperative for us as health care providers to take the time and listen and learn about our patients and their concerns. Most of the time we will not be enabled to move forward with our treatment until we have met their needs.
Yes, it is our place as a dental professional to inform the patient of treatment needed immediately, but we should make sure that the treatment and concerns that the patient brought forward are addressed first, and then go over our concerns. Many times it is just a matter of educating the patient about the stages of treatment in order to provide the best treatment that will last the longest amount of time.
We know as dental professionals that doing a full mouth reconstruction without consideration for the periodontal disease is not in the best interest of the patient. However, this patient wants full mouth reconstruction. This is the time you treatment plan the full mouth reconstruction and the periodontal treatment and educate the patient on the different stages of treatment.
This is also the time the hygienist or dentist may also want to take the time to inform the patient about what future treatment may need to be done, and why. By “planting the seed” in the patient’s mind about what may need to be done you have just helped in creating this as a concern to the patient. Make sure this future treatment is recorded in the patient’s record so it will be continually monitored and the patient will be continually reminded that you are monitoring the particular areas and their need for care.
With patients educating themselves about their health via so many mediums such as the Internet, television, and the beauty magazine of the month, we as healthcare professionals should be more aware of their concerns and take the time to build patient rapport by listening, educating, and modifying our protocol when able and necessary.
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