The New Patient In The Office
The phone rings and the front office person answers the phone, “Good Morning Dr. Nike’s office, this is Jean how may I help you?” The patient begins to explain that they would like to make an appointment to see the doctor. The person on the phone is a new patient, the future of your practice, and they would like to make an appointment with the doctor. This is the first impression that is going to be set with this new patient. Remember, we are not only a health care profession, we are a service oriented business. Doing what all the other offices do, or what the patient expects your office to do, is not going to make your office out-shine the other offices in the area.
The less work put on the patient, the more impressed they will be with your office. This also enables the office to stay in control when it comes to making sure all the information needed is at the office by the time of the appointment. Having a patient show up and not be able to proceed with the appointment because the x-rays were not requested or the patient isn’t able to use their insurance in your office is counterproductive. Collecting the correct information before the patient even enters the office will make the actual office visit go that much smoother and add a WOW factor to the professionalism and organization that exists in your office.
Here are some of the questions your office may want to find out from a new patient: who you can thank for referring them, patient date of birth, phone number home, cell, and work, e-mail address, home address, patient’s chief concern, pre-med needed, artificial joint, when placed, orthopedic surgeon’s name, allergies, pharmacy phone number, previous dentist, permission to request records, insurance information, subscriber name, insurance id number, employer, group number, insurance 800 number, insurance name, and any additional information they are willing to provide you. Notes should be made and placed in the chart area where everybody knows where to find them.
With more and more offices going paperless, a lot of this information may be done via the fax machine, e-mail, or the patient may even be able to download the health history and HIPAA forms for your office and return them immediately. Then you don’t have to worry about paperwork being filled out last minute by the patient because they forgot it on the desk at home. You want to avoid causing a rushed first appointment by not spending the first fifteen minutes of the initial exam in the reception room while the patient fills out paperwork.
Now the office needs to contact the previous dentist. This phone call and the information gathered here is equally important. Yes, you could wait and interview the patient when you do the medical and dental history, but all of the dates are going to be guessed and we all know that many times the patient doesn’t know when their last dental appointment was. Time has a way of going faster than people think when it comes to their last dental appointment.
Some of the questions you will want to ask the previous dentists are: when were the last bitewings and full mouth series? If they are current, request a copy be mailed or emailed to your office. Has the patient been root planed? When was the last root planing? Were they being seen as a periodontal maintenance? When was their last prophylaxis or periodontal maintenance appointment? Request a copy of probing and periodontal surgery. Are they under the care of a periodontist? If so, who? With many insurance companies, it does not matter where the root planing was done just as long as they have a past record of it. There are a few insurance companies that require the patient to have root planing every 2 years in order to remain as a periodontal maintenance recall. So, if the patient has a history of root planing or surgery, this person may need to be referred to a periodontist, be root planed, or go into your recall as a periodontal maintenance, not prophylaxis.
The insurance company may provide a lot of this information, but if it is a new insurance company, then they will not have accurate dates like the previous dentist or periodontist will. This also enables your office to have a record of treatment prior to the patient entering your office. Let’s call it the baseline of the patients existing conditions before entering your office.
The person that answers the phone should have good verbal skills and sound happy. Having a smile on their face when they answer the phone will help. This phone call should not sound rushed or be rushed because of what is going on in the office that the patient on the phone cannot see. This is where the voice levels of the staff member may make a patient have a positive or negative opinion of the office before they even enter.
You may be the best dentist or hygienist in the world, but if the patient never makes it into the office because of the initial contact, it just doesn’t matter how good your dentistry is.
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