Scheduling New Patients
In my last article, I gave you some things to think about when it comes to scheduling new patients and talked about whether or not you should be scheduling them with the hygienist first. I will remind you that the first comment made was, if it is against the law in your state to have the new patient scheduled in hygiene before the doctor has completed a comprehensive exam, then it should not be done that way. Now let's look at some ways of scheduling the new patient that will leave a positive impression and make them not only want to return themselves - but to also refer their family and friends to your office.
Some doctors are not comfortable probing, where most hygienists seem to be very comfortable with probing. This may be why some doctors like to have new patients scheduled with the hygienist first. This is fine, but keep in mind an initial probing takes more time than a probing done at a periodontal maintenance appointment, and a team member needs to be available so the probings can be done out loud, allowing the patient to hear the numbers and co-diagnose their periodontal disease along with the hygienist (unless your office has a voice operated probing system or something similar).
There is also a lot of educating that needs to be done at this first appointment - if you are going to schedule the new patient in hygiene first, make sure you allow enough time. This may be determined based on how long it takes your hygiene department to do each procedure that they are expected to do during the appointment. The best way to determine this is to time how long it takes the hygienist to complete the procedures a few times, and add the average amount of time on to the new patient appointment.
If the patient is being scheduled in hygiene first because the front desk is informing the team that the patient is insisting on a cleaning, then that patient had better get a cleaning at that appointment. Yes, even if they have periodontal disease and need to return for root planing. Otherwise, you have already lost the patient's trust. The patient will need to be rescheduled for his/her root planing after being educated about periodontal disease, and after the fees have been reviewed.
In order to keep the office running on time, the doctor may want to schedule time into his/her schedule to do the comprehensive exam. This can be before the hygiene appointment or after the hygienist is done, even if the hygienist is moving the patient to another chair. This will allow time for the patient to ask more questions and build a rapport with the doctor. The doctor's time may be only 20 to 30 minutes, since the probings and any necessary x-rays will already be taken either by the hygienist or assistant.
One thing the doctor may want to consider is having the assistant get the x-rays that are needed first, then the doctor and assistant can sit down and chart the existing conditions. This will slow the doctor down and really enable him/her to evaluate each filling that exists not only on the x-ray, but also in the mouth. At this time, the doctor can inform the patient of the restorative needs and what the priorities are. The treatment plan will be noted in the patient's record and the front office can now start looking at the financials. The doctor will inform the patient that the hygienist will be doing probings to determine the health of their gums and all of the treatment will be gone over with them.
When the patient is moved into the hygiene room, the hygienist will not only do the probings, but will be able to talk to the patient about the treatment that is needed and why. If the doctor wants, this would be the time for the hygienist to use the intra-oral camera to take pictures. The doctor will have to come in and officially diagnose the periodontal disease.
If the hygienist sees the patient first, s/he will get the probings and then the doctor and assistant will chart the existing and make the treatment plan. However, doing it in this order prevents the hygienist from having extra time to go over any additional questions the patient may have about treatment with a clinician once they leave the doctor. Working as a team at a nice steady pace instead of trying to do more in an appointment than time allows can really WOW the patient!
Another option is to have all new patients in the doctor's schedule first. Make sure to allow enough focused time to do a thorough comprehensive exam, and build rapport with the patient. This appointment, at the least, may include probings, any necessary x-rays, documenting existing, restorative and periodontal needs.
If the patient insists on a cleaning appointment, this may be scheduled back to back with the doctor's appointment. If possible, allow time to go over any periodontal treatment that may need to be done, so if the patient wants to start on their periodontal therapy program immediately, they may have that option.
The main thing to focus on is providing the patient with more than what they expect at this initial appointment. This will make them want to go out into the community and share with family, friends, and co-workers what great treatment they received at your office, and how awesome the work atmosphere is.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program.
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