The New Patient Experience in the Office
In my last article, we discussed what makes your practice stand out from the dental office down the street - what may happen before the patient ever walks into your practice and how the initial phone call can make a person go to the guy next door. Now, let’s take a look at what the patient’s experience may be once they actually enter the front door of the practice.
Here are some things to evaluate. The minute the patient walks in the front door, are they greeted by a nice smile and a friendly hello? Many practices have a sign-up sheet that the patient signs as they enter the door, and even if there is a staff member sitting next to the sign-in sheet, the patient does not get greeted. Many times, the sign-in sheet provides a “way out” for the front desk person to avoid greeting the patient at all. If you are a new patient, what does this say to you? It can say many things, but primarily: the people working here are very busy - too busy to even say hello.
Offices that want to go the extra mile will look at when the new patients are coming in at the morning meeting, and will have a front office person assigned to work with those patients. This person should be aware of what is going on with the schedule so they are prepared to greet and help the new patient with any forms they may have attempted to complete at home and have questions on, or forgot at home and will now be running into the appointment time. Having a person there to assist will make this process go faster and more efficiently. They will also make sure the new patient is seated on time, if not early, and will become that patient’s advocate during their appointment.
If the patient is being scheduled in hygiene first, it would be nice to have this person trained to help the hygienist with charting existing, probings, and anything else she may need. If the patient is scheduled with the doctor first, then you may want to have this person be the doctor’s assistant. This is why you and your staff will look at the schedule closely at the morning meeting to determine what will work best, and help keep everything running on time.
If the hygienist or doctor does get behind, the person appointed to this patient will find another staff member to start x-rays or take the patient on a tour of the office. Patients appreciate offices that go out of their way to start the appointment on time, and that respect their time. Once the patient is seated in the doctor or hygienist’s chair, what happens next? Hopefully, every staff member has taken the time to introduce him or herself, or during a hand-off, has introduced the person they are handing the patient off to.
What is done at the first appointment?
All of this is standard of care. So, what is done that makes your office shine during that initial appointment? Many offices do not allow enough time in the schedule or they double-book not realizing a new patient is coming in. As a result, when the patient is brought in they are hurried through their appointment and you appear to be rushed. Are you taking the time to find out what the patient’s concerns are? Did you welcome them to your practice, and tell them how excited you are to have them there? Did you ask them if they need anything special to make them more comfortable? These are the little things that many offices don’t do when they get busy.
If the patient is expecting to have their teeth cleaned at that first appointment, is it happening? Or is the patient told that because they have gum disease they will need root planing and nothing is happening that day? This will destroy trust immediately.
Could it be that what makes your practice stand out from the rest of the practices in your area is that the doctor sees the new patient for a complete comprehensive exam, and then the patient goes into the consultation with the financial advisor, and then they have their hygiene appointment scheduled? If this happens, the patient will have all of the answers to their questions before they have any actual treatment done. The hygienist can reinforce the treatment plan the doctor gave, answer additional questions the patient may have, and if they refuse the root planing at this time, she can clean the patient’s teeth and have an entire appointment to explain to the patient why they need root planing.
Having the treatment plan entered into the computer and all of the insurance figured out before the patient is done in the operatory with the doctor or hygienist is one more way you may outshine another office. People do not like to wait. Having the patient in and out of the office at the times you told them and performing the treatment they were scheduled for is very important - and this should always be a high priority. Doing what everybody else does is not going to give that WOW factor to patients and make them want to refer more new patients into your practice. Whether a new patient or an existing patient, your team should always have “red carpet and bright smiles” put on for them at all appointments.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email email@example.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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