Objective Not Subjective
In college, we were always told that anything we write in the patient’s record should be objective and not subjective. This not only pertains to the patient’s record, but also to what is said in the office. Many times we get too comfortable with our surroundings and the offices that we refer to, and forget the saying our parents taught us: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This holds true in the work environment too. The walls do have ears, and those ears are attached not only to other employees, but to patients as well. There is nothing worse than having a patient hear a conversation that should not be heard.
Let’s take a look at a few different scenarios that may be happening every day in your practice. These can have a direct impact on patient and employee retention, or if you’re a specialist it may affect the amount of referrals you receive from the general dentists in your area.
Susie the hygienist has not been running on schedule, and patients are starting to complain. The office manager informs Susie that she needs to run on time - and this is done in front of the assistant in a condescending tone. There are three problems here:
1. The conversation took place in front of another employee
A better way to approach this could have been to inform Susie there have been a lot of complaints about her running on time, and ask her what she thinks the reason is for this. It may be as easy as rearranging her room, fixing something, or helping her with time management by evaluating her. Perhaps the scheduling coordinator needs training on how much time is needed for each type of appointment, and a reminder that squeezing patients into the schedule on a regular basis does not work.
Every time an issue arises with employees, not only should the problem be addressed in private, but it is best to approach it with the attitude that some training needs to take place - either with that person or possibly with another person all together.
The next scenario has to do with two employees having a conversation about a patient. Regardless of HIPAA, these conversations should be about the matter at hand and not about how Mrs. Jones is a flake and never keeps her appointments, and how they wish she would just go to another dentist. What you may not know is that Mrs. Jones’ best friend Gladys is sitting in the reception room and is able to overhear this entire conversation.
How many patients do you think may leave your practice when Gladys goes and tells Mrs. Jones about the conversation, along with sixteen of her friends, and Mrs. Jones tells sixteen of her friends, and those sixteen tell another sixteen? It does not matter if the conversation is between two employees, the doctor and office manager, or an employee and patient. The conversation may have even happened at a morning meeting where you thought patients could not hear you. The point is that these conversations should not happen at all. Instead, the information should be noted in the patient’s record in an objective way, that way if the patient is dismissed from the practice in the future it is well documented.
The conversation could have been as short as: “Mrs. Jones has a record of not showing for her appointments. We may want to call her again early this morning, so if we need to we have more time to fill the schedule.”
For specialists who depend on patient referrals from general dentists or vice versa, make sure your staff is aware of the need to stick to the facts. They should not give any of their personal opinions while talking to other doctors’ offices. It is very easy for us to have conversations that may be perceived as inappropriate by others. Always remember to be objective not subjective - not only in your clinical notes, but also in your conversations.
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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