Running on Time
It's important to run on time. Yes, things happen in our schedules that sometimes make it near impossible to stay on time. Patients show up late, periodic exams take longer than anticipated in hygiene, sometimes the doctor just cannot break away because of the procedure s/he is doing, thus causing the hygienist to wait for an exam and run late for the next patient. However, it is also common for appointments to run behind simply because they are not scheduled for the appropriate amount of time to begin with.
There is more to a hygiene appointment than just cleaning teeth. The health history should be verbally updated and any medications that are being taken by the patient or any recent hospital visits should be noted in the clinical notes. The patient should have a periodontal exam at every visit, including full mouth probing of the pockets and any recession noted, and tissue should be examined for any abnormalities. If the patient is due for radiographs based on the office policy, these should also be taken. Depending on your office policy and the state laws in your area, the patient may require a periodic exam.
This is usually all done prior to the actual hygiene appointment.
There is a difference between a periodontal maintenance appointment and a prophylaxis appointment. Not all hygiene appointments are a cleaning. The first thing the office should do is stop calling hygiene appointments a "cleaning" appointment. This is a medical appointment that consists of far more than a cleaning. We can all "clean" our own teeth at home.
If you call a periodontal maintenance appointment a cleaning appointment, the patient will expect to be charged for a cleaning and not a periodontal maintenance appointment. In addition to the difference in cost between a periodontal maintenance appointment and a cleaning appointment, some offices increase the time needed for the periodontal maintenance appointment.
Every time there is an additional procedure added to an appointment, the time for that appointment should be evaluated. If you are going to require another procedure to be done in an appointment, you should also look at how much time that procedures requires to be completed and make adjustments to the appointment time.
We don’t want the quality of care to suffer because of additional treatment being added to an already tight appointment time. Yes, two minutes makes a difference! If your hygienist is running two minutes late for every patient due to adding more to the appointment, then by the last patient they may be ten minutes late or more, depending how the appointments went.
It is also recommended that the doctor do the periodic exam at his/her convenience, and not wait until the end of the appointment. This helps prevent the hygienist from running late because of exams, and also allows the hygienist to go over treatment needed and answer any questions during the appointment - instead of trying to rush the patient out of the chair because time is up and the next patient is waiting.
The most important thing to consider is the patient and their perception of the hygiene appointment. Patients want to be seen on time, they deserve quality care, and any questions, comments or concerns should be addressed in a timely manner.
If any of this is missing, you may be losing more patients out the back door than you are getting in the front door. This is not a good way to have your practice grow. Running on time makes a difference to your patients, impacts staff stress level, and effects practice growth.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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