Patient Paperwork – Less Time, More Information
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Modern science is nothing short of amazing. We can cross the globe with a mere click of the mouse. We can take photos, place phone calls, and surf the Internet on a device smaller than a deck of cards. We can turn on lights with the wave of a hand, warm up the car without ever turning the ignition and the list goes on.
Indeed, we have many more conveniences and lifestyle improvements today, but for all the modern marvels, we still lack one very basic need: more time. No invention or advancement in technology has been able to give us more than 24 hours in a day. In fact, it seems that time is as fleeting and elusive as ever. For dental practices, it’s also expensive. Every moment wasted is production revenue lost and patient satisfaction compromised.
And one system in particular consistently seems to deadlock dental teams: patient paperwork. The whir of efficient activity seems to halt abruptly when it comes to patient documentation – specifically the multiple forms and consent documents that dental teams are required to gather from patients.
Typically, upon arrival in the office, the patient is handed a clipboard and directed to complete or update his/her medical history and various other documents. The forms have been copied multiple times, and even those in the “before bifocals” age demographic struggle to read the faded text and the fine print. Some questions are ignored, others are overlooked. And after about 15-25 minutes of muddling through it, the patient returns the partially completed documentation to the front desk.
Shortly thereafter the patient is summoned to the treatment room where a member of the clinical team must once again walk through every document and every question with the patient to ensure that the paperwork is complete and accurate. And another 10 minutes drifts by. It is an incredibly inefficient time wasting scenario that occurs regularly in dental practices. But how do you fix it? Sure, you can have your forms printed in large black typeface on clean white paper to improve readability. Sure, you can encourage patients to carefully answer every question. But there is no guarantee that the documents will be complete and the questions will be answered. At least there wasn’t, until now.
Modern science may not be able to add more hours to our day, but dental teams can add more minutes to their hours. MedicTalk DentForms now has a program available that is designed to virtually guarantee that patients fully and accurately complete their dental forms and do so in record time.
Here’s how it works: When a patient checks in, the business employee’s computer screen immediately indicates if the patient has forms in her/his record that either need to be completed or updated. The employee then escorts the patient to a computer in a separate consultation room and clicks on the documents the patient needs to complete, such as medical history, patient consent to treatment, patient refusal for treatment, consent to anesthesia, etc. The program is set up so that the patient can either click the answers using a mouse or the touch screen. It also gives a simple 60-second tutorial on completing the forms making it extremely straightforward and user friendly.
But what sets this program apart is that each question appears on the screen individually, so it is impossible to miss a question. What’s more, the program will not advance to the next screen until the patient has answered the current question, ensuring that nothing is skipped, ignored, or overlooked. The process couldn’t be simpler or more accurate.
While the vast majority of patients are fully comfortable completing documents on the computer, for the small percentage of those who need assistance, staff can walk them through the process in just a couple of minutes. In fact, an entire patient medical history questionnaire and other required consent forms, such as HIPPA and informed consent, can be completed in about 3 to 4 minutes vs. 15 to 20 using standard paper forms.
Next week, creating customized forms to meet your practice’s specific needs.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at email@example.com.
Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.
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You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know!
Dentists and their team don’t reach out for consulting for help because they are making so much money that they don’t know how to spend it. Often, it is after they have spent large amounts of money and time on misconceptions that didn’t work and now they are overwhelmed and need help. They think they have too many patients, not enough operatories, not enough team members, etc. In most cases, what “appears to be” is not what “is”. This is true, only because the dentists and team don’t know what they don’t know. Misconceptions can drive practice decisions based on inaccurate information.
- I need more staff – In most cases, lack of job descriptions causes duplication of effort, wasted time and inefficient time management. When team members know and understand what they are to do each day and are held accountable for their performance , they are much happier and productive. It is not necessary to add another employee to your salary overhead, unless the systems that indicate adding another employee are evaluated carefully. Patient check in and check out systems, patient volume, and time management are just a few issues that are addressed before making this important decision. Gross wages in relation to revenue for your team (not including yourself, associates or family members) is 19-22%.
- I need more operatories - In many cases, you don’t need more operatories but you need an effective scheduling system. A dentist that was working from four operatories and thought he needed more space, applied McKenzie Management’s scheduling techniques and was able to work from two operatories with much less stress, keeping production goals the same. The environment was better for the patients, doctor and team.
- I have too many patients – Many dentists would love to be able to say this. Never stop seeing new patients. Start announcing that you are not taking new patients; it quickly circulates throughout the community and is difficult to undo. The marketing efforts to “start-up” the practice again can equal thousands of dollars. The perception of too many patients is partly due to lack of systems in the practice to efficiently manage new patients that need appointments. It is a scheduling issue and there are several factors that must be evaluated, such as, knowing not only how many new patients are appointing each month but how many are being pushed into the following month? Another factor is learning how many patients in your records are truly “active” patients in your practice? An active patient is due to return for recall in the next year.
- I don’t have enough patients – How many is enough for you? You are producing $100,000 a month. How many patients does it take to do that? A prosthodontist can do it with approximately 10 new patients a month. A family dentist can do it with approximately 20-25 new patients a month. Each practice is different. You may have enough new patients. What you don’t have are successful systems in place to help patients to accept treatment and keep them coming back for more treatment and recall appointments. Evaluating the treatment acceptance statistics and the patient retention statistics during the consulting process gives a clearer picture of how to fix these systems.
It takes an outside person to evaluate your current systems and identify to you, and your team the weaknesses in efficiency and customer service. What you do know is that the practice isn’t being as productive or efficient as it used to. Or, it has never been as productive and efficient you know it could be. Something is “broken” but you don’t know what it is and, therefore, have no idea how to fix it.
Trust your instinct that what appears to be happening is probably happening. Do yourself, your team members, your patients and your practice a favor. Find out what it is. Make 2008 the year that you will reach out for a professional business plan. Recession proof your practice.
If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies….. email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The New Patient Interview
Building trust is a process that begins with the first phone call placed to the dental office. That first contact should result in an appointment, a necessary event for the survival of any practice. Many offices lose opportunities to get appointments booked because someone was rushed or rude handling the call, the patient could not get an appointment for several weeks and decided to call elsewhere, or the patient was abandoned on hold and hung up.
Almost every person has a history of dental care, some good and some bad. Some come in with skepticism about what the dentist will tell them because they have heard it before and still don’t trust the information. Patients that have been referred by other satisfied patients of record, come in with higher trust in the beginning, however, this trust must be validated by a professional, business and clinical team with better than average treatment standards to keep the patient happy.
The new patient interview is recommended to gather information that would be necessary in order to discover the patient’s motivating factors for seeking dental care.
When the new patient arrives at the office, she/he is greeted and welcomed by the Scheduling Coordinator/Business Coordinator. The patient’s information from the new patient packet that was sent out ahead of the appointment, or was filled out on the website, is verified and entries in the computer are completed. The patient is then asked to take a seat.
The Treatment Coordinator is summoned to the desk and the Scheduling Coordinator/Business Coordinator, introduces her/him to the patient.
“Mrs. Brown, this is Jane, our Treatment Coordinator, she will be assisting Dr. Smith with your appointment today.”
The patient is then escorted to the Consultation area and asked to take a seat. Jane will then sit, facing the patient, and ask the following open-ended questions:
- “How did you hear about our office?”
- “What brings you to our office today?
- “What expectations do you have of a dental practice?”
- “What are the keys to keeping you as a patient in our office?”
- “What positive experiences have you had in a dental practice?”
- “How do you feel about the appearance of your smile?”
- “What negative experiences have you had in a dental practice?”
- “If you could change your teeth in any way, what would you change?”
If the patient indicates that he/she is not happy with the current dental situation, such as, old chipped veneers, loose fitting partial, bad breath, bleeding gums etc., the questions that follow are designed to have the patient share more information about what he/she expects from dental treatment. Some examples of what may be said to open the lines of communication are:
- “Many of our patients love the new veneers that we have been placing. The dramatic change that can be made is amazing. After Dr. Smith completes your examination, I will show you samples and let you look at pictures of some of our happy patients.”
- “Has any one, important to you, told you that you have bad breath?”
- “Does having bad breath make you self conscious?”
- “Have you noticed any bleeding when you brush your teeth?” “When you floss?”
- “Do you worry about your partial coming out when you are chewing or talking?”
- “Do you ever feel reluctant to smile or talk because you are not pleased with the way your teeth look?”
Asking questions during the new patient interview gathers information that will assist the dentist in making treatment recommendations based on what the patient wants and expects from the dental practice.
The Treatment Coordinator will give the answers to the questions, and any notes taken, to the dentist to review just prior to her/him entering the consultation area. The dentist will then enter, introduce himself/herself and assure the patient that the initial reason for coming to the office will be addressed today. The dentist will then ask the clinical assistant to take the records necessary to do a complete diagnosis and to facilitate the treatment presentation.
The clinical assistant will then escort the patient to the treatment room and begin taking radiographs, intra-oral photos, diagnostic casts and any other records that the dentist has prescribed for this patient. While the information is being processed, a short educational video, based on the information gathered in the new patient interview, will be put on the monitor to play for the patient.
At the end of the video presentation, the dentist enters the treatment facility to begin the diagnosis phase of the treatment presentation.
Why not improve your performance in 2008 by increasing your treatment acceptance: Email email@example.com or call 877.777.6151
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