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Tips to Put Emergency Patients at Ease and Win Their Loyalty
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Visiting a new dentist can be a bit overwhelming for patients experiencing an emergency. These panicked patients are in a lot of pain, and forced to trust someone they just met to ease their suffering. They likely spent time calling other dental practices, hoping to find one that could fit them in, adding to their stress and discomfort.

There’s a lot going on with these patients, which is why it’s so important to pay special attention to their needs. If you can get them out of pain while also providing an excellent patient experience, they’ll be more likely to return to your practice for a comprehensive exam. Unfortunately, emergency patients often don’t feel comfortable during their appointment, and even if they decide it’s time to find a new dental home, they mentally check your practice off the list.

Emergency patients represent a great opportunity for growth, but only if your practice knows how to handle them from the moment they call the practice until they leave.

It starts with the initial call
No matter how busy your practice is, team members should never make emergency patients feel like a bother. Instead, they should be trained to offer a warm welcome, quickly determine what the problem is and figure out how the practice can help.

To ensure everyone knows how to handle these calls, I suggest you develop a script. The script should serve as a general guide to assist all team members in gathering necessary information, conveying essential details, and expressing a helpful, caring tone. Patients will hang up the phone feeling better about their situation, and confident they’ve chosen the right practice.

Know how to interact with emergency patients once they arrive
Emergency patients typically require a little more attention than those who are coming in for a routine exam. Remember, they’re in pain and worried about what will happen next. Dental fears might have kept some of these patients from getting the dental care they need, making them even more anxious.

Team members should show emergency patients concern and empathy, and be prepared to assist them in any way they can. That might mean helping to fill out paperwork or finding a quiet, private place for them to wait for their appointment. It’s also important to provide reassurance they’re in good hands, and that the dentist will get them out of pain. The goal is to make them as comfortable as possible. Not only will this help them relax, they’ll remember the extra steps you took to put them at ease when they’re ready to make a dental appointment.

Pay attention to cues chairside
There’s a reason it took an emergency to get these patients in the chair. It could be because they’re worried about the costs associated with dental treatment, or because they had a negative experience in the past. You and your team members should take note of body language or comments patients make that offer insight into why they haven’t been to the dentist.  Once you know their perceived barriers to care, you can tailor your education to address them.

Educate them throughout the appointment
Education is key to getting these patients to return to your practice. Emergency patients aren’t going to schedule a comprehensive exam if they don’t understand why they should. Many will be happy to be out of pain and think the emergency care you provided is all they need – which means they won’t be back.

Spend time educating patients chairside about their condition, the consequences of not going forward with needed treatment and the importance of maintaining oral health. Continue the education at the front desk, and then with a follow-up call after the appointment. This will help patients see why proper dental care is so important, and will show them you have their best interest at heart.

When emergency patients walk into your practice, they’re stressed out and in pain. Find ways to put them at ease and they’ll be more likely to return for a comprehensive exam and eventually become loyal patients, helping you grow your practice and boost your bottom line.

For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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Jean Gallienne RDH BS
McKenzie Management
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Handing Off Patients
By Jean Gallienne, RDH BS

Handing off a patient from one area of the office to the other seems like such an easy task to do, and it is. However, there are ways to make the communication process between team members and patients smoother for everyone, stopping any confusion regarding appointments, money owed, and treatment recommended.

Let’s look at an in-office scenario. The patient just finished up in the chair and the doctor, hygienist, or assistant is sitting the patient up. At this time, it is recommended that the team member ask the patient, “What questions, comments, or concerns do you have about the recommended treatment, and what the next procedure will be?”

It is recommended that clinical questions be answered by the back office while the patient is still in the chair, and any financial questions or specifics regarding the next appointment be answered by the front office. However, both areas of the office should be capable of vaguely guiding the patient in the right direction. This is where the hand-off to the front office staff becomes more important.

In addition to having information on the next recommended treatment, it is important to know who will provide the care and how much time is needed. The clinical staff should inform the front office about any conversation that happened in the back office with the patient about finances or when the appointment will be.

Here’s an example of the conversation that may take place between team members, preferably in front of the patient: “Tammy, Mr. Jones is concerned about how much his insurance will pay, and if we have any payment plans available. I mentioned to him that we offer CareCredit – would you please go over his options with him?”

There are times when the front office may not be available to speak with the back office, and this is when a routing slip can be used to provide any specific notes that need to be shared. In addition to the notes, it is recommended that the treatment provided that day be on the routing slip, along with how much time will be needed in the future, what procedure is next, and which provider will be providing the treatment. Of course, routing slips are used with every patient. 

The front office member can then go over financials, the estimated portion insurance may pay, and what options are available with CareCredit. Once the patient is done with this part and gets their answers, the last question the front office should ask is if there are any remaining questions. If the patient doesn’t have any questions, the next conversation may sound like this:

“Mr. Jones, your next appointment is going to be one hour with the hygienist for your hygiene appointment and one half-hour with the doctor to get impressions and study models before we start your braces. Your portion due at that time is $350.”

In addition to verbally going over this, a written estimate for the next appointment should be given to the patient. All of this is very important, even if it’s only one filling or a hygiene appointment. This will clarify to the patient why they are coming in, how much it will cost, and what the next priority is. This may prevent a patient from leaving your practice because of confusion about money, or their perception that the office is not run well. The level of customer service provided to your patients is often the deciding factor when they choose to stay as a loyal patient to your practice. 

Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151

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