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2.22.08 Issue #311 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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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 or call 877.777.6151
Interested in having Belle speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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