10.14.11 Issue #501 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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New Patient Visit - With or Without the Hygienist?
By Nancy Caudill, Senior Consultant McKenzie Management

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about establishing a focus for your practice to assist in determining the type of new patient visit you will offer. This article is intended to focus on the “general dentistry” practices, opposed to the specialty practices.

Two Types of New Patient Phone Calls
I think that we can all agree that when a new patient calls, they have one of two situations and maybe a combination of both:

Call #1: “Are you taking new patients? I would like to make an appointment to get my teeth cleaned.”

Call #2: “Do you have any appointments available today? I have a toothache and would like to see the dentist?”

Emergency NP Visits
First - because numbers speak for themselves, it is recommended that you create an identifier code so you can track the difference between your emergency visits for existing patients as well as new emergency patients. Knowing how many emergency patients you average per year/month/day will tell you whether you should block time each day to accommodate your emergency existing patients, as well as opening your doors to emergency new patients.

Should you elect to “fit them” in the schedule, this decision will have a detrimental effect on the appointment time for your already scheduled patients - possibly jeopardizing your ability to always provide 100% customer service.

Second - how much time should you allow for a new patient emergency visit? 30 minutes to evaluate, diagnose and present the recommended treatment without actually treating the patient? 60 minutes because history has shown that the emergency patients usually need a simple extraction or the first step of a root canal procedure?

Either decision is correct, depending on your practice focus. The key is to have the information that you need in order to make an educated decision on how you will manage your emergency visits, in order to provide 100% customer service to all your patients.

There are basically two philosophies or “camps” on how to schedule NP visits. The objective is to provide you with information so you can make an educated decision about what works best for you.   Let’s visit both scenarios…the first being that the patient visits the doctor first for a 1-hour comprehensive exam without seeing the hygienist at the same appointment.

Non-Emergency NP Visits without the Hygiene Visit
The new patient would be seated by your dental assistant, who would take a few moments to help the patient “settle in” and prepare him/her for your introduction. You present yourself, sit down and face the patient, and spend a few minutes getting to know the person and their dental concerns.  At this point, a brief oral evaluation would be appropriate in order to “prescribe” the necessary radiographs to be taken by your assistant; whether it be a panorex with additional single periapicals, a full series of radiographs or a series of vertical x-rays.

It is also possible that you instruct your assistant to take intraoral photos at this time or perhaps you prefer to take them yourself along with your comprehensive exam.  Maybe a blood pressure screening is performed by your assistant at this time, as well.

Upon your return, having pre-reviewed the radiographs before re-entering the treatment room for this new patient, you will conduct your exam, including an oral cancer screening, periodontal evaluation screening, and treatment plan.

It is vital that the treatment plan be entered in your software by your assistant (especially if you are chartless) so your Schedule Coordinator has a mechanism to follow-up with your new patient should they elect not to schedule an appointment to address their needs. This is an example of how important it is to track appointment scheduling in order to maintain the dental relationship with the patient and confirm that you have a treatment acceptance rate of at least 75% for their next appointment.

Statistically, you also want to know if your new patients are returning to hygiene after their initial visit with you. Create an “in-office for their first hygiene visit” identifier code and post it along with their hygiene treatment.  Monthly, compare the # of new patient exams vs. the # of new patient hygiene appointments. Your goal would be 100% of the new patient exams are also being seen in your Hygiene Department in the next week.

Non-Emergency NP Visits with the Hygiene Visit
The second scenario would be this option for your new patients…combining their first visit so they receive not only their comprehensive exam with you but also visit the hygienist at the same time, since most patients call “to get their teeth cleaned.”

To accomplish this, time must be set aside in conjunction with one another for you to conduct your exam and the hygienist to have time for her appointment.  Should it be determined that the patient is in need of periodontal treatment, this allows her the opportunity to educate the patient, possibly start the treatment or provide other services, depending on their needs.

One very important advantage of the new patient visiting with the hygienist is their opportunity to support your treatment plan for the next visit, answer any questions that the patient may have and add continuity to the patient’s visit with you.  It is often observed during a consultant’s visit that the doctor has lower than average treatment acceptance and is not scheduled out a minimum of 1-2 weeks due to the “ball being dropped” between the exam visit and the hygiene visit.  The hygienist focuses on the hygiene care for the patient and fails to “re-sell” the restorative treatment that was recommended weeks prior to their appointment with them.

Know your practice and your statistics to determine if you are making good decisions about your practice. There is no “right or wrong” as long as your practice is profitable and successful!

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Consulting Coaching Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies, email info@mckenziemgmt.com.

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