How Much Time is Required for a
“Can you offer any advice on how to help a patient accept one hour of hygiene when they have been able to have thirty-minute appointments for many years?”
McKenzie Management does not recommend a set appointment time for every patient. By this, I am saying that the hygienist requests the time that is needed for the individual patient. For instance, when doing an oral cancer exam, reviewing health history, blood pressure, periodontal maintenance, and full mouth series, the hygienist may need more time compared to performing an oral cancer exam, reviewing health history, blood pressure, prophylaxis, and bite wings, or even no bite wings. Therefore, the patient's appointment should be scheduled based on the actual amount of time needed, which is in turn based on how long it takes all of the procedures scheduled for that day.
In order to determine how long the hygienist needs for each procedure, a time and motion study can be done in your office with your hygienist. The procedures should be timed at least 10 times over the next 3 months. Keep in mind that we are looking for the correct time needed for each patient, based on the procedures being done at appointments. For example, the hygienist should be timed on how long it takes him/her to seat the patient, make them comfortable in the chair, introduce him/herself, review the medical history, ask the patient what changes or problems they are having dentally, and prepare the patient for what is going to be done that day based on their needs. Then the hygienist would be timed on how long it takes him/her to take a blood pressure, get x-rays if needed and do an oral cancer exam. Probings will need to be timed, as well as the periodic exam by the doctor if it is done in hygiene, and the actual prophylaxis or periodontal maintenance treatment.
The hygienist will know that the time and motion study is being done in the office. However, it is best if a person other than the hygienist does the timing in order to figure out how much time is needed for each procedure. It is also best if the hygienist is unaware of when the timing is actually being done. This will give a more accurate time for all of the procedures that are performed in the hygienist’s operatory during any one hygiene appointment.
However, if your practice policy is to have the patient scheduled for one hour no matter what, then the patient’s perception of what is being done in that time needs to be changed. For instance, if you have not been probing, then start probing all patients immediately. Explain periodontal disease to the patient, and the need for more time in order to remove all of the bacteria from under the gums. Educate the patient about the latest research when it comes to periodontal disease, and how your office is committed to treating and helping to prevent periodontal disease. Remember to talk at their level, and not use our dental terminology. Do an oral cancer exam and explain the importance of this.
If you are not comfortable with discussing periodontal disease the doctor may want to consider investing in a computer probing system. There are also many other audio media available when it comes to educating the patient. Intelligent Dental Marketing has TreatmentPro, which is a very affordable patient education system.
Our goal is to increase the amount of patients being seen per day, while allowing the hygienist enough time to provide quality care for each individual patient.
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