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2.29.08 Issue #312 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Cell Phones and the Work Place

How many times have you been in the middle of working on a somewhat relaxed patient when suddenly his/her cell phone rings? The patient jumps and you move the scaler quickly to avoid collision with the soft tissue. How many times does the patient answer the phone during the course of the treatment time? Or, how many times does the cell phone ring, the patient does not answer it and you get to enjoy the beep or whatever noise the phone makes every minute or so? This is an annoyance you don’t want when you are working to provide the patient with the quality of care necessary in the time allotted. 

How should we approach our patients when it comes to the use of the cell phone during treatment time? What exactly is the patient not saying verbally when the cell phone takes precedence over his/her scheduled appointment time?

Here are some ideas when it comes to the control and etiquette of cell phones.

  • Have a sign, visible in the reception area, requesting that cell phones be turned off while in the treatment area.
  • Establish a habit of asking the patient to turn off their cell phone after you have greeted them.

“Hello, Roy. How are you today? To give you the time that is needed to complete your treatment, we are requesting that you please turn your cell phone off during your appointment today.”

Putting the cell phone on vibrate only prevents the noise. It does not prevent the patient from being more interested in the incoming call than the education and information being presented. It is better to have the patient turn it off completely.

If the patient refuses to turn the cell phone off but agrees to set it to vibrate, this is better than being subjected to the distraction created by the ringtone.

It is not recommended to just stop everything you are doing because the patient’s cell phone rings.

If the cell phone vibrates and you are in the middle of the procedure, the best thing to do is get to a point in the treatment, when it is convenient for you, and then state, “Go ahead and see who it is. Is it an emergency?  Do you need to get that?” By asking these questions, you are informing the patient that, unless it is an emergency, it may be a good idea not to answer the phone at this time. The patient may think twice before answering if there is some resistance.

By giving the patient the opportunity to see the caller ID and decide whether it is important to take the call, the patient is more apt to stay an active participant in their dental appointment.

It is equally important, in providing great customer service, to remind the patient to turn on their cell phone when they leave the office. The office may want to have a sign at check-out reminding them to turn their cell phone on.

Once the money has been collected and the next appointment has been made, the Scheduling Coordinator may want to say, “Roy, we appreciate that you turned off your cell phone during the appointment.  If you have not turned it back on I want to remind you now.” Hearing this, other patients will be reminded to turn the cell phones off during their appointments.

What about employees and their use of cell phones? Employees should be turning their cell phones off, too. This includes checking emails, text messaging and voicemail. The doctor is not paying employees to conduct personal and other business while on the clock. They should be checking their voicemail, text messages and e-mails at lunch or at scheduled break times. The employee policy for cell phone use should be included in the Employee Policy Manual to establish consistency and cooperation.

If the employees have their cell phones in non-ring mode, they are not concentrating on the patient and work at hand. If they are sending text messages or getting emails, they will be anticipating replies rather than giving 100% to the patient and to job duties.

If you expect the patients to be committed 100% to their appointment time with you, it is only right for the team to be committed 100% to the patient’s time and the doctor’s time. This mutual value of time builds trust and respect for all parties involved in the treatment process.

Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email  Interested in having Jean speak to your dental society or study club Click Here.

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