The Hygiene Periodic Exam
I think many doctors, hygienists, and front office staff would agree that the periodic exam in hygiene is a challenge. Oftentimes, when the hygienist is done with her portion of the hygiene appointment, the patient is left waiting while the hygienist goes over to the doctor to let him/her know that she is done and needs the periodic exam that was mentioned at the morning business meeting. Of course, the doctor is right in the middle of performing a root canal or crown and veneer prep, and it is the most inopportune time to break away from his/her own patient.
If space permits, the hygienist moves the patient to sit in a room waiting on the doctor. Meanwhile, the patient was expecting to be done with the appointment within the actual time scheduled. At times, the hygiene patient is left waiting for 10-30 minutes. This is not the best way to have patients refer their family and friends to your practice.
Even worse is when there is not another room the patient can be moved to, and not only does the patient waiting for an exam have to stay late, but now there is a good chance that every patient after that one will have to be seen late. Again, this is not a good way to help build your practice or keep the current patients that are consistently not being seen on time for their appointments.
Many offices review who needs an exam in the morning business meeting, but once the day starts it just does not jive into the schedule. One suggestion to help the periodic exam process is for the hygienist to get all of the x-rays, probings, and possible decay at the beginning of the appointment. This may happen in many practices, but what does not happen in many practices is the doctor coming in to do the exam at his/her convenience.
The periodic exam does not have to be at the end of the hygiene appointment, and it is actually better if it's not done at the end of the appointment (check your state law). The earlier the exam is done, the more time the hygienist has to go over what treatment was recommended, answer any questions the patient may have, and reinforce the treatment plan to the patient.
As we all know, the hygienist is the person in the practice that patients tend to see more often, and the hygienist has a powerful influence on patients because of this. Patients will quite often look for advice on whether to move forward with the treatment the doctor has recommended. If the hygienist has reviewed with the patient what may be needed prior to the dentist coming in, then anything the doctor recommends will be accepted quicker. However, the hygienist should be sure to tell the dentist about any prior conversations with the patient about possible treatment. This will also help to speed up the dentist's exam.
While the doctor is making closing statements, the hygienist can go ahead and write up the treatment plan and give it to the front office to have it put into the computer before the patient is hovering over them. This allows the patient to walk out of hygiene, up to the front desk or consult room, have the treatment plan and financials gone over, and an appointment made to get the treatment done. If the patient is not ready to go ahead with treatment, notes should be made in the patient's record.
Having the exam done earlier in the hygiene operatory will allow for more flexibility if additional x-rays are required, or if the patient may benefit by seeing the recommended treatment on an intra oral camera. The periodic exam in hygiene is very important, because of the amount of treatment that is diagnosed from the hygiene department. Being less rushed and doing it at the doctor's convenience and earlier in the appointment may also lead to more treatment acceptance.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program.
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