New Patients In Hygiene?
I have been in many offices where new patients are scheduled with the hygienist. This is neither right nor wrong - unless it is against the state law to have a new patient in the hygiene schedule before the doctor has done a comprehensive exam. However, I am always educating offices on the importance of the patient's perception. With that in mind, I am going to give you some things to think about when it comes to scheduling new patients. The question is: where should new patients be scheduled?
The new patient's perception starts with the initial phone call into your office. Does an answering machine pick up and have a lovely message about how you may be working with another patient and to please leave a message so that the office will get back to you as soon as possible? Does the front office put the person on hold immediately, and then when they do get back to the new patient on the phone, they sound rushed, or do not provide the answers the patient is looking for?
If you are having an answering machine pick up, the patient may perceive that your office is too busy to take the time to work with them - and the same may be true if the new patient interview is rushed. This is one time the front office may need to stop multi-tasking, and really focus on the new patient on the phone. Go through the new patient call slip with them. Answer the questions they have about their insurance to the best of your knowledge, and if you don't have the knowledge, offer to call the insurance company and see what benefit limitations they may have. This will take quite a bit of time, but it can be priceless when it comes to patient retention.
Next the patient will be showing up in the office, and the dental team does not want to undo all of the hard work that has already been done by the front office person who took the initial phone call. Many times the new patient is scheduled with the hygienist, because the patient has conveyed that they insist on having a cleaning. When new patients come in for their cleaning, they want to “get what they came for” - otherwise, they may not return to your office because you told them one thing and did another. The trust that needs to be built with the new patient has not been established and has actually been broken down. Yes, you may tell them they have periodontal disease and they need four quadrants of root planing - but they were also told they were going to get a cleaning.
Hopefully this patient was also informed that they would be getting any necessary x-rays, probings, and a comprehensive exam with the doctor, and that all are an additional cost. If the hygienist is not given additional time to probe, chart existing conditions, get x-rays and do the cleaning - then this is going to be a very stressful appointment not only for the hygienist, but also for the patient. As a patient, it is very easy to feel the comfort level of the staff and doctor as they work. Please don't think you and your staff are fooling anybody.
When doing the comprehensive exam, did the doctor only spend five or ten minutes with the patient? If so, when is the doctor going to build any patient rapport? This is the time to continuously have the red carpet out, and give the patient “knock your socks off” service and care. Really give them more than what they expect, starting with the initial phone call.
Seeing how first impressions are so very important - what is the best way to schedule the new patient in your office? In my next article, we will look at some possibilities of how to schedule the new patient to make it a less hectic appointment, make the entire team happy, and more importantly, leave a positive impression with the patient.
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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