The Value of Time
In this article, we are going to look at two different patients’ case scenarios and how they could be handled. These scenarios could be happening in your practice, although you may not be consciously aware of it. This awareness could make the difference between patients accepting and not accepting treatment and their long-term retention in the practice.
Mr. Smith has come into the office to have his hygiene appointment, x-rays, and exam. The hygienist seated Mr. Smith on time and the doctor performed the periodic exam. Mr. Smith needs to return to the dental office because he has some broken teeth that need crowns. The hygienist enters the treatment plan and makes the financial coordinator aware of the treatment the patient will need. However, when the hygienist goes to communicate the patient’s needs to the financial coordinator, she is already busy with another patient. The financial coordinator informs the hygienist it will be a few minutes, as she is already busy with another patient. So, the hygienist asks the patient to have a seat in the reception area, and the financial coordinator will be with him soon.
This is fine, as long as the financial coordinator is able to “process” the patient in a reasonably short period of time. The length of time Mr. Smith has to wait to have a treatment plan reviewed is as important as how long the patient waits in the reception room for a scheduled appointment.
This scenario is where cross-training between staff members’ positions is important. Getting the patient in and out of the office in a timely manner is crucial to patient retention and acceptance of treatment. Even if the patient was seen and the hygiene or dentist appointment went well, the bottom line is if the patient has to wait longer than they feel is necessary, after the actual appointment, they are less likely to continue in your practice.
Yes, the financial coordinator is ultimately responsible for the treatment plan. This is why she will perform crosschecks. This is also why it is equally as important for the front office staff to initial their work, notes, treatment plans, and appointments scheduled just like the doctor, hygienist, and assistants do. Accountability is important in everything we do as a team.
Let’s take the same scenario, except this time Mr. Smith has a BIG treatment plan. When the hygienist goes to inform the financial coordinator, she has already left for lunch. Now, there is nobody else who has been given the authorization to discuss treatment plans and make financial arrangements. As a result, the hygienist has to inform the patient he needs to come back to have the financials gone over, or that the financial coordinator will call and go over the treatment with him.
In the meantime, Mr. Smith was excited to get the treatment done and look into what financial arrangements may be made. The hygienist had already mentioned to Mr. Smith that he may want to look at using Care Credit, as they have many different payment plans available, and the financial coordinator would be the best one to go over that information with him. Now he has been let down, as he is leaving the office without all of his answers and without a follow-up appointment to actually start treatment. Depending on how it goes, he may even have to give up more of his time to return to the practice in order to get the information he was expecting today.
There are a couple of things that could have made this go better. Again, make sure there is a staff member cross-trained who can fill in when the financial coordinator is not available. The other option is to have the financial coordinator take a later lunch than the rest of the staff so the patients are able to be processed.
In dentistry, we are very conscious of getting the patient seated on time, but many times do not pay attention to what happens with the patient once they are handed off to the treatment coordinator, scheduling coordinator, or financial coordinator. This is equally important when it comes to patient retention and treatment acceptance. When you value your patients’ time, they may value your time.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151Forward this article to a friend
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