Handing Off Patients
Handing off a patient from one area of the office to the other seems like such an easy task to do, and it is. However, there are ways to make the communication process between team members and patients smoother for everyone, stopping any confusion regarding appointments, money owed, and treatment recommended.
Let’s look at an in-office scenario. The patient just finished up in the chair and the doctor, hygienist, or assistant is sitting the patient up. At this time, it is recommended that the team member ask the patient, “What questions, comments, or concerns do you have about the recommended treatment, and what the next procedure will be?”
It is recommended that clinical questions be answered by the back office while the patient is still in the chair, and any financial questions or specifics regarding the next appointment be answered by the front office. However, both areas of the office should be capable of vaguely guiding the patient in the right direction. This is where the hand-off to the front office staff becomes more important.
In addition to having information on the next recommended treatment, it is important to know who will provide the care and how much time is needed. The clinical staff should inform the front office about any conversation that happened in the back office with the patient about finances or when the appointment will be.
Here’s an example of the conversation that may take place between team members, preferably in front of the patient: “Tammy, Mr. Jones is concerned about how much his insurance will pay, and if we have any payment plans available. I mentioned to him that we offer CareCredit – would you please go over his options with him?”
There are times when the front office may not be available to speak with the back office, and this is when a routing slip can be used to provide any specific notes that need to be shared. In addition to the notes, it is recommended that the treatment provided that day be on the routing slip, along with how much time will be needed in the future, what procedure is next, and which provider will be providing the treatment. Of course, routing slips are used with every patient.
The front office member can then go over financials, the estimated portion insurance may pay, and what options are available with CareCredit. Once the patient is done with this part and gets their answers, the last question the front office should ask is if there are any remaining questions. If the patient doesn’t have any questions, the next conversation may sound like this:
“Mr. Jones, your next appointment is going to be one hour with the hygienist for your hygiene appointment and one half-hour with the doctor to get impressions and study models before we start your braces. Your portion due at that time is $350.”
In addition to verbally going over this, a written estimate for the next appointment should be given to the patient. All of this is very important, even if it’s only one filling or a hygiene appointment. This will clarify to the patient why they are coming in, how much it will cost, and what the next priority is. This may prevent a patient from leaving your practice because of confusion about money, or their perception that the office is not run well. The level of customer service provided to your patients is often the deciding factor when they choose to stay as a loyal patient to your practice.
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