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5.5.06 Issue #217


Quality Patient Care

Leslie Peariso
The Center for Dental
Career Development

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Picture this: You’re a dental front office administrator, the phone is ringing off the hook, the copy machine is jammed, one dentist is out of the office for a week on vacation and the Financial Coordinator just called in sick. Each patient that comes in seems to have a thousand questions you don’t have time to answer.

You put as many calls on hold as you can, hoping you can get back to them before they hang up. You rush through the patients checking in, whether they are new or existing, without a simple smile or hello. You’re barely able to juggle it all and it’s not your problem anyway, right? Wrong.

You see, the patients who you put on hold, only lasted about a minute before they hung up and this could be detrimental for a practice. Phone lines 1, 2, and 3 could have been new patients. They’ll call another practice over waiting to try and get in at your practice. Line 4 could have been someone wanting to reschedule an appointment who then hangs up over holding and now you have a hole in the hygiene schedule. They had the courtesy to call to cancel, but you had the discourtesy of putting them on hold and not getting back to them.

What about the patients that were checking in when you merely jammed the paperwork in the clipboard and demanded them to fill it out and bring it back to you when they were finished? They are sitting there trying to determine why they would want to be cared for by someone so rude and are hoping the hygienist/dentist is a whole lot more comforting. After all, you don’t know if that patient has dental anxiety, is nervous or insecure about the professional cleaning or about their smile. You don’t know if the patient is in pain and is uncomfortable. Why? Because you didn’t portray that you cared long enough for them to express it to you. You didn’t give them the slightest impression you cared.

Patient care incorporates customer service and it is essential that this is as important to the practice as it is to the patient. You may be having a really hard day, but as a customer care and service provider it is essential you CARE about your patients. After all, you are a patient and a customer somewhere too and you would want the same level of treatment and service from anywhere else.

Now, sometimes you are just too busy to take all the calls while checking patients in and out. If you find yourself as a front office administrator, in this scenario more often than once, there are solutions. Simple things like a telephone message on hold system can educate patients while they are on hold about the services you provide and in the long run, attempt to keep them on the line a little longer.

Another solution is a voicemail box that allows them to leave messages in specific boxes. For example, the patient has the option of leaving a message in a general mail box, in a mailbox for a specific dentist or hygienist, in a mailbox if they want to schedule or cancel an appointment or they can continue holding. At least this way, the patient has options and feels that they are still being helped.

In terms of patients standing at your counter, catching you in a flustered mess mixed with a touch of bad mood, it is the difference between being a quality patient care provider and not being one. And it is the difference between attracting more patients for the practice to grow. Word of mouth referral is the number one patient generator in dental practices. Even though by noon your day is starting to level out, you just affected more than the four patients who hung up and the three you were rude to earlier in the morning.

If you only have certain people in the office who handle certain tasks, think about cross training. What if one of those people in your office is sick or has a family emergency and will be out suddenly for a long period of time? Can your practice handle that? Are you prepared? The dental practice has to be able to function smoothly so that your patients are not affected. You never know when your system is going to go awry, but if you are prepared and know how to handle those situations that may come, your patients will not be affected and the image you portray as a practice will not be harmed. For more information on training for dental front office positions go to or email

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