25 Jun 2012

Creating the Ultimate Doctor-Hygiene Patient Exam

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Five Keys To Creating An Ultimate Patient Experiencedental patient exams

By Dental Industry Speaker Karen Davis, RDH, BSDH

We’ve all been there.  Frustrated!  It seems as though the examination portion of the hygiene visit often lends itself to increased stress.  See if any of these scenarios sound familiar:

  •  The doctor wonders how many times he has to ask his hygienist to please have intra-oral pictures displayed and radiographs ready when he or she enters the room!
  • The clinical assistant and hygienist’s blood pressure starts rising because it took forever to get the doctor in hygiene, and now it’s taking forever to get the doctor out!
  • The patient’s tension rises from a feeling of being rushed, after waiting 10 – 15 minutes for the doctor to complete a 2 minute examination!
  • The administrator sighs in frustration as yet another patient complains about the     fee for the doctor’s exam since, “She was only in there a minute, and besides, she said       everything was great!”

While there are many elements to consider in creating an ultimate exam within the hygiene appointment, preventing these frustrations on a routine basis can be accomplished with entire team support.  Here are a few considerations for achieving an ultimate experience.

1.  Let go of the idea that a prophylaxis appointment is all the patient needs!  In practice after practice, hygienists are desperately attempting to educate the patient, change behavior, scale all calculus, remove all stain and plaque, perform and record periodontal evaluations, update radiographs, apply fluoride, identify restorative concerns, and so on, all in ONE appointment that lasts 45 – 60 minutes, IF you get started on time!  Sound impossible?  It is. The American Dental Association has done a great job defining the difference between a prophylaxis, scaling and root planing, and periodontal maintenance.  Early in the appointment, if data collected reveals a periodontal diagnosis, it is easy to determine which patients need additional therapy and which patients need preventive care.

2.  Don’t wait until the last five minutes of the appointment to have the exam:  In most busy dental practices, waiting until the hygienist is completely finished before notifying the doctor for an exam is almost a guarantee of running behind.  Many times it is impossible for the doctor to immediately leave a tedious or technique-sensitive procedure to go examine a hygiene patient.  Having a hygienist notify the doctor once data has been collected and potential treatment discussed will enable the doctor to look for a natural break in a procedure, interrupt the hygienist during his or her treatment, perform the examination, then both return to completion of their treatments.

3. Use visuals to replace wordy descriptions:  Patients will understand and retain information significantly better if audible and visual learning takes place together.  Instead of us doing all of the talking (while working on the patient) and them being the captive audience, we should intentionally let the “pictures speak 1000 words” for us.  Intra-oral pictures, before and after pictures, educational pamphlets, radiographic pictures, Caesy®, etc., all assist in the co-discovery process necessary for patients to really desire what we recommend.

4.  Sit the patient upright for communication:  Contrary to how most of us commonly communicate with patients, if we are willing to pause, sit the patient upright to describe conditions, discuss possible treatment, educate them with visuals, we find we actually have to say less, because the patient’s ability to hear and retain information is significantly greater with the use of good eye contact and body positioning.  Sitting the patient upright also allows the patient to feel more comfortable and ask questions and enables us to become the listener. Most patients will not proceed with treatment until their questions have been answered!

5.  Rise above insurance dictation:  Patients all across the country tend to approach dental decisions much the same way: “If insurance pays for it, okay.  If not, no thanks!(Particularly,when no symptoms are involved).  Patient’s questions concerning dental insurance should be consistently answered with a response that educates them about insurance reality.  The reality is that dental insurance really is not “coverage”.  Dental insurance is simply assistance to help defray costs of quality dental care, and dental health decisions should be based upon need and desire, not solely upon insurance reimbursement.

Having an ultimate experience does require planning and forethought and may include change for some, but the rewards of being deliberate about how we approach this important time allotment in the hygiene appointment can directly lower stress throughout the practice, increase the patient’s understanding, and most importantly, improve case acceptance to achieve optimal clinical results we desire for all our patients.

To learn more about the solutions and strategies shared by Dental Industry Speaker and Expert Karen Davis – call her today at (972) 669-1555.  

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