Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post published by permission of its author.
Consistent patient information is very important from all aspects of the orthodontic office. The administrative team needs to convey the same message as the treatment coordinator. This is then reinforced by the clinical team and is backed up by the administrative team as the patient leaves the office. Whether it is a scheduling concern or elastic wear from the clinical area, having the entire team relaying the same information gives consistency to the office. Patients will also learn that each team member supports the others and they cannot “get around” office guidelines by working with a different team member or the doctor. When the patient and parent hear the same message by all team members this demonstrates that the office is consistent with their policies and procedures.
Guidelines and expectations need to be established by the doctor and team. This applies to scheduling, early and late patients, patients with breakage, as well as compliance and other concerns the office is experiencing. Once these guidelines are established they should be presented to the patient in written form. Many of these are discussed in the new patient process and sent home with the patient and parent in the exit package. Verbal information regarding elastics, appliances, oral hygiene, etc. should be given to the patient and the parent at the time of delivery. The information should also go home in written form to reinforce the message given in the office. If the patient or parent has questions this gives them a quick reference and can sometimes save an emergency call to the office.
Build Sharable Communication
There are some short informative video clips that can be used chairside to educate patients on appliances, elastics, and oral hygiene. The outdated videos that lasted for twenty minutes and the patient watched the first three minutes are a thing of the past. The new videos that are produced are about two to three minutes long. They cover oral hygiene, a variety of appliances, elastic wear and many other topics. This information can also be copied onto a disc and sent home with the patient. This is very helpful for patients to share with anyone who is expected to help with compliance. For the parent who is unable to come to the appointment or a separate household that the child lives in part time these are effective ways to relay the information. When all parties involved with the patient understand the expectations they can help reinforce compliance and encourage strong patient effort.
Consistently Grade for Rewards
Good oral hygiene is expected from all patients. Each clinical assistant should be evaluating this at each appointment. A consistent monitoring system needs to be in place. One assistant cannot allow swollen gums for an “A” grade on brushing while another gives the patient a lower grade. Standards can be set that make each team member aware of what constitutes an “A” grade so rewards can be earned. Once these standards are established, photos representing each grading level should be taken. This will help each clinician consistently grade each patient. This information needs to be documented at each patient visit for legal recording purposes. There are many reward systems available – coins, wooden nickels, paper dollars – that give patients with good oral hygiene, no breakage, on time for their appointment, and compliance an opportunity to earn rewards. These rewards can be redeemed for prizes ranging from simple gift cards to local businesses to more elaborate rewards, such as iPods and game systems.
A system for addressing all patient compliance guidelines should be established and maintained by all team members. A series of letters or contacts to the parent regarding oral hygiene and compliance issues will keep everyone informed of areas for improvement. These will also provide information regarding any changes in the estimated completion date of their treatment.
Andrea Cook’s in-office, hands-on training motivates and energizes orthodontic clinical teams. She bases training systems on practical knowledge gained through 20 years chairside experience. She works as a clinical consultant and trainer for premier orthodontic offices across the country. Andrea has assisted many offices in developing their guidelines. Contact her for assistance in developing yours! Learn more at AndreaCookConsulting.com