Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post published by permission of its author.
I work with many orthodontic offices to increase their patient communication. When I introduce the “Post-Patient Consult” to teams, their first response is, “We already do that.” And to a certain degree they absolutely do part of it! This communication happens in the orthodontic office as well as many other dental and medical specialty practices.
Typically, we see that orthodontic clinicians give patients oral hygiene grading and compliance information during the appointment. Clinicians give patients post procedure instructions, often while removing instruments from the tray, lowering the dental chair and removing the patient’s bib. How much of the information do you think the patient retains while all of this other activity is taking place? It’s no wonder that the patients develop “patient amnesia” and don’t retain a thing you said during the walk from the operatory to the front desk.
There is so much to be gained from a structured, focused post-procedure consult that truly takes only 2-3 minutes to complete. This consult offers so much more than just giving patients and parent progress information on the fly. The benefits include relationship building and better informed patients and parents — resulting in fewer call backs and lack of compliance because patients didn’t hear or understand the instructions. Another benefit is higher levels of patient commitment to future appointments resulting in reduced numbers of cancellations and no-shows. Are all of these potential benefits worth spending an additional few minutes with each patient? You decide.
Picture this scene. At the end of the appointment, the team member who worked with the patient says “I would like to give you and your parent (whoever is with the patient) some important information.” This lets the patient know that the appointment is not over yet. The assistant will walk the patient to the stand-up consult area (or quiet area) for the brief consultation.
Even though the assistant is concerned about getting the chair turned over and seating the next patient, it’s vital that she or he must not appear rushed. This patient and parent deserve full attention and a thorough report, which includes the opportunity to ask questions or express any concerns. The sterilization technician or another assistant can disinfect the chair and be ready for seating the next patient.
Information to include in the post procedure consultation:
- WHAT was done today (brief description of the procedure/s). Be sure to include compliance and oral hygiene: “Mr. Johnson, today Dr. Smith placed two new archwires. Johnny did a good job of brushing his front teeth but I would like him to spend more time on his back teeth.” Giving them this information in patient-friendly terms will ensure they understand what was done. Using our dental terms ~ pano, incisors, etc. ~ may confuse the patient or parent and make the information difficult to understand.
- WHAT the patient can expect: “Johnny should have minimal discomfort after today’s procedure, but if his teeth become sore he can take some Advil and may want a softer diet for a couple days.”
- WHAT is next: “At your next appointment, Dr. Smith will have Johnny start wearing some elastics to help align his bite. This appointment should take about 20 minutes.”
- WHEN and WHY it’s important to keep this appointment as scheduled: “In order to keep Johnny’s treatment on track Dr. Smith would like to see Johnny back in 6-7 weeks”. This will help with patients extending rotations to get an after-school or premium appointment.
- “WHAT questions may I answer for you?” It’s important to ask an open-ended question with the assumption that the patient is expected to have questions. Be sure to thoroughly answer any and all questions or concerns before you turn the patient over to the scheduling coordinator or dismissing the patient.
This structure should be followed consistently by all team members who dismiss patients. Now, watch the benefits of a thorough post-patient consultation unfold. Better informed patients will make fewer call backs for information. You will see more patient commitment to compliance and keeping appointments because the importance of doing that has been communicated and stressed. Most importantly, patients will feel cared for and valued and will appreciate the time you spent with them. You will treasure the art of the post patient consultation because of all the benefits it provides to patients and your practice.
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. Learn more at AndreaCookConsulting.com