Communicating with our patients is an area where we continually struggle. This week I discuss some of my shortcomings in this area and describe some of the ways we are trying to improve. Listen in for that and more on episode 66 of Business of Dentistry podcast.
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Because we’ve focused on the big issues in our office we’ve been able to focus on smaller details, like patient communication. Recently a few things have come up in our office that I wanted to talk about with you and get your feedback.
The first one is my 8 hour rule about sedation: no food or drink 8 hours before your surgery and anesthesia. Yes that’s an old school approach so some people may instruct their patients otherwise, but it’s the rule I use with my patients.
However we routinely have people who don’t follow this. We make sure they are told this rule at their consult and it’s written on their pre-op instructions. They are also reminded of the 8 hour rule when we confirm their appointment. So we make sure they are told about it numerous times before the date of their procedure.
Yet people misinterpret it, and I don’t understand how! Typically two to three times a month we send people away because they’ve told me they’ve eaten or drank something in the previous 8 hours. And I won’t put them under sedation when that’s happened.
Now my bigger concern is these are the people who tell the truth, there must be some who just don’t tell me! I worry about how often that happens.
The other area I regularly see patient communication issues arise in is with financial agreements. This is especially true with implant patients. In our office we run into problems with patients starting the process with us; they’ll tell us they want to work with Doctor A so we reach out to that doctor. Doctor A coordinates with us and tells us they will do X as part of the procedure. So we plan accordingly and do the Y and Z parts of the procedure. We then provide the patients with an estimate based on the Y and Z parts we are doing.
But then the patient will come back to us and tell us they’ve changed insurance and changed doctors. So rather than working with Doctor A who we’ve already been in communication with and coordinated with, they now want to work with Doctor B. But Doctor B doesn’t do what Doctor A does so now I have to do doctor A’s work and charge for it, it’s an additional fee.
So of course the patient gets upset about it, even though the fee changed because the patient made a change of doctor.
Along those same lines an issue often arises when we talk to our patients about their payment options. With some patients we let them pay in increments, and we have the conversation and discuss their options. Later on they act as though the conversation never happened and they don’t know about the payment plan we discussed and agreed upon.
To help with this we’ve developed consultation sheets that explain everything. The form specifies what we talked about and then we have them sign and date it, so even if they say they didn’t agree to the payment options we now have a signed and dated form that says otherwise. It has helped a bit.
In general, I try to break communication down into simple terms. Can you think of anything else that can be done? Where do you see patterns with patients forgetting communication or complaining about something, and how do you address it? Any ideas you have I would love to hear, leave a comment below or email me.
Tweetable: “Documentation is key.”