Your hygiene department should be a fruitful resource of productive procedures for the schedule, especially if you have a recall program.
(Note: to learn how to build a consistently productive hygiene department that makes a great profit on it’s – before the doctor even picks up a handpiece – do the Hygiene & Recall Course on our online training platform,DDSSuccess.com!)
With everything in place, your hygienist can help increase case acceptance and keep the schedule full and productive. Here are 4 ways your hygienist can help increase case acceptance within your practice:
Treating every recall patient as if it was their first visit
I’m sure we’ve all had recall patients who don’t accept their treatment even though they’ve needed a few crowns for several years. It can be easy to think, “Here’s Joe Shmoe again… they’ll never accept their treatment.” Even though you haven’t said a word to each other, you are already objecting for them. So, my first piece of advice is to treat every recall patient as if it was their first visit.
This doesn’t mean you need to do a full-mouth x-ray and initial exam (unless it’s needed). Just take a fresh look at the patient. After all, it has been six months since you’ve seen them and things can change. Go over any outstanding treatment with them newly, even if you have discussed it at a prior appointment.
In many cases, the patient doesn’t even remember what treatment they need or why. Plus, chances are they didn’t understand how important it was for them to get said treatment — or they would have accepted it the first time it was discussed!
So, how do you go about this? Well, you wouldn’t just pick up from where you left off. Explain everything again and don’t assume they’ll put it off, or that they don’t have enough money, or that they’ll have to think about it; don’t assume anything.
Sometimes it takes repetition and persistence for the patient to really get it. Don’t be afraid to explain the same thing three times. Of course, don’t do this like a tape recorder – you can vary your explanation – but go over it three times. Persistence does pay off.
Educating the patients
While hygienists are not allowed to diagnose, they do have valuable knowledge that they can use to educate the patients.
Your hygienist spends more time with patients than anyone else in the office. Use this as an opportunity to educate them more extensively on the treatment they need and why they need it.
I believe most hygienists would be on board with this idea because the goal is to help the patient make educated choices and get healthy, which is why hygienists got into the profession to begin with – just like doctors.
Being in coordination with the doctor
Now, in order for the hygienist to talk about the treatment with the patient, they need to know what the treatment is. Which is why the doctor and the hygienist need to be in coordination with each other.
First thing in the morning, the hygienist should go through the chards for the day, see what treatment is was planned before, what hasn’t been accepted and jot down a few quick notes such as: “on this patient a bridge,” or something like that.
They should then get with the doctor and make sure they’re on the same page with the patients – this meeting can be 5 minutes or less.
Then, as the hygienist sees patients, they can reiterate the treatment that has been diagnosed during the cleaning. Now, depending on how long it’s been since the patient has been in the office, the treatment may have changed. So, since the doctor is the only one who can diagnose, they should look at the patient during the periodic exam during the recall appointment. If it’s a hygiene appointment that doesn’t require an exam, the doctor can always pop in for a minute to take a look.
Being on the same page with the doctor regarding clinical and treatment philosophy
It’s very important that the hygienist and doctor are on the same page, telling the patient the same thing about their treatment.
Wouldn’t it be confusing if you, as a patient, were told by the doctor that you needed one treatment and then the hygienist came in and said not to worry about it and that you didn’t need it? The patient isn’t going to follow through on either recommendation!
You may think this would never happen in your practice, but I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes enough to know it’s a fairly common occurrence around the industry.
So, be sure that both you, the doctor, and the hygienist are on the same page regarding clinical and treatment philosophy. If there is a real disagreement and neither side sill budge… it may not be the best fit on either side.
The key here is for the hygienist to take a few minutes every morning to coordinate and get on the same page with the doctor, along with creating a quick list of the treatment they’ll be talking to each patient about. I hope these tips have helped! We have an entire course devoted to hygiene and patient retention at our online training program, DDS Success. I recommend checking it out by clicking here.
MGE: Management Experts is a dental practice management training and consulting firm headquartered in St. Petersburg, FL. Over the last 25 years, MGE has helped thousands of dentists become more productive and improve organization and profitability. Learn more at www.mgeonline.com.