Doctor-exam-for-hygiene appointment

June 8, 2010
Have you been waiting for the doctor for awhile? Survey indicates most dental hygienists wait five to 10 minutes for the doctor to arrive for their exam during the hygiene appointment. Do you wait longer?

Half of America’s dental hygienists wait five to 10 minutes for the dentist to arrive for the doctor’s exam during a dental hygiene appointment, and 28% blame the anxiety they feel from waiting for the doctor on overbooking, short appointment times, and lack of coordination between restorative and hygiene appointments.

RDH eVillage polled its readers in its May 14, 2010, issue about doctors’ exams, and 842 responded.

Despite any aggravation experienced from waiting for the doctor, 68% of dental hygienists reported “excellent collaboration in reaching a diagnosis” with the doctor.

Most dental hygienists indicated that they inform the doctor that a patient requires an exam “during an appropriate stopping point during the appointment” (412%) or “after hygiene data collection/assessment” (39%). However, 14% said they use the daily “huddle” or staff meeting to inform the doctor about exams, and 7% post notice at the beginning of the dental hygiene appointment.

How is the doctor notified of a patient’s readiness for the exam? The overwhelming majority (64%) “personally and verbally request it.” The remainder said they use an intercom system (24%), practice management software (6%), or another employee, such as a dental assistant (6%).

Despite the effectiveness of any system for notifying the doctor, it’s still about waiting for the doctor to show up. The dental hygienists who responded to the survey were given four options to choose as representing the average amount of time they spend waiting for a dentist (see related chart).

Overall, 38% of patients undergo a doctor’s exam at each dental hygiene appointment; 50% said the doctor’s exam was based on the recare cycle or state requirements.

The question devoted to anxiety over waiting for a doctor to appear was phrased as, “If you frequently feel anxiety over waiting for the doctor to arrive, how much of it can be attributed to the office’s scheduling policies, in your opinion?” The responses included:

• Very much, our policy overbooks patients and/or has too short of appointments scheduled for most dental hygiene appointments. (11% chose this answer)

• Very much, the doctor’s schedule does not mesh well with the hygiene appointments. (17% chose this answer)

• The schedule is fine, if the doctor would just keep up with it. (43% chose this answer)

• Our scheduling policies are usually adequate, and the doctor respects the necessity of completing the examination promptly. (30% chose this answer)

Other statistics generated by the survey included:

RDH eVillage asked readers whether they are required to have intraoral camera images on a monitor in preparation for an exam. Only 24% indicated that they are required to do so, although another 28% said they “occasionally” have intraoral images ready for certain patients.

RDH eVillage also asked what the dental hygienist did during the doctor’s exam. For this question, the reader was able to choose multiple answers. Most (96%) remain in the treatment room during the exam, but other activities included “housekeeping chores” (14%); starting with the next patient (13%); or taking a brief break from dental hygiene duties (3%).