Dentist Has No Time For Patients

Thursday Troubleshooter: How can hygienist get dentist on board for hygiene exams?

June 26, 2014
This hygienist is fighting the age-old problem of getting the dentist to take more time to look at patients during their hygiene recare appointments.

QUESTION: I’m the only hygienist in a one-doctor practice. I get the feeling that when I buzz him for an exam I am interrupting his day. How can I get my doctor more excited and on board to do hygiene exams? Sometimes he barely takes time to look in patients’ mouths.

ANSWER FROM JUDY KAY MAUSOLF,of Practice Solutions, Inc: I have found it takes shifting the mindset to appreciate the value of the appointment. Dentists have become so focused on getting new patients they sometimes lose the value of their existing patients. In most cases the reality is that treatment from existing hygiene patients makes up approximately 75% or more of production. Yet the majority of the focus is on generating new patients, even with an ROI of 25% or less of total production.

It’s time to get back to the basics of what built the practice in the first place, and that’s focusing on the hygiene exam. Take time to discuss any unfinished treatment. Case acceptance is higher with your existing hygiene patients. Patients already have confidence in the doctor and practice. I also suggest scheduling a more comprehensive exam every three to five years to reestablish baseline and take full mouth X-rays. It is important for the hygienist to do a briefing with the doctor to build value in the appointment. Always share with the patient what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Otherwise, patients have no idea what comprehensive treatment they’re receiving.

Here’s an example of a briefing: Health history, blood pressure, oral cancer exam, today's treatment, X-rays, intraoral camera pictures, patient chief concerns, findings, home care, soft/hard tissue, perio status, bruxism, possible treatment needs, and regular recare appointments.

Getting back to the basics and spending time during the hygiene exam will the improve teamwork, patient experience, and the bottom line!

It sounds like you need to have a meeting with the dentist to discuss your concerns. It is difficult to have patient compliance if the hygienist and dentist are not on the same script. After all, if the dentist is not enthusiastic about the visit, patients won't be either and may not return for regular recare appointments.

Hygiene appointments are necessary for any practice's success and provide stability and longevity to a healthy practice.

There should be systems in place that address the level of care to be administered for every type of appointment. By setting and following protocols for each hygiene appointment, the dentist and hygienist can get together and communicate any areas of concern with the patient. When we are consistent with each appointment, patients place value on these appointments and know that they are not "just a cleaning." Perhaps you and the dentist can work together to set these protocols so that you both have the same expectations.

By discussing your concerns with the dentist and reaffirming your desire to give patients the best care possible, the dentist will realize that you need him to be successful not only to keep the practice productive, but more importantly, to help keep your patients healthy and coming back. Best of luck to you and the dentist!

Editors note: It will also be helpful to read this new article on DIQ:3 steps for creating effective doctor hygiene exams

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