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To ensure dental patient understanding, say it. Then say it again, and again.

Sept. 13, 2019
This dental practice administrator's team knows patient communication is extremely important. To get patients to retain what they're told, the team repeats things at least three times.

When you’ve worked at the same practice with the same team for 21 years, you can communicate with each other without saying a thing. It can be a certain look in your eye that says, “This patient has serious dental anxiety,” or a sparkle in your smile that tells a coworker she did an amazing job with a difficult patient.

But when it comes to patient communications and understanding, our team has found we need to repeat information three times—at a minimum. 

Our entire team is committed to ongoing training and practicing communications skills. When it comes to the most critical conversation—recommended treatment—we use the “rule of three,” or “three-peat.”

Here’s an example of repeating the treatment recommendations and why. This is during a patient’s experience from hygiene to the front desk.

1. The hygienist finds an area of concern that needs to be checked by the doctor. The doctor diagnoses and shares with the patient what treatment is needed and why. “Mrs. Jones, I’m glad Sue brought tooth number 12 to my attention. As you can see on the monitor, there’s a significant crack. That makes the tooth vulnerable and it could break. We certainly don’t want that to happen. I am going to ask Sue to get you on the schedule as soon as possible and get that fixed.”

2. The hygienist repeats the information as she transfers the patient to the patient care coordinator, who has already been told the treatment recommendation and has a plan prepared.  “Amy, today Mrs. Jones had a preventive care appointment where we did a cleaning, exam, and fluoride treatment. The doctor is concerned with tooth number 12. There is a visible crack that makes the tooth vulnerable to breaking. This is a priority and we need to see Mrs. Jones again soon.” 

3. Finally, the patient care coordinator reiterates the treatment needed and why. “Mrs. Jones, today you were in for a preventive appointment, where the doctor found a significant crack in your tooth. We can take care of this before it breaks.  Your benefits will contribute $XX to the treatment, and your investment is $XX. We have several payment options, including special financing with the CareCredit credit card. Would you like to hear more about this option?”

When it comes to taking care of patients, our goal is to do most of the work, so they don’t have to. They have a million things going on, so we want to give them one less thing to worry about. From insurance benefits to providing a financial solution such as CareCredit that can help manage out-of-pocket expenses, we work with our patients as much as we can to aid them in getting healthy.

Bea Camacho is the office manager for Rock Ridge Dental in Round Rock, Texas. She is a native Texan who started her career as a dental assistant and later moved to the front office. She is a proud member of AADOM. Bea enjoys swapping recipes to cook and entertaining her family and friends.

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