Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2015 06 Football Pass 1

The dental patient hand off – don’t drop the ball

June 8, 2015
Dental patients pay more attention to the way they are treated by the staff, maybe even more than how their treatment turns out. It's important to treat them well, and this includes handling the patient hand off exceptionally well. Here's how.
It’s so important in a dental practice to offer great customer service. Patients don’t usually judge the staff on the dentistry as much as they do on how they are treated.

There are many elements to integrate high-quality customer service into a dental office, but I find the best way to do this is to start one step at a time. This article focuses on one of the missed opportunities in many dental offices that will not only improve customer service for your patients, but will also help your practice run more efficiently.

This missed opportunity is patient hand offs. A hand off in a dental office is similar to a hand off in a football game. If the football is not handed off well to the next player then it might easily be fumbled or intercepted. In a dental office the players are the staff and the football is the patient. If patients aren’t handed off properly, they can easily become lost in the processes of the office, or information pertaining to them can get fumbled along the way. Teams that fumble can easily have their patients intercepted by other dentists. The good news is this can be easily prevented.

A hand off is essential when providing excellent customer service. From the moment a patient is seated until the moment they walk out the door after their appointment, they need to be directed by a staff member and handed off when moving from one area of the office to the next. Many offices attempt to hand off patients, but all they really do is walk the patient through the office to the next location and do not actually hand over the responsibility of the patient from one team member to the next. A good hand off is not only physically leading the patient to the next place, but also verbally passing that patient to the next person on the team.

Just as a football player needs to be in position and ready to catch the ball, a dental team member needs to be ready to receive the patient hand off. When the hand off occurs, it’s important that the next person is ready and listening. The receiving team member needs to pay attention and put everything else aside for a moment so they can fully comprehend what they’re being told about the patient. The receiving team member must make sure they’ve received all data necessary so they can fully help patients get what they need next.

It’s important to communicate three things during a verbal hand off. The first part of the hand off should consist of a synopsis of what was done, of important things that happened during the patient’s appointment. This allows the patient to get a summary of the great treatment they received in the office, and allows receiving team members to make sure they learn all that was done in case there were any changes.

The second piece of information for the receiving team member is the next step for this patient. This allows the team member to know what the patient needs next, as well as confirm the next step in front of the patient.

Lastly, was the information confirmed and understood so that the patient feels confident in the football being passed? The team member handing off the patient should confirm that the team member receiving the patient has all the data necessary so they can take the patient successfully through to the next step. A confirmation is also made with the patient that everything was correct and nothing was left out of the transfer of data.

Again, a good hand off, though it might not seem like it makes too much difference, can help instill trust with patients about the care they receive from your office. It may seem to instinctively make sense, but this is not the case for everyone on the team. The step missed by many dental offices is not training everyone in the office. Team members need to understand why a good hand off is vital and then actually practice it until it’s comfortable and feels normal for everyone on the team. Remember, practice makes perfect, and with practice, your team can be like a well-prepared football team passing the ball seamlessly to make the touchdown.

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Laura is the founder of Front Office Rocks, the leader in online front office training. She has worked with her husband, Dr. Anthony Hatch, to start and grow two extremely successful dental practices (one in Baltimore and a current office in San Diego) to million dollar, fee-for-services offices that focus on exceptional customer service and average 80 new patients per month. As an authority on dental front office training, Laura has developed training methods that consist of established ideas and practical training that can be easily implemented into any office. Reach her at [email protected].