Troubleshooter 5 30

Thursday Troubleshooter: I have to clock out when patients don't show

May 30, 2013
Two experts address the issue

QUESTION: I was wondering if anyone else is having to clock out and back in if a patient fails to come in for his or her appointment? And yes, I’m an hourly employee. I would appreciate any info.

ANSWER FROM GINNY HEGARTY, SPHR, President, Dental Practice Development, Inc.
This is a legitimate response on the doctor’s part, however, not the one I’d recommend. It’s also legal, as long as you are fully discharged of your duties while clocked out.

While it may seem like a logical response at first glance, I think it creates a classic “lose/lose” result, and I’d like to offer some alternatives to consider if you would prefer another solution.

When business slows down, that’s a great time to create new energy through innovative solutions. I’d suggest you think about what you could do instead of clocking out, and approach the doctor for a heart-to-heart conversation. In my experience the doctor will appreciate your initiative.

Let the doctor know you understand the challenges that open time in the schedule presents, and you’d like to be part of the solution. Talk about ways you could contribute value in another capacity during the open time. Here are some examples:

§ Assist the doctor in an expanded functions capacity if you are so trained and certified.
§ Assist the doctor with emergency patients, treatment presentations, and consults, particularly with new patients.
§ Work with the hygiene coordinator to contact patients who are overdue for hygiene.
§ Prepare a hygiene training session for the full team for a team meeting so everyone is kept abreast of the most current diagnostics, preventive measures, and treatment recommendations, which enables them to actively support your efforts with patients.

I’d also recommend that the doctor speak with the team member responsible for the continuing care/reactivation program. It’s not uncommon to find that only 40% of patients are active. Perhaps it’s time to update the reactivation system. I’d be happy to talk with you about options. This represents tremendous opportunity for both practice profitability and patients’ overall health. That’s a classic “win/win” solution!

ANSWER FROM COLLEEN RUTLEDGE, Perio Therapeutics and Beyond
Most dentist/employers who pay hourly do not expect hygienists to "clock in and out" when a patient fails or cancels. However, this depends upon the agreement made during the employment offer, and this information should have been disclosed during the initial interview process.

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