Two weeks ago I discussed the important role that a dental hygienist plays in the creation of an EXPERIENCE for their patient so that the hygiene visit for the regular loyal dental patient is not simply “just another cleaning” or “it’s only a clean”.
This regularly scheduled visit truly can be an ULTIMATE PATIENT EXPERIENCE each and every time.
In that article we discussed the important role that the dental hygienist plays at the beginning of every patient’s hygiene appointment. We looked at the important role of Emily the hygienist in creating a perfect platform at the start of Mrs Smith’s hygiene appointment, truly “setting the stage” for the remainder of the visit to be a World Class Experience.
Then last week I discussed the level of trust established between the hygienist and the patient already during the first forty minutes of the hygiene appointment, and how with that, the time taken by the dentist to do the examination and explain treatment inside the hygiene room was significantly less than when the hygienist took no part in any uncovering and discovery of areas of concern prior to the arrival of the dentist.
The other major thing we found by doing hygiene exams this way was that the amount of diagnosed restorative treatment coming from the hygiene rooms that was explained and proposed, and subsequently scheduled and completed, was significantly more in each of those four categories, than when the dentist played the role of SOLO DIAGNOSTICIAN arriving when and where he felt like it.
How Does The Hygienist Notify The Dentist?
The hygienist must go and notify the dentist IN PERSON that she is ready for him to come and do the examination on her hygiene patient.
“Can’t she just BUZZ him?”
The replacement of *maximum* human interaction by any form of automation or diminished human participation seriously detracts from the derived benefit the office gains in creating an inviting environment of caring coworkers behaving warmly and lovingly towards each other and towards their patients and towards their duties and roles within the office.
The entry of the hygienist to the dentist’s treatment room, when done correctly, acts as an advertisement for the hygiene department, and also acts as an advertisement for the wonderful personality of the hygienist.
It allows the dentist to excuse himself from the treated patient and “introduce” the hygienist’s service, as he leaves the treatment room for a few minutes….
And if the dentist’s patient is known to the hygienist it also allows opportunity for the hygienist to “acknowledge” the doctor’s patient…
In all cases the personable arrival of the hygienist is a positive interruption for the practice…with a positive result.
This is because it also allows us to expose and show off our air of kindness atmosphere and culture, in the way that we herald and announce this minor interruption to the doctor.
And yes, I’ve seen in some dental offices where the dental software is used to alert the doctor that the hygienist is ready.
I like the idea of this process being discrete, but I also like the idea of announcing that the doctor is needed in the hygiene room being used as a “positive” for the dental office image.
Similarly, using the software and then having the dentist’s dental assistant announce to the doctor that he is needed to do a “hygiene check” is of little value to the practice and will be seen by the patient being treated in the dentist’s chair as an unnecessary and unwanted interruption and delay in the valuable appointment time that that patient is paying for.
Likewise, having someone else in the office enter the doctor’s treatment room and say something along the lines that the dentist is “needed to do a hygiene check” is also inappropriate and somewhat less than professional, in my view.
As I’ve said previously, at my dental office we decided that the best time for the dentist to be summoned to the hygiene room was at the 40-minute mark of the one-hour hygiene appointment.
This time worked best for both the hygienist as well as for the dentist, and became the “foundation” or the “spine” of the dental appointment book schedule.
The Dentist’s appointment book was then structured accordingly so that he was able to leave a treated patient, if needed, at this time.
This meant that a little thought then had to go in to the Dentist’s appointment book template, so that the dentist was always able to be available for each hygiene examination. For example, it meant that the doc was never to be doing endo, or anything under rubber dam, during the second half of every hour.
So here’s what happens:
Firstly, the hygienist notifies her patient that it is now time for the dentist to come and review her findings and “do the examination”, and she will go and get him.
She excuses herself from her hygiene patient, and adds:
“I’ll be back in a moment.”
She leaves her hygiene room and then enters the dentist’s treatment room.
She knows where to stand, so that her presence is known, and then she starts speaking.
She stands just to the right side of the dentist.
She has paperwork, including paper notes, that she can show the dentist if need be, without him having to turn or crane.
Her script, when she speaks, is polite and friendly, but more importantly it is purposeful.
She has a specific message to inform the doctor, as well as a subliminal message for the patient being treated.
“Excuse me Dr Moffet”.
“Good morning/ good afternoon/ hello, Emily”
followed by a pause.
Emily then says,
“I have Mrs. Joan Smith in today [pause].”
“She’s a new patient to the practice”
“She’s in for her regular six-month/three-month hygiene visit”.
By saying this, the hygienist subliminally informs the dentist’s patient being treated that the practice welcomes new patients, or that the practice encourages regular hygiene visits.
[I was never too concerned with identifying patients as it gave patients a name, and identity, rather than not. The advantages of using a person’s name far outweighed the risk of any privacy breaches… just saying.]
Emily then says, depending, whether Mrs. Smith has anything to be really investigated or not….she will usually say,
“and her teeth and gums are looking very good”,
“there a few areas I need you to look at…”
Emily may even *advertise* some of our services….
“She’s interested in Invisalign/ some porcelain veneers…”
“There are a couple of teeth with large old restorations that I think may require replacement….”
Here Emily may be planting some seeds or confirming some treatment options that the patient with the dentist may also be having, or may be considering.
The dentist then usually replies indicating when and whether he will be down to the hygiene room, and when he does go, there is always a pleasant and friendly apology to the patient being treated.
If he is not able to excuse himself immediately, there is opportunity for the dentist to inform the patient being treated anything from:
“that’s Emily our hygienist, you’ll be seeing her soon, she is so gentle…”
“Oh Mrs. Brown, she has been coming here every six months for must be about twenty years now….”
I can’t emphasise enough that over all of this is laid an atmosphere of pleasantry, respect for all, and clear and concise communication, so that the interruption to the dentist’s patient being treated is felt as minimally as possible.
And of course, if the dentist’s patient is a regular patient of the dental practice, she will be understanding of this minor interruption because she knows, that this is what happens when she is having a hygiene visit.
Next week we’ll talk about the nuts and bolts and interactions during the “actual” examination process.
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