No staff member can hide

March 21, 2012

Whatever role you play in your practice-doctor, front desk team member, the assistant, the hygienist, or another valuable job within the practice-your communication and interaction with the patients directly impacts their relationship with the practice. In order for the patient to feel they are receiving individualized care, it becomes essential for all team members to be aware of each patient’s needs. Each team member is critical to setting and managing the patients’ expectations for care and service.

Whatever role you play in your practice-doctor, front desk team member, the assistant, the hygienist, or another valuable job within the practice-your communication and interaction with the patients directly impacts their relationship with the practice. In order for the patient to feel they are receiving individualized care, it becomes essential for all team members to be aware of each patient’s needs. Each team member is critical to setting and managing the patients’ expectations for care and service.

Communication-both verbal and non-verbal, written and body language-are key for job description and exceptional patient management. When was the last time you had a team meeting-a lengthy team meeting, 2 hours or so-to identify points of interaction between your team and your patients? Or worked to establish protocol to ensure the experience is a positive one for both the patient and the practice? Exceptional practices commit to spending time in training to not only manage patient expectations/results but to strengthen the relationship into a referral source.

Which role do you play? Look below to see how you can contribute?

Front Office Team Members
(appointment coordinator, business/office administrator, financial coordinator, tax coordinator, etc.)

Because you are the first and last face/voice of each patient experience, your ability to know just what to do and say and how to listen will be key in setting the expectations and following up to be sure the results were achieved. Awareness of patient personality styles and emotional motivators in combination with the communication tools of active listening and objection handling will allow patients to truly feel they have been heard and their needs meet.

To be sure there are not unmet expectations, providing patients with the practice guidelines related to scheduling, payments, the role of their insurance in their treatment at the New Patient Experience and/or the Treatment Consultation is a must. Developing the necessary communication during the patient handoffs from one provider to the next will allow this to be a seamless process for both the New Patient and the Patient of Record.

Assistant

As the team member who is side by side with the patient both in the hallway when the conversations may be more casual and in the operatory when the patient needs reassurance; your role in patient management is much like that of a liaison. Often the patient will turn to you to verify what has been said or to question the office protocol. Being able to use premier listening skills-along with identifying the patient’s motivators and sharing the office guidelines will let the patient feel heard, diffuse any upset and continue to support the relationship. So that the next team member is able to accept this patient and their concerns, the assistant hand off becomes more than essential.

Hygienist

Because the hygienist has a more specific focus and perhaps limited time to accomplish the tasks related to the job description; it may seem as if they aren’t able to have a great impact on patient management. Yet the hygienist is the team member who generally spends the most time with each patient-therefore having the best opportunity to truly manage the patient expectations and results. The hygienist is able to support and clarify any diagnosed treatment questions the patients may have and continue to communicate the practice vision of caring and flexibility in fielding financial/insurance concerns. The hygienist is usually the first person to hear of personal events in the patients lives that my affect their emotional response to accepting treatment, insurance issues, practice guidelines, etc. Assuring the patient they are valued through listening to their concerns and then sharing the information with the team member who can best handle the concern is key in continuing the patient relationship.

Doctor

Of course, all of the roles begin with the doctor’s vision of the practice; which states both the level of care and the way it is to be delivered. If the Vision of the Practice is not uppermost in the communications of the practice, then this would be a great place to begin the patient management training. That takes us back to the necessity for team training and communication opportunities being regularly scheduled. When the doctor is the one brings the energy and value to this training, the team becomes eager participants.

Everyone is very aware that by the doctor spending the time to listen to a patient, reach out with a phone call and making sure the patient feels like a valued member of the patient family is critical in the patient management process.

It is no secret that communication is the greatest tool you have in patient management. No piece of technology, extended practice hours, flexible payment plans or patient courtesies will take the place of exceptional communication.

After all is said and done, each dental team member owns a share in the responsibility for patient management. Using team meetings as both training opportunities and sharing of patient concerns along with a high commitment to exceeding patients’ expectations will result in patient relationships that indeed match the Vision of the practice.

Pam Haffner is a Pride Institute Consultant.