The Patient Hand Off In Your Dental Practice.....AFTER ALL..."The Shortest Distance between two people is a smile" ~author unknown

Let's discuss the Value of every patient that comes into your Dental Practice. A successful "Hand -Off Process " requires that each Dental Team Member play an important role.

This is an example that I use quite frequently: Imagine for a moment it's the fourth quarter of the national championship football game; the score is tied, and your team's quarterback fakes a pass, turns, and hands the ball to the running back. The running back has absolutely no idea where he is supposed to go, gets slammed by the opposing team's defense, and fumbles the ball, which is promptly recovered by the opposing team and run in for a touchdown.

If you are imagining that dropping the ball even under pressure/heat is very unfortunate, pat yourself on the are correct!

Too often, missed plays like this one happen every day, but not just in sports. That very scenario is happening in Dental Practices all over the country right now! I am simply using the Football analogy as it similarly relates to the "hand-off" that is demonstrated in a Dental Practice. With football, the results might be a missed pass, interception, or a touchdown. The correlation in this scenario is that the dropped ball is the actual treatment on your Dental Patient. If you "drop the ball" you miss treatment. Sometimes this results in unethical outcomes, loss profit, and at times an unhappy patient.

Let's take a moment to really understand our Patient. This requires that you have a clear mindset and focus on the distinction of your value vs the economic value of the Patient. The First step is to understand your patient's value in today's economy, everything matters. Your Patients are analyzing the value of every dollar they spend. In fact, most are unaware of the difference between an amalgam and a composite restoration. Therefore, you and the entire Dental Team need the Educational "Hand-Off" perfected. The Patient typically receives the most valuable Education between the Doctor and Hygienist as part of their exam. Evaluate this in your Dental Practice.

For example, the important role of the dental hygienist as educator, mentor, and clinician is clearly understood. The Hygienist works especially hard at creating trusting relationships with each patient. Current research shows us links between periodontal health and total health, thus creating essential value in their role as an educator. In order for the Hygienist to be capable of providing the exceptional care necessary at every Patient appointment, communication must be priority. Many hygienists often feel like they are not sure of the doctor's expectations, with regard to discussing dentistry with their patients. This obstacle can be overcome by simply reviewing a more structured approach. This will answer questions, as well as clarify expectations. Another important factor, by utilizing a structured approach (i.e. meeting), is you have the opportunity to discuss office protocols and provide a supportive environment to explore new ideas, focus awareness on new technology, encourage initiatives, maintain consistency and revisit goals. Consistent support provided in your Hygiene area boosts confidence. This is vital in the "Hand-Off". The Hygienist spends such a critical portion of time with each patient. The bond that is created will become more enhanced as the level of confidence grows, ultimately reinforcing the understanding that the Hygienist is also an important player in overall production growth as well as Hygiene production. The dentist should hire and train their staff to understand and believe in their philosophy.
How do we continue to "coach" and perfect the "Hand-off" after the exam?

The Hygienist should prepare the patient. An effective transition between each member of the team, as the patient moves throughout the practice, is very important. People are more confident about the care they receive when they feel comfortable and respected by each team member. A simple way to effectively provide this confidence is to communicate – in front of them – your findings.

The Dentist must be the strong communicator in this play. By providing the necessary support and encouragement of each Dental Team Member this will be successful. Once the Hygienist has stated the recap of the exam, the Dentist must convey the message in a way they are comfortable with. When the Dentist takes an active role in communicating this message, credibility is provided for the value he places on hygiene therapy. The future outcome of this will result in fewer cancelled hygiene appointments, which ultimately will lead to healthier patients. There must be a clear understanding that the quality of communication with patients, regarding their treatment, has a direct impact on the number of patients who say yes. Your goal must be to strive for excellence. In other words, you absolutely must use verbal language, body language, and terminology that your patient understands and that clearly communicates the need for treatment if you want to increase your case acceptance rates. There has to be direct communication between the Dentist and Hygienist on this topic. Prior to every appointment, provide details. An example of this is, be certain in your morning huddle to: explain expectations regarding your new patients, keep consistency with exams, offer feedback, and support and grow your Hygienist. If your expectation is that the Intra Oral Camera is used at every appointment, remind the staff. Develop a protocol in the Hygiene operatory. For example, have the hygienist set the room up so that the images from the camera are ready to view, all charting is complete, and the Hygienist has already educated the patient prior to your arrival. This again creates that necessary value amongst Dental Team Members and the Patient. A structured organized play, whether by morning huddle or meetings, will offer the essential guidance in preventing the ball from "dropping" . The outcome of not missing out on the treatment can improve your overall growth results in a profound way.

Just as the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back, your entire Dental team can use this "Hand -Off" approach to make sure communication is carried through for each patient, from the time they're seated, until the time they leave with an appointment card in hand. Best of all, each team member knows exactly what he or she needs to do to move communication forward. The quality of your communication will essentially be equivalent to the quality of your results. By this I mean, understand what drove your patient to your Dental Practice. It most likely wasn't your clinical skills. Your communication skills are what encourages the acceptance of Treatment. Consider each team member is an extension of the doctor. Their behavior and communication is a reflection of the dentist's skill and personality. That is why it is so important to surround yourself with like-minded team members who believe in the importance of dental care.




 Watch the video below to learn even more!