I recall speaking at the Canadian Dental Association/Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver, B.C., and a point came up worth revisiting from time-to-time in the office. It has to do with doing the right thing for the patient when the patient has not been doing the right thing for him or herself!
Here’s the scenario:
A patient who has not been in for a couple of years or more, who has unscheduled treatment, calls with a “problem.” A tooth that you had discussed in the past, but the patient refused treatment has now broken. The patient is not in pain, but wants to come in to get it treated or “smoothed off.” Before you jump right in and schedule the patient to get the tooth fixed, you might want to rethink your direction. There might be a bigger opportunity here that would be in the patient’s best interest. Is it better for the patient to just keep patching things when they break, or get on a path of lifetime care? So here is how you Redirect and Appoint.
Appointment Coordinator (AC): “Mr. Jones, I am so sorry to hear you are having problems. Could you hold for just a moment while I get your records?”
AC: “Mr. Jones, I have your records here. Let me guess. Is it the tooth on the lower left?” (Make the best guess you can without asking which tooth.)
Patient: “No, it is on the upper right.”
AC: “Interesting. I would have guessed that the tooth on the lower left would have broken before the one on the upper right. Mr. Jones, it looks like your body is starting to tell you something. I can tell by looking at your chart that this is not going to be an isolated incident. There are other teeth that are much worse off than the one that broke. Let’s go ahead and get you scheduled right away to come in and address the tooth that did break and while you are here, I am going to schedule an exam so you can have an update on your current health and you can discuss with the doctor what to do so this does not happen again or worse in these other areas. Does that make sense?”
Here’s the point:
- The only way to get a patient on the right track is to have current records and a treatment plan. Doesn’t it make sense to do that in one visit when urgency is compelling them to come in rather than trying to convince them to come back for an exam after the urgency is gone.
- All of us need a little push from time to time to be reminded of what is really important. When the body gives patients a reminder that it is being neglected, we need to be right there to reinforce that message and get them on the right track instead of supervising the patient’s neglect.
So, watch and listen for these opportunities to “Redirect and Appoint.” It is the right thing for the patient, the right thing for the practice, and the right thing for your professional and clinical integrity.