Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The New Patient Experience . . . scheduling the appointment

An Imperfect Moment
You say (in your best first-contact-friendly voice):  “Okay Susie! Let’s find you an appointment.” 
Susie says:  “Well, I am already overdue, I know I should have called earlier, but I have been so busy. Do you have anything this week?”
You think to yourself: “She’s joking right? Does she not know we are booked out 6 weeks in advance?” 
Of course you have the right to your moment of griping, and, yes, the world would be a better place if all your patients magically understood exactly how your systems and processes work…
But what if you could spare yourself your moment of angst because you actually did have an appointment available this week to accommodate her?  You would make Susie’s day and at her next ‘girls day out luncheon’ she would be bragging about how awesome your office is.
Perfect Day Scheduling
 It takes a little discipline, but you and your front office team can do it with the help of the Dentrix feature Perfect Day Scheduling.

First, what is your daily goal for new patients?  Next, pre-block out the new patient spots using the Provider Setup on the Appointment Book. 
A WORD TO THE WISE:  I’d suggest you set these new patient time blocks in prime time.  If your goal is two new patients per day I would put one block at the end of the day since this is usually after work for most people and one either in the early morning or mid morning.  Later, if you find that your new patient spots are filling up weeks in advance, you might want to consider increasing the number of blocks you have per week.  If patients have to wait for their first visit, they may not schedule at all; you risk them calling the next dentist on the list to see if they can get in sooner.

The D Word
Once these time blocks are set in the schedule they stay open for new patients.  This is where the dreaded Discipline comes into play; you need to keep these spots available for new patients until 48 hours prior to the appointment.  Inevitably, you will have continuing care patients who want the spots, but don’t give them up!  Simply put your continuing patient on a call list and let them know that if you get an opening they will be the first person you call.  
Don’t Get Frustrated, Get Helpful!
New patients are the lifeblood of the practice and should be treated with extra special care.  People by nature are procrastinators and when they are ready to buy something - in this case your dentistry - they don’t want to have to wait.  That’s just how we imperfect humans operate.  Using Perfect Day Scheduling builds this insight right into your daily process, and ensures that each new patient experience gets started on the right foot. 
Of course, getting the new patient into the schedule is only the first step.  Next, it is up to the front office team to hand off to the clinical team so they can continue this first visit with the same care that was given with the initial phone call.  In my next post I’ll talk more about this critical handoff between the front and the back and share strategies for how to sustain a consistent level of quality care during the clinical exam. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

The New Patient Experience . . . initial telephone call

First Impressions Matter
You know that old saying: “You never have a second chance to make a first impression”?  Well that old saying still means a lot in this day when exceptional customer service is so hard to find.  How your front office team handles the very first phone call from a new patient not only establishes the patient’s perception of how his or her visit will go, it even impacts the likelihood that they will refer their friends and family.
Scripting your Success
“Thank you for calling Smiles by Johnson, this is Dayna, how may I help you?” 
“Hi, this is Susie I want to schedule a cleaning appointment.” 
“Great, how long has it been since you have been in Susie?”
“Oh, I have never been there, I am a new patient.”

Now what do you do?  Does your office have a scripted phone slip you use?  If you have a well rehearsed format for handling the new patient phone call, the patient will feel heard and well taken care of.  I suggest creating a form that helps the team member navigate through all the questions that are necessary to ensure the patient has an amazing first appointment and the office collects enough information so the clinical team can treat the patient effectively.  Check out this sample Telephone Information Slip that was created by Pride Institute.

Integrating The Telephone Slip With Your Paperless Chart
Now that you have collected this information, where in the heck do you put it?  If your office is still using paper charts, you might put it in an accordion file until the patient comes in to their new patient exam and then stick in the paper chart.  But what if you office is chartless?  I know I don’t want to keep any paper.  I have a couple suggestions for you.  Does this screen look familiar?:

How many of you use the check boxes at the bottom of the Appointment box?  Did you know that they are customizable?  You can take the information that you gather from the initial telephone call and use this area to keep a checklist for yourself and other team members can see if there is any missing information.  That way, when your new patient comes in to her or his appointment, you will be completely prepared and your patient will feel heard and taken care of.
Now the next question . . . where to schedule this new patient?  I will tackle this question in my next post.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Patient Route Slip . . . on Steroids!

The Patient Visit Form
This blog is for all you overachievers out there who were not happy with the existing Patient Route Slip and kept asking Dentrix if you could customize it your way.  Well here you go! We give you. . . The Patient Visit Form.
Start by Upgrading (if needed)
The first thing to know is that The Patient Visit Form came out in G4 PP8 so if you haven’t yet upgraded this might just push you over the edge.  After you upgrade to PP8 you will see a new icon at the top of your tool bar.  The patient visit form icon is directly to the left of the new Daily Huddle Report, (and if you haven’t read my blog about the Daily Huddle Report you will definitely want look for it in the archive section).
Customize Your Heart Out
After you select your patient and click on the icon you will get a box that looks like this:

As you can see from the above setup box, there are many more items you can select for your customized report.  Don’t worry, your report will still print out on one page; however, since you are able to add so much more information you might want to take a highlighter to the important parts until you memorize where everything is on the page.
Check out These Features
Here are some of the features I’m in love with – I’m sure you’ll find others:
·         The Family Alerts feature is cool if you want to see the pop-ups before they pop-up.  This might also be helpful if you see an alert that is not current anymore and needs to be removed. 
·         The feature I love the most is being able to see multiple Continuing Care types.  In my office we not only track Prophy and Perio, but also Ortho, Implants and Retainer checks.  Some of the patients we see for this specialized treatment are not hygiene patients and if they walk out of our office without scheduling their 1 year implant check or their 3 month retainer check we would have no way to retrieve them from our system if we didn’t use multiple CC types. 
·         Another feature on the customized Patient Visit Form I think is worth mentioning is that you can add the Guarantor Note from the ledger. Now of course if you use the Guarantor Note for lengthy conversations this might make the form extend onto a second page … but never fear, you do have the option to include only the first line of the Guarantor Note. 
A Word of Caution
Since the new Patient Visit Form now has the ability to include Patient Alerts, Guarantor Notes and the Patient Note, please use caution in your use of language because if your patient sees the form and you have written something that they might find offensive you could find yourself in a bit of trouble.  Not that any of you out there would ever write something questionable in the form because we are all extremely wise professionals with nothing but perfect patients in our practice…but I think it is worth mentioning.  Just my two cents!