As an Administrative Team Coach and Virtual Assistant I have the wonderful
opportunity to work with offices around the country on a daily basis and I am
often surprised at what I see and even more surprised at what I don’t see! I think
in most offices today we do an “Ok” job with the customer service aspect of the
dental office; we greet the patient with a hurried smile, get them in the chair
relatively on time, come close to their out‐of‐pocket portion and might even get
them scheduled for their re‐care appointment. Unfortunately the patient see’s
Over the years tasks in the dental office have become somewhat overwhelming.
With trying to keep up with production & collection goals, busier schedules, new
insurance codes and changes, making sure we are maximizing our software
system, insurance billing, working the re‐care & overdue treatment systems,
checking on outstanding insurance claims, sending out patient statements and
the list goes on. Yes we are busy but let’s not lose sight of the patient! In the day
to day goings on of the office I think we often forget why we are there.
Years ago going to my childhood dental office was kind of fun. As a child I was
reassured that it was an ok place to be in as the lady behind the desk welcomed
me by name with a smile and had a brief conversation with me and my Mom
about our last vacation. Well, if my Mom was laughing and conversing with this
lady I only saw 2 times a year, it must not be a bad place. Over the years things
have changed quite a bit and instead of it being about the patient and people in
general it has turned into something entirely different.
A few years ago I decided to go to a new dental office, a good friend of mine is the
senior RDA, 1 of their hygienists is amazing and the doctor has a great reputation.
I was ready for the change and excited about the new office. I called and made a
New Patient appointment and when I got my reminder e‐mail it was for a
different day and a different hygienist than what I had scheduled. I called the
office to inquire and she said I must have written it down wrong. Ok, I said, let’s
reschedule and I actually got the day I originally wanted with the hygienist I
wanted. The day of the appointment is here, I am looking forward to my hygiene
visit as I must admit, I was overdue.
I’m glad I arrived early as I had what seemed like a mini novel to fill out in
paperwork. Mind you, I asked if I could have the paperwork mailed to me as I
tend to be thorough and like to take my time with things like this. She said she
would mail it but guess what? Nope, she forgot to mail it. Being in the dental field
for over 30 years, I have never seen so many consent forms and for things that
would scare me to death if I hadn’t known what they were. I gave her my
paperwork and sat down looking at the Keurig machine….should I or shouldn’t I?
Then I hear a voice say Ooops, I forgot to have you sign this pad, you won’t be
able to see your signature but sign it anyway.
A few minutes later a sweet young lady came out to get me, it wasn’t the
hygienist I was scheduled to see so I thought it may have been an assistant
helping the hygienist. She tells me her name and said she would be taking my x‐
rays. Wow I thought, a practice with assisted hygiene, how cool. After the x‐rays
she sits down and picks up a scaler……The front office gal thought it would be best
to put me on the new hygienist’s schedule to build her patient base.
Really? What about me? I’m the patient, did you think about asking me what I
wanted? At this point I just went with it, I didn’t want to make a scene and was
actually quite curious as to how bad this was going to go. The hygienist did a good
job then the doctor came in, chatted for a bit and did his exam. His reputation
preceded him and other than the 2 restorations he diagnosed I thought he was
Its check out time……The front office gal handed me a treatment plan that had
been whited out because “the computer” didn’t calculate it correctly. Hmmm……
I scheduled my appointment with the doctor and by this time I am a bit frustrated
and just wanted to go when she “asks” me if I wanted to make my next cleaning
appointment. I said no and asked for my receipt to which she replied, no, I don’t
know how to do that and the other gal was on her break.
In case you were wondering, this is not how a New Patient is handled. Some
training definitely needs to be done in this front office and we are working on
that! Please don’t lose sight of the patient, let’s bring back conversations with
your patients, find out who they are, what they like to do for fun, make yourself
approachable. Let’s go back to “Old School” where patients are people and not
just a goal we need to hit or a dollar sign, don’t be too busy for your patients.