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December 23, 2019

Valuable Conversations…. because YOU CAN’T JUST WING IT WHEN IT COMES TO COMMUNICATING WITH PATIENTS ….some cautionary advice.

Communication and education go hand in hand, whether it be for a case presentation, informed consent, fees or dental benefit breakdowns. A good majority of patient complaints originate due to a lack of communication or clarification.  The NJ State Board Regulations on record keeping are very specific. Every record should contain (AMONG OTHER THINGS) a DIAGNOSIS and a TREATMENT PLAN.

Your WRITTEN treatment plan should include:

  • material risks
  • clinically acceptable alternative treatment recommendations
  • costs relative to the treatment recommended and/or performed.

But, communication and documentation doesn’t end there. Every record should contain evidence that the patient was informed…meaning you took the time to explain and answer questions

Remember that informed consent is not necessarily a pre-printed form.

 Informed consent is a discussion or conversation with the patient in which the patient has an opportunity to ask questions. Having a pre-printed informed consent form doesn’t necessarily mean you took the time to answer questions and talk about the proposed treatment, risks, costs alternate treatments and potential risk of doing no treatment.

If a patient denies having been fully informed about the prognosis, treatment options and alternative treatment recommendations and the risks and costs involved, whipping out a signed form isn’t going to prove anything other than you bombarded the patient with tons of paperwork they felt bullied into signing.

True accountability is giving people the tools and information to make educated decisions about their oral healthcare.

Your staff needs to be well trained.  Knowing what to say can greatly enhance every interaction with the patient. True accountability for staff means providing tools to help them develop as professionals so that they can do their jobs more effectively and more efficiently. Some leaders understand how to instill a sense of accountability in their teams and other’s need a little assistance. If you desire to have a great team then accountability is key and that my friend, begins with you.

Valuable conversations can be powerful. If your staff is trained, confident and accountable, you will be more productive and less stressed. One way to accomplish that is through excellent scripting.

Your office can implement scripting for just about everything. Start by identifying what needs to be discussed and who will be the primary staff person to introduce the subject. In my humble opinion, it’s always better to introduce scripts with a ‘topic” to set the framework so the patient is better prepared for what is about to be discussed.

” Mrs. Jones, we need to discuss treatment options for your cracked tooth.”


“Mr. Jones, we need to discuss your account balance and payment options”.

By the end of the “conversation” the patient should be well informed and understand why it’s in their best interest to do as recommended.

Sometimes what we say is just as important or more important than what not to say. It’s not often that I come across something I REALLY REALLY LIKE….but, my trusty right (and left arm;  Irene) ,  actually found this article and shared it with me - click here. I walked around all week saying – “I really like that…I really really like that” and so in the spirit of the season – I am paying it forward and hoping that you all will “really really like it” as much as I did.