Here are three tips that have helped me in organizing my practice so we can best manage same-day emergency patients and not disrupt the quality time we spend with already scheduled patients. Each of these tips enlist the help of the dental team.
At the morning huddle, we sit around the table, and it is the responsibility of the assistants and front desk to identify and clarify where the best spot in the schedule would be for an emergency patient. It could be a patient of record or someone who is new who has a great referral. If it is someone new without a great referral, appointing that person depends on whether it makes sense for the patients already scheduled that day.
Over the phone, we make sure the conversation with the emergency patient includes an important question – “How can we help you today?” In the case of a patient of record, we look at their chart and plan to address their concern that day but not over address it. Oftentimes a patient will say, “I don’t have a lot of time today. I just want to drop in and get the chipped edge smoothed and get scheduled for the restoration.” This provides us with an opportunity to slip in a short appointment to help the emergency patient and not interrupt how we are scheduled to best help our other patients that day.
When I walk in the operatory, I have a 3-way conversation with the dental assistant and patient. The assistant and I no longer have a conversation in the hallway that takes time, and I no longer walk into the room and have a separate conversation with the patient. In front of patient, the assistant describes the information that has been collected and the concerns of the patient. The patient can agree with, add to, or clarify what the assistant tells me. This has made us more efficient. It also spares me from walking into the room and taking over, thinking I have all the information. The 3-way conversation accelerates our ability to help the patient.