When I think of the small things my practice does on an everyday basis that have a big impact on patient relationships, patient satisfaction, and case acceptance, the first thing that comes to mind is what we call check-in and debrief.
Early in my practice years, way back when I was practicing corporate dentistry, when I walked into the operatory, the patient already had topical in place and my job was to get them numb. There wasn’t much of an opportunity to have a conversation. Over time, I learned the concept of check-in and debrief, which is really about how you can use the time at the beginning and end of the appointment to influence the relationship you have with the patient.
These are ideal times to build value for what the patient has agreed to do at that appointment and to tie the goals of the patient to the value of the treatment the patient is receiving, or you hope the patient will accept.
Usually, the check-in and debrief each take about two minutes. My assistants participate in this process with me, so they have increased understanding as well.
Previous Conversations Inform Me
I can be mindful and successful with my conversations if previous conversations with the patient were documented. My assistants take notes for me during my conversations with patients. I need to know:
- What is important to them,
- What they are hoping for, and
- What could get in the way of accomplishing what they believe is best for themselves?
My Check-in Conversation
During the check-in, I aim to converse about what we have planned to do and how this fits the overall goals of the patient. Usually, I enter the room and there is a little chit-chat. Then I ask, “What is your understanding of what we are going to do today?” The response helps me gauge the patient’s awareness. Following this conversation, I may ask, “What is your understanding of how this is part of your long-term health plan?” Or, if the patient has a stated a good understanding of what we are going to do, I say, “Yes, and this is how it fits into your long-term goals for your teeth.” They should now have a good sense of why the appointment time is of benefit to them.
My Debrief Conversation
During the end-of-the-appointment conversation, I aim to thank the patient for being cooperative, talk about what they can expect as a result of today’s appointment, and what they can expect as we move towards their preferred future. No matter what happened during the appointment, I want my patients to hear how much we appreciate them being our patients and being there today. When we talk about what to expect from today’s appointment, we can go over any post-op instructions, which are also presented in written form. Lastly, I want to give them hope that we are accomplishing steps on the road to their preferred future and that we can get there with their continued cooperation. I want to see the rays of hope register on their faces.
I believe all of this is of high value to the patient personally and in building value for the practice. It is well worth the time, and for me, it is a standard part of every patient visit.