The patient handoff in the office

The patient handoff in the office

A lot of patients will judge an office more by how they’re treated than the actual dentistry they receive.

And we know it’s important to always deliver the highest quality dental treatment. However, we must remember it’s also important how the patient feels cared for.

The more present the staff are to help things flow smoothly, the better the patient experience will be.

The Patient handoff

The patient handoff is a key component to do things the right way to make sure patients aren’t lost in the shuffle of the steps of the office.

Because if a patient isn’t handed off properly to the next staff member, then that patient may get lost in the office processes and their information may get lost or misunderstood along the way.

So it’s absolutely necessary that a handoff has good communication and includes both physically walking with the patient from the operatory to the front desk, and also verbally talking to the front desk about the needs of the patient.

The different components of the handof

There are three components that need to be discussed during the verbal handoff.

1) ) A summary of what was done

The front desk needs to know what was done in the operatory today. And even though it
should be in the computer already, it just helps everyone to hear and confirm it.

It helps to reconfirm with everyone when it’s summarized, it helps reconfirm for the patient as well as the front desk.
Also, we need to review during the handoff what’s the next step.

2) Let front desk know what’s happening next

That’s the second point to cover. Let the front desk know: this is what the patient needs to come back to do next. And by verbally going over it, it helps to remind the patient what was said and help reconfirm it with the patient in front of the front desk.

Even though it’s in the computer, it really helps remind the patient to hear it again and help it to be understood here during this overview of what needs to be done next.

It’s like a repetition to remind and make sure it’s clear to the patient.

3) Make sure everyone is on the same page

Finally, it’s just important to make sure this information is understood by the front desk.

Make sure it’s understood by the patient. That they have no further questions, and just make sure everything is understood.

A pro tip is to make sure in this process that you don’t talk about the patient, talk with the patient, because nobody wants to be talked about.

So don’t talk about the patient, but engage the patient in the conversation. We don’t want the patient to feel isolated and that we’re talking about them in front of them.

This happens easily, but when we’re doing the patient handoff, we want to talk with the patient and include them in the conversation.

The more involved the patient is, the more connection they’re going to feel.

Also, it may be important to let the front desk know the patient’s name.

They don’t mind hearing their name, and this is especially helpful if the front desk isn’t sure.

Other kinds of patient handoffs that happen in the office

Now, for advanced handoffs, there are other handoffs happening in the office when we think
about it because there are other points of transfer.

When the patient calls the office to schedule and later, they come to the front desk for their
appointment and they meet a different person at the front desk, and the front desk person 
hands them off to an assistant in the clinic that takes them into the treatment room and then the assistant introduces them to the doctor.

And then finally, this clinical assistant takes the patient back to the front desk person who may be different from the patient that they saw when they checked in.

Each of these interactions are a different handoff, and we’ve been talking a lot specifically about the handoff at the end of the treatment from the operatory to the front desk at checkout.

But there’s lots of handoffs that happen, and the better they’re done, the better the patient experience.

Other key things to remember during the handoff is always remember to acknowledge the staff member by name such as, “Hey, this is Marty, one of our clinical assistants,” or “Jason’s going to take you” or to say, “Cashe is going to take care of you at the front desk.”

Always say something positive about the person.

Front desk person could say, “Hey, this is Marty. She’s going to take great care of you.”

Certainly everyone wants to be well cared for.

Just remember a handoff is just the patient literally being handed off from one team member to the next.

The key is just not to leave the patient alone.

We don’t want to leave them alone in the operatory. We don’t want to leave them alone as they’re transferring from one staff member to the next.

Do not just drop them off at the front desk while the front desk person is on the phone and then they’re feeling abandoned.

They don’t know how long they’re going to be there and who they’ll see next. And things could become lost in the shuffle.

Taking time to introduce the patient to the front desk is going to just really set things apart as far as the patient experience.

And why is this important?
Basically all patients want to know a lot of things. They want to know:

  • Where are you taking me?
  • Who am I going to be seeing?
  • What’s going to happen?
  • How long will it take?
  • Do I need to be worried about this?
  • Is it going to be expensive?
  • When am I going to be done?

You just want someone there to always help reassure and share advice.

Creating a better patient experience

So whoever the patient is, just being present with them and having a consistent flow and process each time is going to create a better patient experience.

For example, when you have the assistant go from the operatory to the front desk, you might say, “Cashe, this is Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Jones had a filling today. She’s going to need an appointment for a crown on the other tooth that I put on her treatment plan. Can you go over her financial copays? And Ms. Jones, Cashe’s going to do a great job helping you go over all the payment arrangements. Just appreciate you coming in to visit today and look forward to seeing you at your next visit” and repeating these things.

We don’t want the patient to leave confused.

We want them to make sure that they hear the information enough times to remember it.

Sometimes things happen so quickly in the office that they may not have heard it the first time and hearing it multiple times will help them remember it. And have a great patient experience.

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