Personal Development
∙ December 8, 2022

Failure to Inform

One of the many practice management mistakes I made as an inexperienced
clinician was my failure to properly inform patients of any pending changes to
their care. Whether it be a change in recommended treatment, an updated fee,
or a change in personnel, the patient must always be advised.

Most, if not all of us, have experienced a commonly undisclosed fee following an
auto repair. The surprise addition of several dollars to our final bill is generally
referred to as “shop supplies.” I call it “garage math.” Perhaps that’s okay by
auto industry standards, but it’s certainly unprofessional and has no place in a
dental practice. But if recommended treatment has been incomplete for an
extended period and the fee for that service has increased, simply inform the
patient in advance so they are not blindsided by the unexpected.

There’s no question that patient communications are easier, faster, and better
than ever with today’s digital messaging systems. Services offered by Weave and
SolutionReach are excellent examples. Long before computers, practice
management software, practice websites, and social media, however, patient
communications were handled by the telephone or first-class mail.

Perhaps the single greatest communication failure I committed was the failure to
inform my family of patients of the addition of a new, part-time hygienist to the
practice. Because most hygienists build a long-term relationship with their
patients based upon education, trust, and compassionate care, their patients are
loyal to them and expect to see them each time they visit. In short, you don’t
surprise patients of record with a new hygienist! I did, and it turned out rather
badly, with some patients leaving my practice.

In hindsight, what I should have done was to mail first class letters to my patients
informing them of the addition to our staff. Such a letter of introduction would
highlight the person’s qualities, experience, and career highlights, and invite them
to meet him or her during their next appointment. Afterward, with permission, a
patient of record could become cared for by the new team member (who was
also responsible for caring for all patients new to the practice).

Timely, appropriate, and professional communication is a key component for the
success of any business. Dentistry is no exception. Hold a team meeting to
evaluate your verbal skills, scripts, and management systems to ensure that
you’re doing it well. Your patients will thank you!

Wayne Kerr, DDS, MAGD

Mountaintop Moments: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw

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Failure to Inform

One of the many practice management mistakes I made as an inexperiencedclinician was my failure to properly inform patients of…