Providing a service to a client is what we are all about. Remember that the filling, crown, etc. is only a visible sign of our true service providing a positive health experience for our clients. An essential part of this positive experience is the follow up contact after care has been provided. Your doctor may be totally satisfied with a crown. Good marginal fit, good shade match, great bite, but none of this matters until our client agrees. At the day the service is provided, the client is immersed in the office environment. S/he often can’t make a good value judgment until later. Also, some of our procedures can be painful. We need to know if we need to do more for the client to help them be more comfortable.
The best way to accomplish these goals and establish our reputation for caring and thoroughness is to call our clients the day following significant treatment. The best person to make this call is the doctor that treated the client. Often, the doctor may not have the time during the day and may be unwilling to do this in the evening. The next best person is the beginning secretary for routine calls.
Review with the level 1 secretary that the calls can be made at any time, but the best time is from 5-7 PM. Most people are home from school or work and haven’t left for evening activities. These calls should be made every day. Be positive with the client. “Hi Mrs. Jones, Dr._______ asked me to call to make sure the (root canal) is comfortable, crown is feeling good, etc.” Never just “. . .that you’re ok.” Take the time to care for each person as a unique human being. When you contact the client, make a note on the treatment sheet. This could become important in the future. Not only for malpractice (“We called her the next day and she said everything was fine!”), but also to save herself future problems. (“Mrs. Jones, on the 5th of October when I talked with you, I made a note that you didn’t want me to contact you for that follow up appointment. You wanted to call us!”). The more she writes on the treatment sheet the better.
If she can’t reach the person by phone, have her record the attempt and the time on the treatment sheet. If she tried at 10:00 AM, try again at 6:00PM. If she can’t get through, make a note on the treatment sheet to show the doctor the attempts and see if s/he still wants a contact. If the contact should be made, send a note to the client that we’ve not been able to reach them and that they should call us if there are any problems.
When she has made the contact, and written in the treatment section of the folder, place the folder in the doctor’s file to review.
Occasionally, when you call a patient, they may be upset. Here are a few thoughts on handling this.
Saying “I’m sorry” is not an easy thing to do for many people, particularly if you are apologizing to a patient for an office slip up regarding an appointment or some other error which inconvenienced the patient. In fact, if the apology is made incorrectly, it can weaken the patient’s opinion of you as a professional and call undue attention to the error. However, in many instances saying you’re sorry is essential for maintaining good patient rapport, and it is simply common courtesy. When you find that an “I goofed” letter is needed because a patient complained about an office error, here are five points to remember to help you apologize without sounding weak, and to actually turn the mistake into a gain for your practice.
Begin by thanking the patient for calling attention to the mistake
Follow up with a matter of fact admission of error. Make it brief and avoid making it sound like an abject apology.
Explain the reason for the mistake. Admit your role in the error. Don’t try to shift the blame to someone else, but be honest. “I should have checked our schedule for the day more carefully, so that I might have noticed the receptionist left too little time for your procedure” doesn’t really blame the receptionist, and it makes it clear that you are the person in charge.
Explain what has been done or will be done to correct the mistake, and let the patient know that you will make sure the error doesn’t happen again.
End with a brief apology and restate your appreciation of the patient.
Use the computer bulletin board to make notes on long term follow ups to clients, new tasks for you or other staff to accomplish, etc.
Listens to Doctor Tape
Dr. Smith reviews his charts and records a tape of things to do – patients to call to follow up on treatment or special things he wants to have done. Your responsibility as part of your ideal day is to listen to this tape the day it is recorded (preferably within one hour) and complete each of the projects Dr. Smith assigns. Work with your team leader to become comfortable with this task. Dr. Scharnhorst contacts us via email with requests he may have for his patients. You will reply to the emails with any follow up that may be necessary.
Follow up system:
If you need to follow up with a client, you can make a note on a 3×5 card and stick it in the follow up 1-31 day box in the slot for that date.
Every day, a secretary is responsible (see ideal day) for checking this box and handling all the client follow-ups.
*** Turn in a detailed description of “you’re personal” follow up action of the steps you use including examples.
When you complete a doctor’s tape turn tape, tape log and folders in to Your Team Leader or Team Leader to listen to and check off
Follows up on notes from Dr. Smith’s huddle.
The secretary that runs Dr. Smith’s huddle will have several patient follow up calls to make. You can help her by completing these calls and leaving a note for Dr. Smith that each item was completed – or if you had any questions. Review with him.