The forms used in our office serve many functions. Among them:
- Records the health status of the client
- Records the treatment
- Is a legal document for workers compensation, insurance companies or courts.
- A legal document in case of a malpractice claim
- A source of information for professional research/articles
- A tool in quality control among the dentists
- A communication tool among dentists
When a client calls, have your telephone notepad ready. There are several types of calls, but they all start by putting the clients name on the notepad. Make sure you have the name right. Now you won’t have to worry that you’ll forget it! Here are the types of calls:
- A call for information
- An emergency/urgency appointment
- A recall appointment
- A new client exam or cleaning
- To schedule treatment
- For information calls, make notes in your telephone log. Answer the question. If you don’t have the information say so! You’ve got it written down. Now ask them if you could call them back in a few minutes with the answer. Hang up. Don’t put them on hold. No one should be left on hold more than one minute (if feels like 10 ‑ try it sometime!) Unless the caller specifically asks for someone (and even then, try to protect everyone else’s schedules by saying “________ is with a client now. Is this something I can help you with?”) you get the information. Learn it. Return to the caller and explain it. This is the best way for you to learn it!
- An emergency/urgency call. As soon as you realize that this is a client with a problem, go to the emergency form. Get the information as clearly and in as much detail as possible. The assistant or hygienist whom you assign to help this client will use what you write to save them time. More importantly, it saves the client the irritation of repeating the same information 3 times ‑ to you, to the clinical staff person, and to the doctor. The emergency sheet and clinical note is designed so that people add smoothly to the information gathered by the person before them. When you have the emergency sheet secretary’s portion filled out, you’ll know whether it’s an emergency (get them in ASAP!) or an urgency (see them within 1‑2 days). Have them come in 10‑15 minutes before you’ve scheduled clinical staff time so they can fill out the health questionnaire – or have them fill it out online.
- A recall appointment. A patient calls to make a hygiene appointment. Look them up in the computer in the patient information screen where it will tell you the month they are due and the time required for their recall appointment. If they have insurance be sure to schedule them after the 6 month period.
- A new client exam or cleaning. If the new patients calls in and requests a cleaning only, mention that many choose a thorough exam. That this is an opportunity for them to discuss their past medical and dental treatment, what they want in their dental care, a thorough exam, and an opportunity to discuss the results of this exam and the treatment options with the dentist. If they still choose only to have their teeth cleaned, tell them you’ll be sending them some information about us to make their appointment run more smoothly. Now get their email address and email the link to our health history questionnaire. Ask them to fill out the health questionnaire and bring it with them if coming in later than 1 day. If they are coming in less than a day, ask them to come in 15 minutes early to fill out the questionnaire. For older adults, you may want to send this health history via US mail if there is at least 4 days for the mail to arrive and to give them time to fill it out. Be sure to merge the health history with their account so that the patient’s name, phone, address, insurance, etc. are already filled in. When they receive it and see that you’ve already filled out as much as you could, it makes them feel like you did all you could to make their task easier. Finally, put a personal note on the top of the health questionnaire such as “It was nice talking with you today. I’m sure Dr. ____ will be able to help you with (chief need), Michelle” By now you should know:
- Their name
- Preferred name for you to call them
- Address, telephone #
- Who referred them
- Chief reason for seeing us
Also send them our welcome letter (see attached)
Our best relationship is developed with clients that allow us to do a thorough exam. You may be busy but don’t ever be too busy to give your clients an opportunity to have the best dentistry. One easy way for you and the doctors to know how effectively you communicate is by the number of thorough exams you generate from new client calls. Work on this! Good luck in developing your communication skills. Now make sure the information is filled out completely. The doctor will use this information to “break the ice” and make sure he is on target with the client’s wishes.
In all these cases, see if there are prior dental records from some other dentist that we could request. Explain that old x‑rays may allow us to take fewer x-rays now (exposing them to less radiation). Also seeing what past treatment was completed on specific teeth may be helpful in the future. All we need is the dentists name and town. We can google for the telephone number.
5. To Schedule Treatment – All treatment must be thoroughly documented so when patients call to schedule we can easily discuss finances and schedule the appointment.
Requirements for paper charts
- All entries should be in ink and initialed.
- Any error should have one line drawn through it, dated, and initialed. The correction should be noted as such and written below the error.
- Never leave blank lines.
- Never leave health questions unanswered. If it doesn’t apply strike through it and write “NA.” If the condition is normal, write within normal limits “WNL”.
Be sure to document the following in the clinical notes:
- Record all broken, late, or changed appointments.
- Record of treatment choices and discussions, particularly what the client said.
- Record any problems during treatment.
- Record all request for consults and information received.
- Avoid any negative references to the client’s mental health.
Special Situations ‑ medical/legal requirements: It is okay to make a “late entry” ‑ a “by the way” entry of information that you feel makes a previous entry more complete.
Welcome Email Ideas
For senior citizens who are not comfortable online, you may want to create a physical packet that you can send in the US Mail.
This packet should include:
- Their customized, printed health history
- Dentist profile (who client is seeing)
- Recent newsletter
- Practice brochure
- Cover letter
- Insurance brochure (if they have insurance)
Sample Welcome letter
Welcome to HealthPark Dentistry! Thank you for choosing us to provide your dental care. Our award winning combination of specialists and general dentists will combine our skills to meet your needs.
I enjoyed talking with you today. As we discussed, I have included a brochure to help you get to know us and a health history which will help us get to know you. Please bring your completed health history with you for your appointment on at . If you have any questions please call me. My job is to make your visits with us as pleasant and smoothly running as possible.
Looking forward to meeting you.
P.S. Remember to bring any Insurance (Medical or Dental) cards that might apply to you or your family when you come. We can then include this information with your records.
Team Leader Date
To get signed off on this section, document the number of new patients that were scheduled for the last two months and review for each admin team member:
- Total New Patients each person scheduled
- New Patients with the referral source missing
- New patients missing an email address
- NPs missing insurance card scanned
Is there anyone who needs to improve? What’s the plan?