Are you giving your patients enough information? Whenever a new topic is discussed with a patient in the dental surgery, the bulk of the verbal discussion will be forgotten very quickly, almost 80%...
...usually leaving the patient with some recall of the way in which they were spoken to, and possibly the fact that they had agreed to the treatment or declined it. This is one reason why complex treatment plans should be offered to the patient in a written form, after discussion with the dentist. Amongst other things, the written communication with which you follow up should include the pros and cons of all the available options, the costs involved and any particular limitations associated with the treatment.
If you follow this procedure already for complex treatments, you might want to ask yourself which treatments you elect not to confirm with so much detail. Unless you are sufficiently conscientious to provide a written summary for every episode of treatment, it is unlikely that every time you do a small filling for the patient, they will require such a large amount of written information, upon which to base their consent, particularly if they have had a similar restoration provided in the past.
So how do you decide whether or not the patient needs more information? Simple - you ask them: 'Do you know which tooth we are going to treat today and what the treatment consists of?'
The better your patient knows you, the more information they are likely to have retained from previous visits and the less detail they may need to have repeated. When the clinical team reaches this point, they will also have achieved a form of non-verbal communication, based on a variety of other communication skills (body language, tone of voice, eye contact), which have been sufficient to create a trusting relationship between the patient and the members of the dental team.
Of course, this doesn't mean that the written notes of the procedure can be made any less comprehensive, but it can certainly reduce the amount of time that the dentist needs to spend in discussion with regular patients, when routine procedures are being undertaken. By default then, it is new patients and complex or unfamiliar treatments which will be more time consuming, if the clinician is to ensure that the patient has been adequately informed and any barriers to communication have been eliminated.
Such attention to detail can also be a real practice builder. Anyone who has ever started their own practice will know that there are often gaps in the appointment book, during the first months of starting a new practice and this time can be an invaluable asset. By investing that time in speaking to your patients (social topics as well as any clinical discussion), you are building up valuable rapport with the patient. Patients love the friendly unhurried approach that allows them to feel relaxed in the chair. They may even tell their friends, so you will develop a reputation for being good with nervous patients. Patients always feel a little nervous about meeting a new dentist, so, by investing a little time communicating at the start, you not only stand to create a valuable bridge for the rest of the relationship, but the trust which develops, will allow the patient to recommend you to others. What could be better than that?
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