Preparing for patient appointments days in advance

Preparing several days in advance of a patient's appointment allows the dental team time to focus on the patient and the needs of the practice when it comes to that patient.

"By completing several simple tasks beforehand, you take control of the appointment and save yourself, and the patient, the stress of being unprepared the day of," said CDA Practice Advisor Sarah Gargani.

Gargani recommends dental practices take the following steps leading up to a patient's appointment.  

Three to four days before appointment

Allow time to react to reschedules, cancellations or missing information. Make sure you schedule reviews for lab cases and/or errors at least three days prior to the appointment.

Eligibility and benefits should be confirmed for all patients being seen for exams or treatment two to three days ahead of the appointment. This includes additional benefits details if the patient being seen is new or has new insurance. Many insurance companies provide this information online to reduce hold times and phone calls made in the office.

Lastly, appointment confirmation calls should be placed two to three days ahead of time after eligibility and benefits have been confirmed. This allows you to ask questions or request additional information from the patient if necessary at the time of the confirmation call.

One day before appointment

Route slips are a great communication tool and should be printed and completed at least one day ahead of the appointment. Make sure the printed information is accurate.

Evaluate the account for credits or balances to be addressed with the patient and identify any pending treatment. Confirm the appointment details and identify appointments that need to be scheduled, including appointments for family members. To help drive retention, ensure recall appointments are scheduled appropriately.

On the route slip, make sure to highlight anything that needs attention or is considered critical information by the office. This allows all staff in the office to know what is going on or what needs to take place.

The morning huddle

On the day of the patient's appointment, the patient should be discussed by the staff during the morning huddle. The morning huddle for a dentist and the dental team helps outline the patient care for that day. The dentist or office manager should create a huddle agenda and stick to it (CDA Practice Support has a sample agenda available at cda.org/practicesupport.) Collect all the data needed the day before or the morning of and try to keep the huddle to around 15 minutes.

The morning huddle should have a positive tone and be patient-focused. The following topics can be discussed:

  • Who's coming in and what do you know about them?
  • Who has pending treatment?
  • Who is getting treatment and are you prepared for them?
  • Balances or copays to collect.
  • Any potential bottlenecks.
  • Do you have room for emergencies, and what times would work?
  • Share office successes.
  • Set a daily goal.
  • Provide updates on monthly or longer-term practice goals.

 "A patient appreciates and feels comfortable when they see a staff that is on top of things and working in unison," Gargani said. "Show your patients you have put some thought into their visit and it will pay off."

For more tips on patient appointments, visit cda.org/practicesupport.

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