1. Audit charts
One of the best ways to reduce work stress is to prepare for the day. Every office I have worked in has allowed me to review my charts the day before or the morning of the schedule. When I review the charts, I identify which services the patient needs during their appointment. For example, the patient may need a full-mouth series of films or a comprehensive periodontal chart. I determine if there is any outstanding treatment that the patient needs. Then I take a day sheet with the schedule on it and write down the services the patient needs for the appointment or simply update the appointment to reflect those services. This allows me to spend more time in the room and enhances time management. I have had employers who have compensated me for the 15 to 20 minutes it requires to review this information and others who have not. Either way, implementing this protocol has allowed me to be a more focused and impactful clinician.
2. Hygiene protocols
Having the entire hygiene team in alignment is essential to an impactful preventive care team. Each clinical member should understand the rationale behind preventive therapies that are recommended to ensure that the patient is properly using the technology. The patient should be hearing similar messaging and have the same level of experience in every operatory of the office. This will build value for the treatment and enhance the patient experience.
If you haven’t already done so, create a hygiene template. Not only will it save you time, but it will also allow you to quickly locate information. I love using the SOAP format, an acronym for subjective, objective, assessment, and plan. I include products that patients are currently using as well as recommended changes. This enables me or another clinician to reinforce the messaging at the next visit. Listing out the next appointments and their sequence is another important communication tool for the entire team. Having the appointment information readily available will empower the business team to expedite treatment plans and answer patient questions regarding multiple appointments.
4. Align with the dentist
The best way to improve your time management is to convince the dentist to check your patient any time after the first 20 minutes of an appointment. By the first 20 minutes, all films or periodontal charting should be collected, the chief concern should be identified, and evaluation of the tissue should be achieved. Reducing the wait time for the doctor will allow you to have more time to rebook the patient, answer additional questions, document your services, and escort the patient to the business team to review the costs associated with the treatment plan.
5. Assume the best
Assume that a previous clinician, whether in your office or not, did the best they could with the time and resources they were given. I recently treated a patient who was extremely upset that she had gingivitis. She told me that she was using exactly what another clinical provider had recommended for her interproximal care. I had the product with me chairside and asked her to show me how she was flossing. She quickly snapped the floss down and moved on. I demonstrated flossing in a C-shape, stressed the importance of using a fresh segment of the floss as she moved around the mouth, and then had her show me what I taught. It seems so simple; however, the patient was impressed. She expressed to me her disappointment in the last provider she saw. I then explained to her how much information the dental hygienist had gathered in the last visit—an FMX and a full periodontal chart had been meticulously completed. I shared with her how she had experienced improvement from the last visit, how I was confident in the clinician she saw, and how the last clinician had enabled me to fully understand her risk factors and current periodontal condition. She looked at me and said, “It is nice to see a woman supporting another woman.”
As a profession, we represent one another. Owning your clinical day starts with managing your mindset toward your peers, employer, patients, and life’s obstacles. Remember, you cannot control what happens in your day, but you can control how you show up for it.