In Tawana Coleman’s 30-plus years as a practice development consultant, she has discovered that most dental practices struggle with primarily three patient handoffs. While there are many different types of scenarios that you can act out in a role-playing activity, these three are the best ones to start with in order to keep your team sharp! You can refer back to these as often as needed. For additional ideas, have a team brainstorming session and ask your team members to suggest areas that may require improvement.
Setup: Write these patient handoff scenarios on 3” x 5” index cards, tuck them away in a file box, and then pull them out randomly for role-playing activities during staff meetings or office trainings.
Handoff #1: The Backstory
Players: A member of the front office team, the clinical team, a patient.
Scenario: A patient visits for her first appointment to the office. A member of the front office team meets with the patient and finds out her backstory. Pertinent questions are asked to help the team get to know the patient. What is concerning the patient? What does the patient want to achieve by coming in today for the appointment?
Handoff: The front office person then goes to the clinical team (assistants and dentist) and relays the pertinent information about the patient, why she came in, and what the patient expects to accomplish with the visit.
Handoff #2: The Why
Players: The financial coordinator, a dental hygienist or assistant.
Scenario: The patient has already met with the dentist and hygienist. A treatment plan has been discussed with the patient.
Handoff: While the patient is still in the chair, the dental hygienist or the assistant slips away to visit with the financial coordinator to explain the purpose of the treatment. The hygienist or assistant doesn’t merely explain what the dentist recommends, they also explain why it is recommended. This helps the financial coordinator complete his or her job of closing the deal with the patient and thereby making the necessary financial arrangements.
Handoff #3: The Payment
Players: A financial coordinator, a patient.
Scenario: The financial coordinator meets with the patient and discusses the benefits of the treatment plan. Then, he or she lets the patient know the financial obligation and helps the patient find ways to pay for treatment.
Handoff: The financial coordinator successfully hands off the patient in this scenario by making sure that all of the financial arrangements are properly documented in written form. The coordinator does not, under any circumstances, let the patient schedule an appointment for treatment unless an actual financial plan is discussed and documented.
CLICK HERE to read Dr. Tornow’s article “The Power of the Handoff” and learn how to tackle the problem of patient transitions.