Dental Office Time Management and Patient Care Series: Patient Intake

Observing the delivery of dental care is, for the dentist, a solitary clinical experience.  In fact we want our work to be imperceptible.  Because of this, patients do not even know to tell their friends about the marginal integrity of their restorations. They do not brag about how you prevented a pulp necrosis following an operative procedure or about the skill required for you to place a membrane under an elevated periosteum.  Nearly all of our procedures are unknown to patients and that’s fine.  So what do patients tell their friends about their experience at our offices?  You can bet that they will talk about positive and negative experiences.

A successful dental practice uses systems to ensure positive encounters that begin with the reception and workup of patients. That first impression is critical and we want to excel at that.  The more smoothly these steps are accomplished, the better chance of your patients recommending you and your office.

Let’s examine each of the steps:

  1. Patient Intake
  2. Examination
  3. Treatment planning
  4. Patient communications
  5. Payment agreements

In this series of posts, I will address these steps and show precisely how to implement modern software systems that make them easy and fast and show how anyone can use them no matter what practice management software one uses.

Step 1 – Patient Intake

iStock_000002807197_ExtraSmallPatients want to avoid filling out forms on a clipboard in a reception room.  Online systems enable patients to register at their leisure at any computer with internet access thus blending your practice into their everyday habits.  In the same way you are modernizing your clinical services with scanners, mills, lasers, tissue grafts and more why not modernize how you register patients making use of the powerful attributes found in these systems?

But let’s consider patient intake in a more modern way.  First, abandon notions regarding it as simply a way to acquire patient’s biographical information and a one page medical history.  Rather, look for a system that has an embedded Patient Intake and Pre-Clinical Assessment system.  This type of system refers to the reception of patients via an online system and the analysis of the medical history to determine if the clinician should consider modifying standard treatment protocol. This can only be done with an online registration system that has analytical enhancements giving you a systematically organized medical summary with critical medical risks highlighted and drug descriptions. Using a system like this will totally revamp the patient intake procedure.

Recommendation # 1 – Use an online patient registration that has analytical enhancements and other powerful attributes.

Modern patient intake system attributes:

  • A patient portal to your practice should be available from your web site or by sending a link via email.
  • System forms should be customizable yet have multiple default form choices.
  • Systems should have a way to “nudge your patients” to complete forms not yet finished.
  • Systems should “Read” your practice data so that patients are completing forms that are pre-populated with the information you currently have for them.
  • Exporting into your practice management system is preferred.
  • Systems should analyze your appointment book seeking patients who need to update their information and connect those patients to the necessary forms.
  • Systems should highlight changes from previous information, show critical alerts discerned from the medical history, show drug descriptions and drug interaction alerts and provide a Point of Care center pertinent to the patient.
  • Upon arrival, patients who have completed their information online should  be seated, their medical history and potential drug interactions noted and cleared for appropriate care within five minutes with a high degree of confidence and competence by the clinical staff.

In my next post I will show how connecting the registration system output to the process of evaluating a patient for care transforms the quality of your patient record and gives an improved experience for the patient and your dental colleagues.


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Dental Symphony offers ePatient: the only HIPAA compliant Online Patient Registration System with the exclusive “Pre-Clinical Analysis” tool.

ePatient was created by Dentists for Dentists and is easily adaptable for any type of practice with free customization.

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