Dental Office Time Management and Patient Care Series: Patient Packets

Not long ago I went to a car dealership. Before leaving I picked up a beautiful full color, information clad brochure that looked expensive. Very nice and informative.

Another day I took my dog to the veterinarian.  During the visit the technician entered information into the patient record and after the doctor finished I was given a comprehensive report of the findings plus more than adequate detailed reports of all of the recommendations for my dog.  I was impressed.

On another day at my dental office I presented a multi-thousand dollar multi- discipline rehabilitation treatment plan for a patient.  The patient left with a treatment plan that looked like an invoice.  Thinking about my experience at the car dealer and the veterinarian’s office I was not impressed.

Let’s admit that we present treatment plans based almost entirely on CDT codes. You know just what I mean.  There is a list of teeth, codes, fees and an estimate of what insurance pays.  But actual clinical information is peculiarly disconnected from the treatment plans patients leave with.  Do we provide enough information to help the patient make decisions and also protect ourselves?  Many times we don’t.  I know other dentists share my concern because I have talked to many about this for a number of years.

What should accompany treatment plans?  Well, there are legal requirements and professional requirements.

Legal requirements – These depend on the law where one practices and may include:

  1. Diagnosis
  2. Recommendations
  3. Treatment options
  4. Consent for care
  5. Financial information

Professional requirements – The items we should feel compelled to give patients to make sure they are fully informed about their dental care needs so they may make informed decisions.  Here is a list:

  1. Summary of the oral examination.
  2. A review of disease risks gleaned from the history.
  3. Prognosis for success of the dental care
  4. Preventive dental recommendations required to meet the prognosis
  5. Advantages of one treatment plan over another
  6. Consequences of not seeking care
  7. Expected length of time of treatment
  8. Ranking caries and periodontitis risk
  9. Information regarding medical history implications that require modification of routine of care (for example – preventive antibiotics, check blood sugar, check INR, morning appointments, have a driver, anxiolytic medication recommendations, etc.)
  10. Treatment information before active care: consultations, radiographs or resolution time.
  11. After active care information: recall interval, preventive products, consultations etc.
  12. Clear instructions on what to do next

Having this information in a packet for the patient that accompanies treatment plans help move comprehensive care, make for better informed patients, increases the perceived value of the dental care to the patient, ensures bullet proof records and protects the doctor from claims that the patient was not informed.

Why don’t we do this?  Because it takes too much time.

How can we meet the requirements and boost our production at the same time? I use a system that allows me to choose a treatment recommendation form that, when submitted, compiles the predetermined packet contents that draws information from the patient record to create a beautiful packet.  These are done for comprehensive care plans, problem focused consults, upgrading existing old restorations to newer ones and when recommending periodontal care. The software allows me to customize each of the packets or add as many different ones I want.

To create a packet for comprehensive care I complete a form and then print a packet that has all of this in it. This is how software should be helping us.


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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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