Dental staff members play an essential role in patient safety as well as patient satisfaction as they interact with patients every day. However, they can also be part of interactions that may result in errors, misunderstandings and dissatisfaction.
To minimize these unfortunate situations, dentists need to collaborate with dental staff and provide them with assistance, training and strategies to help them feel empowered to optimize their patient interactions so it enhances patient safety, adherence and satisfaction. An additional benefit is that staff will acquire a better comfort level in their interactions with patients and their families.
The following are some strategies to help dentists collaborate with their staff members. By informing patients about various policies and ensuring staff members follow established protocols, dental practices can reinforce a consistent and quality approach to care and minimize liability exposure.
- Dentists should have office policies in place that clearly define the practice’s approach to important patient situations, such as missed appointments, nonadherence to home treatment protocols and medication orders and refusal to see consultants/specialists.
- All dentists should have an office policy regarding unacceptable behaviors displayed by patients and their families. Waiting room behavior should be addressed in that policy — from physical and verbal abuse to roughhousing — as it can compromise employee and patient safety.
- Dentists should encourage staff members to discuss difficult patients with them. It’s also advantageous to practice challenging patient interactions with staff members to give them more confidence. Then, when a problem arises, the dentist and staff member can discuss office policies and specific dental issues with the patient to reach a promising resolution.
- Dentists should provide dental staff members with scripted remarks to use with patients and pediatric patients’ parents in case they display unacceptable behavior in the dental office. Scripted remarks should focus on patient safety and avoid embarrassing the patient or parent.
- Dentists and dental staff members should address inappropriate behavior early. For example, if a pediatric patient’s parent does not intervene at the first signs of a child’s disruptive behavior, a staff member should step in. When unacceptable behavior is corrected, staff should acknowledge and commend the individual(s).
- If patients voice frustration about completing various forms or paperwork, dental staff should emphasize the importance the practice places on complying with federal/state/local regulations.
- Dentists should ensure staff are trained to explain and reinforce the value of X-ray and other treatments as an integral part of the dental standard of care.
- Dentists should advise dental staff to always focus on what is best for the patient when responding to a negative situation so it can lead to better patient understanding.
- Dentists should ask staff members to share any important observations during staff meetings since they play a key role in identifying (a) incorrect assumptions, (b) misunderstandings, (c) unrealistic expectations, (d) refusal to acknowledge boundaries and (e) clinical nonadherence. Then together they can discuss and agree on methods to address the behavior.
- Dentists should consider offering training programs related to customer satisfaction and clinical standards to assist in their staff training efforts. Many dental societies and companies offer customer service education and training options.
For guidance on specific patient relationship challenges and additional risk-reduction strategies, contact your MedPro Group senior patient safety and risk consultant.
For these and additional risk management resources contact Professional Insurance Programs at 800-637-4676 or [email protected].
This document does not constitute legal or medical advice and should not be construed as rules or establishing a standard of care. Because the facts applicable to your situation may vary, or the laws applicable in your jurisdiction may differ, please contact your attorney or other professional advisors if you have any questions related to your legal or medical obligations or rights, state or federal laws, contract interpretation, or other legal questions. MedPro Group is the marketing name used to refer to the insurance operations of The Medical Protective Company, Princeton Insurance Company, PLICO, Inc. and MedPro RRG Risk Retention Group. All insurance products are underwritten and administered by these and other Berkshire Hathaway affiliates, including National Fire & Marine Insurance Company. Product availability is based upon business and/or regulatory approval and/or may differ among companies. © 2020 MedPro Group Inc. All rights reserved. Dentists should ask staff members to share any important observations during staff meetings since they play a key role in identifying (a) incorrect assumptions, (b) misunderstandings, (c) unrealistic expectations, (d) refusal to acknowledge boundaries, and (e) clinical nonadherence. Then together they can discuss and agree on methods to address the behavior. Dentists should consider offering training programs related to customer satisfaction and clinical standards to assist in their staff training efforts. Many dental societies and companies offer customer service education and training options.