Dental Consultant | Time – Do Your Patients Know What to Expect?

Have you ever played that listening game where a statement is told to someone? Then, they are told to pass on what they heard to the person next to them. By the 4th person the statement is not even close to the original thought. This game brings to mind the multiple people that must communicate to successfully complete a process. We do this everyday in our practice, and I want to share from personal experience how this can create issues that are not intended.

Last week my father had knee surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus. The procedure was done on an outpatient basis and is pretty routine for all personnel involved. The only catch is that it was performed on an 81-year old man who has been free from any previous surgical needs. At 6AM, we arrived at the hospital registration as requested by the surgeons’ office. These instructions were given at time of scheduling the surgery, and again confirmed the day before surgery. After a lengthy wait for him to be taken back for pre-op, I asked the gentleman that registered my father why we were experiencing the delay. I had already seen his doctor walk  into the hospital earlier, so I knew he was there. Imagine my surprise when he told me he was confused why we had arrived so early for a 9am surgery. Really?! A 9am surgery and told to be there at 6am! You can imagine my displeasure upon hearing this. I was glad I inquired about the delay, but now I had to explain this to my mom and dad who were getting more anxious as every minute passed and blaming his surgeon for this delay.

I had to place blame at the responsible party which was not the hospital or any of their employees, nor the surgeon. My father was already doubting the trust he had placed in this surgeon for something that had nothing to do with his skills, ability, or the hospital he is affiliated with. The blame was with the scheduling coordinator at the surgeons’ office who told us to be there an hour too early. All of this could have been easily avoidable and was totally preventable. I found out it is standard for this office to ask patients to be there 2 hours before surgery for registration, not 3, so something happened. Was it the end of the world, no. Did it upset him and cause concern, definitely. Could it have been avoidable, yes. I am sharing this because the same thing can happen in your office if someone is not attentive to the details and communicates ineffectively.

While dad was in the operating room, I called the surgeons’ office and spoke with the scheduling coordinator about this situation. She deeply apologized to me and took responsibility for her error. Being the coach that I am I asked her how she was going to prevent that from happening again to another patient. She was surprised by my questions until I told her what I did for a living. She signed and said she needed to fix her process and agreed with my suggestion about using a standard template for surgery instead of manually filling in the blank for each patient. That way the time was calculated correctly as surgery time – 2 hours = registration time.

At your next huddle, please discuss how time and expectations are communicated to your patients. Hopefully, unlike my father, they will not experience any inconvenience or miscommunication.

If you have any questions or problems you are facing in your practice, please get in touch with me for a complementary call.