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How to approach doctor about late patients being seen

I started at a new dental office & at first it was great but lately the schedule has been a hot mess. Twice in one day, my patients were 35 minutes late & I was still expected to see them… one needed prophy, bwx & an exam & another was 1 quad SRP & prophy another quad. I was late the entire rest of the day & my patients following them had to wait on me. This isn’t the first time it’s happened.
How do I confront the doctors about this? All other offices I’ve been at have a policy, that if the patient is 15 minutes late they have to be rescheduled.
I have only been here a couple of months & don’t want to step on any toes but I can’t continue on a schedule like that- I don’t know how any hygienist can?!



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2 Answers

Running behind because patients who are overly late and allowed to be seen is the pits! The other offices you have worked at have the right idea, reschedule a patient who shows up too late to give quality treatment. Having a sit down with the dentist expressing your concerns is definitely the way to go.
 
I would sandwich the conversation. By sandwich, I mean start with a positive attribute about the office (I love the team, etc.), express your concern, then end on another positive feature about the office. When expressing your concern, you don’t want to come off like you are just complaining. Explain why this could hurt the office. Patients who are on time have to wait, making their experience a bad one from the start. Referrals could drop because “the office always sees patients late.” Long-time patients may start to not reappoint because of the over-needed time it takes for their dental appointment. Not to mention, when you are rushed quality care isn’t given and you can miss things such as treatment needed (which leads to the doctor’s production), a thorough periodontal diagnosis, or missing something in the medical history could lead to a medical emergency. Missing treatment and a less than thorough medical history leading to a medical emergency, all due to not enough time to be thorough, could possibly lead to a law suit. I’m not necessarily suggesting you scare the doctor, but the consequences need to be put out there so it’s understood.
 
While to the doctor it may seem like a short-term loss of production, in the long-term staying on schedule, will increase patient retention and referrals. Both the office needs to respect the patients’ time (those who are on time) and patients need to respect your time. The problem needs to be nipped in the bud before it snowballs. Essentially, the patients need to be “trained.” If they don’t show up on time, they simply aren’t seen due to the issues stated above. Not doing so, doesn’t respect you, the office, nor the patients.
 
Stating these concerns to the doctor in a professional, non-complaining way, is the best way I can think of to handle the situation. Best of luck!

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I have worked in 2 offices that both do that same thing. My receptionist/OM has never worked chairside – so she doesn’t quite understand the importance of “enough time for appointments”. Quality care unfortunately drops when a patient comes in 15 minutes late…
One evening, a new patient walked in 35 minutes late to a 1 hr appointment expecting to be completed. The front desk let her come right in my chair – making me the bad news bear!! Unbelievable – needless to say she freaked out on me but came back the next day for her rescheduled appointment. She should have NEVER been allowed past the front desk….. I digress
I would talk to the receptionist first to try and get it resolved. If the problem persists – going the doctor is a must. I understand production needs need to be met – but lawsuits can result if treatment goes subpar…. agreeing to what Kara said, on time patients shouldn’t suffer for those who are late. I really feel it’s so important for the doctor, hygienists, and front desk to all be on the same page regarding late patients. Ex:
15 minutes late? Reschedule automatically as soon as they call/ show up. Maybe offer doing exam/xrays if necessary and if patient is ok with it.
I hope this gets resolved for you.

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