Are Doctors and Team Members on the Same Page?

Written by Heather Siler

Dental offices are busy places where clinicians run from room to room with only seconds to spare. Occasionally, in all the confusion, team members and dentists aren’t on the same page regarding the patient’s treatment plan. As a result, the patient receives an employee’s plan and the doctor's opposing plan concerning the same treatment. This type of miscommunication is common in practice all over the world, and the one who suffers is the patient.

Usually, there are two reasons for an inconsistent treatment plan. The first reason is that the team and the doctor haven’t reviewed the plan together. The second reason involves the hygienist, assistant, or front desk team members not agreeing with the doctor’s prescribed plan.

If the problem is related to not being familiar the treatment plan, time must be set aside to review who’s in the chair, proposed treatment, areas on “watch,” and any other necessary facts to ensure the patient is handled professionally. A morning huddle is a good idea with the team and doctor’s attendance being mandatory.

The second cause of confusion with an existing treatment plan involves a team member who doesn’t agree with the doctor. While it may be difficult for clinicians with years of experience to accept, the only person who can legally diagnose and change proposed treatment in the office is the Dentist. Hygienists, assistants, and front office team members are not legally permitted to diagnose or change any doctor’s diagnosis or prescribed treatment.  

Disagreeing causes some team members to revise the dentist’s recommended treatment by justifying that they know what’s best for the patient or by making financial assumptions involving the patient. Following are some guidelines to help prevent and avoid this type of confusion and insubordination. Otherwise, the doctor’s treatment plan is devalued and suggests to the patient that the dentist is trying to take advantage.

Step one-

A team meeting lead by the doctor outlining the manner in which patients should be handled clinically is a great start. There should also be documentation of this protocol, and each team member must sign. If a team member refuses to sign, it may be time to part ways.

Step Two-

Incorporate scripts that teach each team member how to have conversations regarding treatment with the patient. Role-playing within the team can help with any awkwardness. Each team member must be familiar with the scripts and adhere to the wording.

Step Three-

Stick to the plan and always offer support. Avoid slipping back into old habits through continuous training.

Although difficult at first, devising and following through with a system outlining the proper way of presenting and following through with prescribed treatment plans will allow everyone involved to be on the same page.