Four important questions you should ask when scheduling an appointment for a new patient.

When a new patient calls to schedule an appointment, I recommend getting as much information on that initial phone call as possible. I’ve found that this can help to provide the most comprehensive care to the patient at their initial appointment.

Here are some questions I like to ask a new patient on the phone and why:

“How did you hear about our office?”

This one’s easy. Tracking referrals can help the practice decide where best to spend advertising dollars. For example, if we placed an ad in a magazine, what was the return on investment? Internal marketing can also be beneficial for the office. Track which patients are referring their friends and family. Send them a thank you note. You can track referrals in Dentrix by entering in the Referred By source in the New Patient Information window in the Appointment Book.

“When was the last time you had your teeth cleaned?”

This helps to determine several things. If the patient had their teeth cleaned six months ago, it’s likely they will just need a prophy and not periodontal treatment. This helps to know how much time to allow for their appointment. Also, the patient may have had X-rays taken recently at their last dental office that can be transferred to your office.
If it’s been ten years since their last cleaning, the patient may need scaling and root planing or more extensive periodontal treatment and the hygienist and doctor can be better prepared for that patient.

Also, this question typically gives the patient an opportunity to tell you about their attitude toward the dentist. For example, they may say something like, “It’s been ten years since I had my teeth cleaned. I’m afraid of the dentist.” This lets you know up front that the patient has a fear and may require a little more TLC.

Ask medical history questions such as: “Do you have any replaced joints? Do you have any heart problems like Mitrovalve Prolapse?”

Getting this information ahead of time can help the office determine if this patient may have a need to pre-medicate prior to dental appointments. This avoids having to delay or reschedule the appointment which is annoying for the patient and lost production for the practice.

“What type of dental insurance do you have?”

There are so many types of insurance plans. It can be hard for dental professionals to keep up and understand all the requirements, let alone the patient. I recommend verifying a patient’s dental insurance benefits before they come to your office. This way you can find out if the patient’s plan allows them benefits at your office before they arrive for their appointment.

I’ve found spending the time to get this information before the patient comes to the office makes the patient’s new patient appointment go more smoothly. By asking these types of questions you can avoid the problems that may delay or cause the office to have to reschedule the patient’s appointment.

By Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for over 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at [email protected].