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Three Guaranteed Ways To Ruin A Handoff

communication practice systems Apr 15, 2021

Every doctor I speak with, tells me they understand how incredibly valuable an excellent patient handoff is for their team to master, and they realize the handoff directly impacts the practice’s success. Yet time and time again, I see handoffs that are not only lackluster but actually set team members up for failure rather than success. These poorly executed handoffs create a mediocre customer experience and end up deterring, rather than encouraging patients to schedule the next step in their treatment plan. 


Today, Let’s quickly identify three common mistakes we often see that are certain to ruin your patient handoff.


#1: The Team is Unprepared


There is no quicker way to ruin a handoff than to come to it unprepared. Whether handing off from one clinician to another, or from the clinical to the admin team, ensure that the team knows, and can clearly communicate the information they are intending to transfer. 


Spend time in a team meeting, getting really clear about the information you want to transfer from one team member to another during each handoff that occurs in the practice. In the operatory, what information will help develop trust and engage the patient? At the front desk, what are the key items you need to communicate to ensure that the checkout and scheduling process goes smoothly? 


#2: You Talk About Your Patient, Not With Your Patient


One of the easiest ways to alienate anyone is to talk about them, in front of them. This is a situation that we see arise time and again in the dental office; team members talk about their patients and over their patients as if they are not present in the room. When handing a patient off, wherever you are, talk with them! The patient should be included in and a part of every conversation.


When executing a handoff, introduce the patient to the next team member, engage them in the conversation about their care. Remember, the more involved an individual is with the conversation, the more connection and trust they will have with you and your team! 


#3: You Have Negative Body Language


You have heard that body language, and nonverbal communication is important, but would you be surprised to learn that “most experts agree that 70 to 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal.” When communicating with patients and team members during a handoff, you must not only pay attention to what you are saying and how you are saying it but also to what your non-verbal cues are telling the patients. Are you standing behind or hovering over the patient? Are you failing to make eye contact? What are your facial expressions communicating? 


Once again, take the time to discuss all of these important items. Where will you stand at the front desk, where will you sit when you are in the operatory? Remember, the words that you use are only a small piece of the puzzle. Make sure that all the cues you are sending are setting up a great handoff!


Take time to review these three items with your team. Are you guilty of one, or all three? How often do you fall victim to these items that could be sabotaging your case acceptance and decreasing patient satisfaction? With just a bit of conversation and intention, you and your team can ensure that you won’t let these important items ruin one of the most important interactions in the office.



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