“Can I measure how consistently, predictably, and proactively I treatment plan?”

April 15, 2022
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“Can I measure how consistently, predictably, and proactively I treatment plan?”

4.15.2022

What if there was a way to utilize dental emergencies to help measure the effectiveness of the treatment planning process?

Every day dental practices encounter patient emergencies. A patient calls the office and says, “I broke a tooth and I need to come in.” Or, “I’m having a lot of pain and swelling, can I come in today?”

Dental practices can learn a lot about the effectiveness of their treatment planning process by doing a quick analysis of emergencies in patients that have been seen in the office within the last 12 months. Take a look at these 2 emergency scenarios with an existing patient:

Scenario #1:

Doctor: “Mr. Johnson, what brings you in today?”

Patient: “Well Doc, I was eating a soft grilled cheese sandwich today for lunch and my tooth broke. It’s killing me!! I was just here 4 months ago and you said everything was fine and looked great, how could this have happened?”

Scenario #2:

Doctor: “Mr. Johnson, what brings you in today?”

Patient: “Well Doc, that tooth you told me I needed to get taken care of broke yesterday. I know I should have gotten it fixed seven months ago but you know how busy life gets. Any chance you can fix it today?”

Both the context of the emergency and the mindset of the patient are very different in these 2 scenarios. This is because in one instance the emergency was expected by the patient, and in the other instance the emergency was completely unexpected.

While all emergencies are frustrating and painful, unexpected emergencies create more stress for patients and more strain on the patient-doctor relationship. And while not all emergencies can be predicted, many can be. And, a great treatment planning process helps a doctor communicate to the patient when an emergency might be on the horizon and how to prevent it. The more thorough a doctor is in their treatment planning, the more likely patients will know of a potential future emergency. When treatment planning is consistent and accurate, Scenario #2 becomes more common than Scenario #1.

How to Measure Effectiveness

Practices can begin to measure the effectiveness of their treatment planning process by using a simple metric called the Anticipated Emergency Ratio.

To use this, dental practices must begin to track emergencies for every patient in the office that has been seen in the last 12 months:

  • If the area or tooth involved in this emergency has already been diagnosed for treatment, it’s marked as an anticipated emergency
  • If the area or tooth involved has not been diagnosed for treatment, it’s marked as an unanticipated emergency

The goal is to achieve an 80/20 ratio, where 80% of emergencies in patients who have been seen in the last 12 months are anticipated emergencies, while only 20% are unanticipated. While it’s not possible to avoid all unanticipated emergencies, it is possible to reduce them. And, the result is a marked difference in the level of trust in the patient-doctor relationship and an improvement in the overall quality and consistency of the patient experience.

How to Reduce Unanticipated Emergencies

By treatment planning the same way, for every patient, during every appointment, all day, doctors can reduce unanticipated emergencies. This means doctors must be treatment planning the same way the late afternoon when they are ready to go home as they do in the morning when they are fresh and ready to work. They must be treatment planning the same way on a on a busy day as they do on a slow day when there’s less to do.

Being consistent, predictable, and proactive in the treatment planning process can improve the Anticipated Emergency Ratio and reduce the stress and dread of unanticipated emergencies, creating a better experience for everyone.

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