Who Does the Patient Need to See?
Many dental offices now have multiple practitioners in one location. The first concern that needs to be addressed when there are two or more dentists working at the same location at the same time is; to whom does a new patient get assigned? Another question that arises is which practitioner are the current patients to see? There are several factors that should be considered when making a current or new patient assignment, such as seniority of the practitioners at that office, continuity of care, autonomy of the practitioner, and skill set and training of the practitioner.
Does Seniority Play a Role in New Patient Assignments?
The practitioner with the most seniority, who has been at a particular location the longest, will more than likely have the largest patient base. Therefore, they have fewer openings for new patient assignments.
If the dentists at one location have all practiced at that office for the same period of time, new patients should be distributed evenly. Unless otherwise agreed upon, this method will help ensure an even case load for each dentist.
In the event that a new practitioner is added to a location with currently practicing dentists then new patients should be assigned to him/her. This will allow for the new practitioner’s patient base to be built up and a solid practice to be established.
Skill Set and Training of the Practitioners
When making patient assignments the skill set and training of each practitioner must be taken into consideration first and foremost before making a patient assignment. A patient coming in for a specialized treatment, for instance, implants or intravenous sedation, will need to be assigned to a clinician that has received additional training and certification for dental implant procedures and/or IV sedation techniques.
Continuity of Care for the Patients
Continuity of care consists of a continuous caring relationship with an identified health care professional. Although a dental office may have multiple practitioners working in one facility, patients prefer to identify with just one dentist. This is an important part of relationship building and confidence in care.
When making patient assignments, the practitioner that has seen that patient the most frequently is the practitioner to whom the patient should be scheduled with.
Honoring Patient Preferences, Requests and Autonomy
The idea of autonomy in medical practice says “that patients have the right to determine what should be done with their bodies…they are capable of decision making. Respect for patient autonomy affirms this dynamic in the doctor patient relationship.”
- Patient requests should be honored when at all possible. This will build trust and confidence between the patient and facility.
- Sometimes a patient will request a certain doctor due to a referral from their friends or family members.
- Often times a patient will request either a male or female practitioner. For example, a patient may request a female dentist because they perceive that a female may provide more gentle care.