Following Up On Your Surgical Patients
Unfortunately, many dental and medical providers are getting out of the practice of “follow ups” on their patients. Whether it’s due to increased caseloads or simply forgetting, oral surgery is a field where patient follow-ups are vital to the outcome of your services.
There are three basic types of patient follow ups that oral surgeons and their practices should implement with each patient: telephone calls, post op visits, and letters to the referring provider. Although social changes may have taught us that these aren’t as essential as they once were, we beg to differ. Not only are they beneficial to your reputation, but they’re vital to patient safety.
Follow Up Calls
Every single patient in your office should be receiving a follow up call the day after his or her surgical procedure. An assistant, front desk, or even the doctor can make the call if time allows for it.
During the call, be sure to address:
- How the patient is feeling after their specific type of procedure (don’t call without referencing the notes!)
- Whether or not they are able to maintain their comfort with the recommended prescription or over the counter medication.
- Reviewing home care methods for their particular surgery.
- Any questions or concerns they may have.
- Reminding them of their follow up appointment to monitor how the surgical site is healing.
If something alarming, such as pain or swelling, is noted - the doctor should be notified, and the patient told that they will pass the message along. Return the patient’s call again before the business day is over, and a day or two later for follow up.
Post Operative Visits
Many people unknowingly experience complications around their surgical sites and are oblivious to the problem until their oral surgeon evaluates it. While many conditions are painfully obvious, others may not be. It is vital to have patients return for a follow up evaluation after invasive procedures that risk the chance of complication.
One of the ways you can improve your patients’ compliancy with postoperative visits is to prevent them from having to make any out-of-pocket expenses at the time of the visit. When procedures are paid (or pre-paid, in this instance) at the time of the surgical service, they won’t feel that you’re having them come back simply to make more money off of them. Instead, they will see it as an important step that concludes the care plan as a whole.
Turning Patients Over to Their Primary Dental Provider
A written letter should be sent to the referring dentist stating what procedures were completed, what the outlook was, and your recommendations for general follow up. This allows the general dentist to pick up where you left off, and know whether or not any specific findings need to be monitored.
Failing to provide follow up with referring providers isn’t just damaging to professional relationships, but it could also cause a lapse in care to the patient.
Creating vital, lasting relationships with your patients is beneficial to their health, safety, and to future patient referrals. Be sure not to let an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s smile go unchecked.