Patient-friendly Office Checklist

  • Use clear, easy-to-follow signage
  • Greet patients with a general attitude of helpfulness. All staff should be trained to welcome and encourage questions from patients.
  • During office check-in procedures:
  • Provide forms in the patient’s language
  • Provide assistance with completing forms

Consider Paul Thomas the 71-year-old retired plumber whose response to the receptionist when given several forms to fill out was:

Patient: “I forgot my glasses; I’ll fill these out when I get home and bring them in with me the next time that I’m here.”

Receptionist: “Paul, Dr. Alverez will need your completed forms for today’s procedures. I’ll tell you what, if it’s alright with you, I’ll be happy to read the questions to you and fill in your answers. That will save you the trouble of having to bring them back.”

If the patient seems uncomfortable with this option, then the dentist could go over the medical history questions with the patient at the beginning of the appointment.

  • Only collect essential information
  • Provide forms in an easy-to-read format.
  • When referring patients for consultations:
  • Review the instructions
  • Provide directions to the site of the referral
  • Provide assistance with insurance issues

When providing patient with print information:

Review important instructions verbally

Before each visit is over:

Ask open-ended questions, rather than simply saying, “Do you have any questions?” you might ask: “What questions haven’t I answered?”

If you would like to learn more about creating a health literate environment in the workplace simply click on the following link. It will take you to the Institute of Medicine’s discussion paper, “Ten Attributes of Health Literate Care Organizations” (2013):

While our main motivation in improving patients’ oral health literacy should be to promote our patients’ health and well being, it is also worth noting that inadequate provider-patient communication can result in negative consequences for the dental professional.

The National Practitioner Data Bank Public Use File (NPDB) Summary Report, US DHHS31 documented the following dental practice-related malpractice statistics for the years 1990-2004:

  • 34,691 malpractice reports regarding dentist
  • 137 malpractice reports regarding dental residents
  • 17 malpractice reports regarding dental hygienists
  • 19 malpractice reports regarding denturists
  • 8 malpractice reports regarding dental assistants

The reasons for these Patient-Clinician Related Malpractice Lawsuits were categorized as follows:

  1. Inadequate explanation of diagnoses
  2. Inadequate explanation of treatment
  3. Patient feels ignored
  4. Clinician fails to understand the perspective of patient
  5. Clinician discounts or devalues views of patients or relatives
  6. Patient feels rushed