In this paper I will talk about my personal experiences during my internship, along with the importance pertaining to health professionals working together and how this contributes to patient safety, and productivity in the workplace. Over the course of the semester I have contributed my time to intern at a private dental office called Canyon Creek Family Dentistry. As a pre-dental student, this was a great opportunity to obtain some experience and learn about the field in a closer aspect. I devoted 8 hours on Thursday’s every week. However, due to my current school schedule I was only able to intern one day out of the week. This did not deter me from trying to take advantage to learn as much as I can. This experience was eye-opening because it gave me a glimpse of the environment behind closed doors. This gave me a better understanding of the roles each person has, and how each person’s role serves a purpose to help make another person’s job easier. There are a lot of components that make a dental office function efficiently. I was able to play a role in those different areas that contribute to that productivity.
In conjunction to the components that make up a dental practice the front office is at the front line. I was able to learn about the important functions that the front office people do and how it affects the overall function of a dental office. The front office people included a financial treatment coordinator, the insurance coordinator, and the receptionist. All of them have different job functions but all are equally important. For instance, the insurance coordinator’s job is to verify the patient’s dental insurance prior to their scheduled appointment. This is important because it allows the patient to receive the needed information regarding pricing in advance rather than being blindsided with a large bill later. In addition, this also helps in productivity if health insurance plans are being verified in advance time is being reduced therefor you can see more patients in a day versus verifying the day of. An insurance coordinator is also responsible to get those benefits updated in the patient’s chart this makes it easier for other health professionals to view the eligibility of their benefits too.
A financial treatment coordinator on the other hand is responsible for talking to the patients about the finances of dental procedures. Patients who come are either covered through some sort of dental plan or are self-paid meaning they have no insurance. We need to know this because it is essential information that can impact the pricing of procedures. After a diagnosis is established, the dentist will then provide the patient with a treatment plan this is important information on what needs to be done. This treatment plan is then entered on the patient’s chart and then conveyed to the financial treatment coordinator. The financial treatment coordinator will then look at the patient’s insurance policy that was verified earlier by the insurance coordinator to see if their insurance pays for certain procedures. However, in most cases a person’s health insurance will vary depending on their dental plan. In addition, a financial treatment coordinator will consult with the patient about the cost for their dental treatment and provide financial assistance if they need it. Along with other functions they are also responsible for billing the health insurance if certain treatment was done and taking payments.
While interning there I also got to help the receptionist. I helped by calling patients that were scheduled to confirm the status of their appointment. A receptionist job is to answer incoming calls pertaining to patient scheduling. They are responsible for taking down any insurance information and input it in their chart. This helps the office coordinator to access the information so they can verify their benefits. Other job functions include reaching out to patients that missed their appointment, greeting and checking in patients when they arrive. It is important to have good communication skills because the receptionist is the first person that a patient will encounter.
Providing the best dental care consist of a group of dentist, dental hygienist, and dental assistants, and other dental staff members to work together as a team. Different dental professionals have a specific role and those different roles are what compounds a dental office to run efficiently. For instance, a dental hygienist scope of practice is to perform routine cleanings throughout the day. In addition, they are also responsible for going over the patient’s medical history. This information is then conveyed to the dentist so they can do their exam diligently. Communication is vital that is why it is important that a dental hygienist is conveying any dental concerns a patient is having to the dentist. Using effective listening and addressing those concerns can promote a good relationship among your patients while also providing them with good quality dental care.
During my internship I also got to interact with the dental assistants and the dentist. This helped me understand the purpose for certain procedures, different protocols that should be followed prior to those procedures, the importance of documenting, as well as setting up accordingly depending on the procedure. In this profession it is always required to interact with the patient, and this was apparent on both ends from the dental assistant and the dentist. The doctor and assistants were interacting with all the patients by communicating with them and educating them on their dental health, diagnosis, and treatment options.
The dentist with the help of the dental assistant will work together through a variety of different dental procedures. I got to help on some occasions assist the dentist with filling restorations, and extractions. I got to learn new stuff and it was truly a rewarding experience. The relationship between the dentist and the assistant is important since they work so close by side. If both health professionals can work good together this can create more production for the office and build up patient satisfaction. A dental assistant in my opinion is an important element that makes a dental office. In addition, a dental assistant will take on a variety of different functions such as sterilizing, setting up, bringing the patients back, and taking x-rays. They are responsible for taking the patient’s vitals and getting down any important information from the patient. Any dental concerns the patient is having is documented on their chart this is then re-addressed to the dentist. One thing that I learned and was continuously told during my time there was the importance of documenting. Anything pertaining to a patient should always be entered in their chart. This promotes transparency and gives everyone the needed information that they are trying to view. The dentist will work hand in hand with the assistant by analyzing the x-rays the assistant took and evaluate any reported issues the patient is having to conclusively come up with a diagnosis. A diagnosis is presented once it has been re-confirmed and the dentist has completed the exam. The dental assistant is responsible to take note of any diagnosis and input that in their chart this is called a treatment plan. Within this collaboration the assistant and the financial coordinator will come together and talk about the treatment plan. The financial coordinator will then come in and present the finances for the recommended procedure.
However, certain protocols need to be followed if any treatment is going to be done. Before any treatment can be started patients are given a consent form to sign to ensure that they are aware of possible complications that could arise. “A patient’s informed consent to investigations or treatment is a fundamental aspect of the proper provision of dental care. Without informed consent to treatment, a dentist is vulnerable to criticism on several counts. Any practitioners who cannot demonstrate that a patient has properly consented to treatment are laying themselves open to litigation.” (Woodcock JA, Willings MV, Marren PV)
There is an increasing emphasis on patient safety during the delivery of health care including oral care. “The main aspects of safety in health care were included in the International Patient Safety Goals (IPSGs) by the Joint Commission International which is responsible for accrediting healthcare organizations. These goals include correct identification of patients, improving the effectiveness of communication, improving the safety of high-alert medication, ensuring correct site, correct procedure and correct patient surgery, reducing the risk of healthcare-related infections and reducing the risk of patient harm.” (Joint Commission International.) “The term “Patient safety” was added to PubMed medical subject heading (MeSH) in 2012. It includes efforts to reduce risk, address and decrease incidents and accidents that may negatively impact healthcare consumers.” (Moe JS, Abramowicz S, Roser.)
The anatomy of the mouth is dynamic composed of different parts which include the tongue, cheeks, lips, and teeth. Any change done even with the best intention could result in unwanted results. Therefor there is an ethical responsibility by the dentist to explain any procedure being performed along with possible risks to the patient. For patients to make informed treatment decisions they must be provided with information presented in a manner that promotes understanding.
In conjunction to patient understanding health literacy is also a factor. Health literacy is the ability to be able to comprehend certain health information so that a person can make the best-informed decisions pertaining to their health. “Health literacy is linked to people’s knowledge, motivation, and competence to access, understand, appraise and apply health information in order to make judgments and take decisions in everyday life concerning healthcare, disease prevention, and health promotion to maintain or improve quality of life during the life course of a person.” (Sorensen et al., 2012, p. 3).
A dentist should always take the initiative to ask the patient questions. It is also helpful if the health provider minimizes the use of medical terms by simplifying those terms to where the patient is able to understand. A lot of times patients will not understand certain words but simplifying terms to a level that the patient is able to grasp the information can aid in informed decision making. In addition, a dentist should always confirm with the patient if they understood their options confirming this can eliminate uncertainty and lets everyone know that they are on the same page. When a dentist is asking the patients questions, he or she should try using open-ended questions. This could be effective as it allows the patient to convey more while also helping the dentist get important information to make a diagnosis communicating is always key.
However, in order to be able to strengthen health literacy, a dentist should train their patients in order to use the information that is being giving to them through different approaches. Without that you are not going to see any progress. Instead of dumping a lot of information on patients the dental professional should try breaking down the information into manageable parts for that patient. If you approach things this way you can get an indication on that patient and then they are able to grasp the information more quickly than someone else and understand where the parts are leading. Including sequence can help certain patients with allowing them to be able to know direct indication on how to go about certain treatments. These are things many health care professionals do not ask or even consider such as social support of the patient these are things that can impact a patient’s treatment plan. If this is taken into consideration you can be able to tailor a patient’s treatment plan, and this can be beneficial to compliance.
As mentioned earlier working together among all dental members is vital regarding patient outcomes. Referrals for instance, the use of referrals are common in all health fields including dentistry too. Often times, a patient will need additional intervention from a dentist who specializes in different areas of dentistry. There are many specialties in dentistry such as pediatrics, endodontics, periodontics, and oral maxio facial surgeons. “General dentistry practitioners usually decide whether, when, and where to refer the patient. They are considered the gatekeepers for specialist dental care.” (de Bondt et al., 2010). Reasons for referrals can vary such as the patient needing to see a specialist who primarily focuses on a certain area of dentistry. For instance, a patient needing braces will typically be referred to an orthodontist by the primary dentist. An orthodontist mainly treats the re-alignment of teeth using braces. Other reasons for referrals can include the need of an oral surgeon, complex cases such as reconstructive jaw surgery, or dental implant placements areas that are not in the expertise of a general dentist. Referrals are also based on the patients’ dental needs. However, communication is still continued since both dental professionals will have to work together to formulate a treatment plan since they now share a mutual patient.
It is fundamental to say collaboration among health professionals is required in any field. When health professionals work together, they are able to work efficiently in providing a healthy work environment to be in leading to job satisfaction, and less conflict. Hence, it is important that communication is always expressed this promotes transparency and can help minimize errors as a result of miscommunication. In dentistry there is little room for mistakes everything should always be confirmed if there is any uncertainty. Dental offices should strive for positive staff interaction this foundation alone can stimulate productivity, efficiency, and elevate the standard care for patients.
As a pre-dental student this experience gave me a better outlook on the profession and helped me understand different functions that makes a dental office successful. While being there, I was able to learn a lot of stuff in a short amount of time. I am thankful for the opportunity of being able to help patients with their dental needs.
I have always been confident that dentistry was the path that I wanted to take. However, this internship immersed in the profession and solidified my decision for dentistry. I enjoyed learning new things and interacting with all the dental professionals in the office. I love seeing the operations of the dental office and hope to one day have a practice of my own. I want to be able and instill similar beliefs, morals, and ethics into my own practice. Altogether, I enjoyed the experience and hope to be able to continue my education path to pursue a career in dentistry in the near future.
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