Protocol – Seven Thoughts For Seamless Patient Movement

One of my favourite restaurants ever was Pier, on New South Head Road, in Rose Bay Sydney. An iconic restaurant, owned and run by Greg Doyle, it featured amongst the top hatted restaurants every year in the annual edition of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.

My wife and I ate there at least once per year. It was indeed a special treat. The food was always superb, and the wait staff, and attention to detail were always exemplary.

In the book by the same name, Doyle discusses the food, and the philosophy that make up what we know, as Pier.

One item, which I picked up on, was that they had systems for just about everything, so that nothing was left to chance. Nothing happened by accident.

Pier restaurant was housed in a pier, as such, jutting out into Rose Bay. The dining room, or area, was a long and narrow room with glass on both sides and of course glass at the end to capture the magnificent views of Sydney Harbour and Rose Bay and Point Piper.

In the book, I read where Doyle explained that because of the anatomy of the building, and the table arrangements, the restaurant had a specific set of protocols and guidelines for the best way to transfer guests and diners from the restaurant entrance down to their reserved table. This protocol included, who should walk first, and how, along the not so wide passage between tables.

In dental practice we have a similar issue. Some offices are designed with long hallways between client lounge and treatment rooms, passing several operatories, offices, sterilisation areas and storage rooms and laboratories.

The way a patient is led, or directed in this journey can have a direct or indirect effect on that patient and the people working or visiting in the rooms that they pass.

Having a system of protocols avoids or reduces the chance of awkward or embarrassing moments.

Here are some of the ideas that we developed in our office:

  1. Firstly, it is fairly obvious that it is difficult to have meaningful conversation with a client while in motion. It is impossible to engage in eye contact and facial reflection while walking beside, in front of, or behind someone. So we decided that the transfer from client lounge to treatment room would only involve spoken words of direction.Even courteous throwaway lines about “how are you?” etc. were considered wasted in the environment of movement. It would be hard to gauge patient facial expression, as well as share facial expressions with the patient, as you both walk to the treatment room. It is also difficult to control content of conversation in a hallway, which is a shared environment. Adjoining rooms would be in earshot of those conversations.
  2. The hallway may be a place where accidental collisions could occur. Sterilised and unsterilized instruments are transported along the hallway, so movement of patients should be swift from client lounge to treatment room, to avoid accidental collisions.
  3. Open any connecting doors for the client that are usually closed. Connecting doors that separate treatment areas from office areas may be heavy and awkward. It is a great courtesy to open a door for your client. It is even more powerful to say to them “Allow me to open the door for you.”
  4. Decide whether to walk behind or in front of the client. We decided to give direction and walk behind them. This discourages chitchat, and encourages swift transfer.
  5. Make sure any doors along the passage that need to be closed are closed, and vice versa. Tearooms, “busy looking” offices, laboratories etc., may present better with their doors closed.
  6. Where possible, look for ways to assist your clients. Look for opportunities to carry bags or shopping or umbrellas or coats etc. along the hallway for them.
  7. Finally, a policy that should be mandatory in every business, not just dental, but everywhere:
    *All team members should know to greet each other, and also guests, if passing in the hallway.
    *Nothing exudes “fail” more than two team members passing each other without a quick smile or raised eyes or a tiny hello. It’s just common courtesy. Having a patient see two team members pass each other in the hallway like strangers cannot be good for business.Conversely, a patient greeted in the hall by another passing team member would only build confidence and respect for the dental office.

So how’s your protocol for transferring clients, customers and patients? Do you have a system of preferred dos and don’ts?

Did you like this blog article? If you did then hit the like button below.

Also, hit the share buttons below and share this blog article with your friends and colleagues. Share it via email, Facebook and twitter!!

What’s working in your office? Leave your comments below.