The Best and Only Way For the Doctor to Discretely Receive Private Phone Calls

Sometimes it’s our actions that undo all our good work.

Doctors leaving paying patients and taking personal phone calls is one point in question. How bad is that?

Just think about it. The whole team is going above and beyond to bend over backwards with World Class Customer Service and Doctor has his cellphone ringing away and is constantly pausing, in front of paying patients, to take non-dental calls. Bad, bad look!!

It is rude and disrespectful to the patient being treated. It is a slap in the face for the team who are striving to “lift their game” and lift the image of the dental office.

I know it’s a curly question indeed doctors. Isn’t it?


So how then do you deal with urgent phone calls that come into your office while you’re treating patients?

How is it announced to you in the treatment room?

Do you take the calls in front of the patient there and then?

It’s a curly question. Whether it’s your broker, your lawyer, your builder, your foreman? How do you take the call?

What if it is your wife? Or your child? Or your parent?

Also, in this day of mobile phones, or cellphones, it is now possible for personal and private calls to bypass the gatekeeper at your office.

Do you put your cellphone on ring or on vibrate? Do you keep it on your person or do you put it on a desk or bench nearby? All relevant questions….

I know it is a tough one. We had a front office person once who let no calls go through to the dentist. Nil. Naught. Zero. No matter whether the call was expected, or urgent. Or if it was a call back from a callback call by our doc. The doc was never told. Ever!

My goodness this became very frustrating. Poor old doc, when he finally got to finishing at the end of a long day there was a pile of phone message slips waiting for him, some of which he had been hoping to take and act upon or direct action on when they were received….

On the flip side, I recall my mother’s disdain at having a specialist endodontist take stockbroker calls in right in front of her in the treatment room, while she was paying for the time. And under rubber dam what more!

So what’s the best way to handle the phone call interruption?

Firstly, I think that all calls need to be taken by a third party outside of the treatment room. Whether it’s the dental office phone, or the doctor’s private cellphone, these all need to be taken in an area away from the treated patient.

It’s probably wise for the doc to let the phone answerer know who he is expecting a call from, and whether it’s urgent or not, and whether he wants to be interrupted and informed about the call and whether he’d like to take the call.

This sort of clear-cut agenda needs to be outlined to the phone answerer at the beginning of each and every day.

Now I know it’s hard in this day and age with the power and the memory that cellphones have, for the doc to surrender his phone to someone else. This is simply because there maybe information on that device, be it emails or Facebook or SMSs, that belong in the private domain of the doctor. If that’s the case then the cellphone needs to go off. Period.

Assuming then that the front office person has strict instructions not to interrupt the doc for every call, rather to only let him know of a certain number of possible calls, then the interruptions in the treatment room can be reduced and kept to a bare minimum.

So what’s the best way for the doc to be informed that he is required on the phone?

At Active Dental we used the humble post-it note yet again.


Front office, responsible for taking the call, would never announce the phone call to the doc ever, in the treatment room.

This is what they would do.

They would enter the treatment room and move to beside the doctor and the patient, but not in the patient’s line of view. They would have written on the post-it something like, “Mr. Smith. Line 1.”

Discretely they would then present the post it note pad for the doctor to read. This pad would be positioned or held down near the patient’s shoulder where the doctor could easily read what was written on the post-it.

Once read, the doc would then offer a short verbal response to the front office person, sometimes in code, as to whether he would take the call then and there or whether they needed to take a message on behalf of the doc.

If the doc was going to receive the call, he would take it in another room away from the treated patient. In much the same way as he excuses himself for a hygiene check, the doctor would offer the patient a rinse or a rest as he excused himself from the treatment room, but without full explanation. It was not necessary for the patient to know the doc was on a phone call.

So doc would say something like “Mrs. Smith, I’m just sitting you up for a rinse out for a moment. Kathy has a fresh tissue there for you. Would you excuse me please for one minute?” Mrs. Smith has no inkling that the Doc is taking a call.

On the other hand, if the doc is going to return the call later, he will tell the messenger something like “30 minutes?” Short and simple. Or “lunchtime?” Very easy.

Simply put, the communications by the doc about phone call interruptions can be put very clinically by team and by him so that patients are unaware of these calls whatsoever.

Try to look at how you handle phone calls like this in your office. It can be tricky, but certainly, when handled discretely, maintains your dental office image as that of a team that cares about great service!


This is just one of the many straight forward protocols and procedures that make up The Ultimate Patient Experience, a simple easy to implement system that I developed that allowed me to build an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb.  If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

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