Let’s see if this scenario sounds familiar.  It’s 4:45pm and you have a clinic full of patients.  Your CA who just brought Jonny out comes back and tells you that Jonny’s mom is upset, and she’s demanding to talk to you.  “Great,” you mutter under your breath as you feel your blood pressure begin to rise. “Bring her back and let her know I’ll be right with her,” you say in your best pretending-to-be happy voice.  Mom comes back to the clinic and proceeds to stand there glaring at you as you finish working on another patient.  You can literally feel the anger in her stare.

You walk up to her, determined not to let her ruin your day, and pleasantly say, “Hi Mrs. Jones.  Nice to see you.  I hear you have a question about Jonny’s treatment?”  “When will Jonny be getting his braces off?!?!  3 visits ago we were told he only had one more visit!” she barks at you, not even having the courtesy to respond to your pleasantries with a simple “hello.”  “Actually, Mrs. Jones, it’s noted in Jonny’s chart that three visits ago we said that he would be done in 6 months if he wore his elastics well.  Jonny told me he hasn’t been wearing his bands as instructed so he has at least another 4 months of treatment remaining, and that’s if he wears his bands well.”

“I don’t care what was written in his chart – that’s not what your assistant told us!  And I didn’t even know he was even supposed to be wearing bands!  He has school pictures coming up next month and his braces better be off by then!” Mom shouts.  This probably isn’t the best time to tell her that Jonny needs to work on his oral hygiene as well, you think to yourself.

Clearly, mom’s behavior is unacceptable.  However, she’s convinced that she’s right and all you have is a note in the chart to defend your position.  Remember, perception is reality!  Jonny and his mom really do think that’s what your assistant told them, whether it is or not.  And if you don’t have a system in place to reliably update parents at each visit, you’ve already lost that debate.  Not just that, but you now have a screaming parent in a clinic full of patients at the end of a long day.  That’s the bad news.

The good news is that you can avoid encounters such as this by utilizing one simple tool – a SCORECARD!!!  Yes, a scorecard!  “What’s that?” you ask?  A scorecard is like a report card we give ALL patients after EVERY adjustment visit.  The CA fills it out chairside at the doctor’s direction and brings it out to the reception room to give to the parent when the visit is over.  Not only does it allow you to be sure that Jonny’s mom is aware the patient’s treatment progress and your instructions, but it also helps to ensure that the CA doesn’t forget to review and/or misconstrue any of your instructions.  A win-win!!!

Another benefit of scorecards is HIPAA compliance, as I train my CA’s to simply point to the “less good” information on the card versus saying it out loud.  So instead of saying, “Dr. Mike said that Jonny is a terrible kid because he’s a bad brusher and sucks at wearing his bands,” which is what Jonny’s mom hears, your CA can simply point to the areas circled on the card and quietly say, “Dr. Mike wants Jonny to work on the circled areas.”  Now, if they’re doing excellent, we do have the CA say that out loud.  After all, what parent doesn’t want their precious child to be praised, especially in front of their friends and neighbors!  😊

And remember, it is super-important that you build sections into the treatment chart that correspond to the areas on the Scorecard.  That way, if Jonny’s mom ever does want to pick a fight, you can easily produce a record of what they have been told at every visit and by whom (as we document what CA was with the patient that day).  It puts an end to that painful and awkward debate before it ever starts!

But I’ve found that once parents get used to the scorecard they know you are tracking everything and don’t question it.  It’s also great for when patients come with a grandparent because you can give the card to the grandparent to pass along to Jonny’s parents.

The only bad news is that you’ll no longer get to spend time chatting with Mrs. Jones!  😊