Have you ever had a patient ask you why they need to spend time filling out medical history paperwork at your office? Do they seem irritated? Are they breezing through it without taking it seriously?
Some patients who enter your office won’t like giving their entire medical history to you or your team. After all, not all such conversations are pleasant ones.
Certainly, many conditions or problems feel very personal, making patients hesitant to share their information.
But, you know that doesn’t make it any less important.
Often, this hesitation results from a lack of communication or awareness.
Too often, paperwork gets handed to patients in a waiting room without much explanation.
Sure, patients usually know the importance of their medical record to their regular physician, but can be a little skeptical of why they need to share it with their dentist.
It’s only natural to wonder about how the history of their heart health can affect their teeth. Unfortunately, many even balk at the idea, and aren’t entirely truthful.
Of course, as a medical professional, you understand the importance of this information.
But, put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Would you still knowhow important it is?
So, what can you do when faced with such a skeptical patient?
Let’s take a look at some strategies you can use to ensure you’re getting the full medical history you need.
Provide a Brief Explanation
To start with, instead of merely handing your patient some forms and basic instructions, take a brief moment to talk to them.
A simple breakdown coming from you or an employee is a lot less intimidating than a packet of papers given to them with little explanation.
Speaking even briefly with patients helps relax them, leaving them more inclined to provide the most accurate medical history possible.
Some of the most important things to discuss with them are:
- Heart Problems
- Joint Replacement
- Autoimmune Conditions
While you don’t have to discuss that entire list with your patients, mention a few, and explain why they’re so important.
Educating on the Importance of Their Medical History
If a patient seems reluctant to offer up their medical record to you, don’t take it personally. Again, a medical history is a very personal thing, which many people feel uncomfortable discussing unless absolutely necessary.
Here, educating them on why it’s needed remains your best solution.
Walk them through how this information helps you provide the best care possible, while minimizing their risk of complications. Make the connections for them, so they understand the importance of everything they share.
For example, you might inform them that even in a routine cleaning a patient’s mouth can start bleeding.
A patient with heart problems could be on blood thinners, and while not life-threatening, could cause a frustrating experience for everyone. Alternatively, sometimes bacteria found in the mouth can enter the bloodstream, causing inflammation of certain valves and tissues.
This doesn’t mean you need to scare your patient into some sort of medical nightmare just so they’ll provide you with the full details of their medical record. Simply explain that there is a large list of details you have to consider when you do your job.
Generally, those who complain about offering their medical history are simply unaware of the importance.
Bringing Up Medicine/Medical Complications
Whether over-the-counter or prescription, plenty of people take medication on a regular basis. Sometimes, it even becomes so routine for people that they hardly think about it.
A simple example could come from the example of epilepsy. People who suffer from epilepsy often take medication to keep their seizures under control.
However, not all medications mix well with one another. Sometimes, this is something patients just don’t consider.
Remind your patient that your main job is to keep them and their mouth healthy. Not all medications mix together well.
Knowing these medications and any illnesses will help you make proper prescriptions to keep your patient safe.
On the other side of things, this same information helps keep their mouth healthy. Some medications mix poorly with others, causing side effects like dry mouth – which can lead to cavities or even gum disease.
This is a simple example of something you can share with a patient to emphasize the importance of honest and in-depth medical history responses.
Just because you’re not working on their heart or brain doesn’t mean the work on the mouth won’t impact them.
Building Trust Matters
Nobody really enjoys discussing their personal, private lives with complete strangers. Especially not a sensitive medical history.
But, through talking things out with your patients, even if only for a few brief moments, goes a long way towards developing trust.
Humanize your patients, and acknowledge that the process of sharing medical history can be burdensome, or even uncomfortable. But, do so without being too pressuring.
Offering honest communication yields far greater results than handing them a packet and sending them on their way.
People remain far more likely to provide open, honest communication with someone they start to trust, even if only through a few brief moments of conversation.
Talking about this process with your patient enables better understanding from all parties, and improve the quality of provided information.
Nobody likes being kept in the dark, whether that’s you, or your patient.
When it comes to getting a complete medical history, a little communication goes a long way.
About First Choice Dental Lab
First Choice Dental Lab is a full-service dental lab with locations in Downers Grove, Il. & Wauwatosa, Wi.
We manufacture & customize quality dental restorations for general dentists. We create smiles based on your needs and budget.
We’re here to help you give your patients a reason to smile!
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