Writing the right way

May 1, 2005
Adopt a framework for a standard letter to simplify the routine questions that need to be asked and answered

Adopt a framework for a standard letter to simplify the routine questions that need to be asked and answered

Managing a successful dental practice requires the commitment to provide excellent service and leverage effective communication skills. More often than not, dentists tend to shy away from writing a simple letter requesting information or a medical clearance for their patients. Perhaps this stems from a lack of time or they simply may not know what to write. For many, it is easier to delegate this responsibility to the dental hygienist or the assistant.

If the doctor is the one requesting background information from another practice, then it is appropriate to have the doctor write the request. Understandably, many practices are busy and do not afford the dentist the luxury of time to complete administrative requests on a day-to-day basis. In such cases, it may be easier to have an office manager use a standard template and generate a letter for the dentist to sign.

Let’s face it - the written word has a significant influence on the image and professionalism of your dental practice! One way to raise the level of professionalism in the practice is to adopt a framework for a standard letter to simplify most of the routine questions that need to be asked and answered. Creating a template ensures that the format for your letter is clear, concise, and consistent every time you send a request for information. Use the template (see Figure 1) and follow the suggested guidelines to project your office’s professionalism with improved written communication.

Guidelines for standard letters

Be clear, brief, and concise.

Define the content - identify yourself, the recipient, and the subject matter.

State purpose or reason for your letter - inquiry, request, referral etc.

List recommended actions and next steps.

Example of use for letter

On Dec. 30, 2004, a 7-year-old boy presented for a new patient examination, child prophylaxis, fluoride treatment, and X-rays. According to his social worker, he had never been to a dentist before. By observing his comportment, it was evident that he had behavioral problems, difficulty with speech, and lacked focus on any one topic. He also seemed to suffer from some type of social anxiety and fear. I guessed this because each time he made an effort to recline in the patient chair, he would immediately jump up, cry, run and hide in the corner, and then hug himself. After watching his pattern of behavior, it became clear to me that to treat him safely, he might need to be restrained. A quick clinical examination revealed rampant caries, extremely poor oral hygiene, and gross neglect. Based on rampant decay and difficulty in managing his behavior, I decided that this patient would be best treated in an operating room setting. However, prior to arranging the O.R. appointment, the social worker understood that an assessment and medical clearance were needed from the child’s physician.

The sample form (Figure 1) reflects my request to the child’s physician. It can be used as a template in any office setting that requires further information or action.

Use the suggested template and streamline the efficiency of your practice.

Click here to download Figure 1

Priya Kothari, DMD, graduated from Boston University’s School of Dental Medicine in 1977. Since completing an AEGD residency at the University of Pennsylvania, she has been practicing general dentistry and has developed a keen interest in improving office productivity and efficiency. She currently practices in King of Prussia, Penn. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].