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Handy Handoffs


Dear Sharyn,

My team resists doing handoffs. They say they forget to do it or that they don’t have time. I suspect they don’t see the value and also don’t know exactly how to do a good handoff. Do you have any suggestions on how I can motivate them to do this more regularly and effectively?


Dear KB,

There may be two interlocking issues here: One, your staff don’t see the benefits of handoffs and secondly, they don’t know how to do an effective handoff.

So, let’s describe the benefits. Handoffs help receiving team members get up-to-date information about the patient to reduce miscommunication and provide a seamless customer service experience. A second benefit is to assure the patient that what s/he has said has been accurately understood and communicated. Finally, handoffs also reduce “patient amnesia” by helping the patient remember what happened in the operatory, while they’re at the front desk. 

A good handoff is like being the host at a party. Hosts introduce guests to people they don’t know by communicating something interesting about both people.  In the dental practice, team members broker communication by summarizing what they learned from the patient and delivering it like it’s on a silver platter to the next person.

There are three opportunities for handoffs: DA to Dr; Hygienist to Dr and clinical staff to the front desk. The employee delivering the handoff should describe the patient’s motivators and concerns as well as the clinical procedures performed so that the receiving party knows the next steps.  This must be done in front of the patient.

When working with new patients, the handoff should also include a compliment about the receiving team members so that the patient trusts the next person.

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“As an Office Manager, I’ve seen a great difference in my practice since starting with Sharyn. Three years ago our staff was in turmoil with a lot of infighting and gossip and some jealousy directed towards me.

I had given up because everything I did was judged. Now I have learned to have more one-to-one communication and by being more vulnerable with individuals I found my leadership voice. As a team, we’re all focused on the same goals.

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Sharyn has gotten us out of our comfort zone and inspired us to dream bigger and it works.”

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