Why I Place High Value on Interdisciplinary Treatment Planning

July 8, 2022 Abdi Sameni

Complex dental cases often need support from multiple specialties for a final successful outcome. The approach to work out these cases can be a “multidisciplinary approach” or an “interdisciplinary approach.”

In the case of “multidisciplinary treatment planning,” each of the dental professionals makes their own plan for the treatment they will provide and they seek the help of other disciplines as the need arises. A fairly common example is when a patient finishes orthodontic alignment and then sees a dentist for esthetic restorations.

“Interdisciplinary treatment planning” takes another approach. Treatment is preplanned among the restorative dentist, specialists, and the laboratory team prior to commencement. What is notable in this approach is that you communicate, you collaborate, and you create the plan together as a team. As a restorative dentist, my role is to sit at the center of the specialist, the lab technician, and the patient. In my experience, involving the lab technician from the beginning produces best results and a more efficient process of treatment.

Avishai Sadan — my colleague and the dean at USC, says interdisciplinary treatment planning results in “being able to formulate a custom-tailored treatment plan that addresses patient present and future needs and to execute it to the highest clinical level possible, using state-of-the-art techniques and technologies.” This statement defines for me the best way to do dentistry.

The Benefits of Interdisciplinary Treatment Planning

The foremost benefit is to our restorative patient, whose well-planned dentistry optimally solves current and future needs. Not only are restorative results at the highest clinical level, but we can practice what we enjoy doing most at our highest skill level, while enjoying collaboration with others who are working at their highest skill level. Liability is lower, and we learn from each other.

As a team, we have developed a smooth process of communicating, contributing knowledge, and deciding what will be an optimal course of treatment. We document with photos the procedures each of us performs so we each have complete documentation of the cases we do together.

The others who are on my interdisciplinary team refer patients to me because they are comfortable with the process we have developed and value the quality of the restorative dentistry I do. My practice is distinguishable from dental practices that do not do interdisciplinary treatment planning. Patients who are referred are commonly told about this interdisciplinary planning approach before they arrive. They anticipate a high level of personal attention and a course of treatment that all doctors agree upon. Case acceptance is high when all doctors and the lab team agree on what is best for the patient. Communication and agreement among the providers is so complete, the patient can be optimally informed about what to expect at each stage of treatment.

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Abdi Sameni

Dr. Abdi Sameni, Clinical Associate Professor of Dentistry at Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC, is the founder and developer of the “International Restorative Dentistry Symposium, Los Angeles.” He is a former faculty for the “esthetic selective” and the former director of the USC Advanced Esthetic Dentistry Continuum for the portion relating to indirect porcelain veneers. Dr. Sameni lectures nationally and internationally. He is a member of The American College of Dentists, OKU National Dental Honor Society and the Pierre Fauchard Academy. Dr. Sameni maintains a practice limited to restorative dentistry in West Los Angeles, California and the 2020 Pankey Institute webinar he presented on interdisciplinary treatment planning can be viewed here on YouTube.

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Referrals That Meet and Exceed Patient Expectations

May 11, 2018 Pankey Gram

There are so many different processes, techniques, and skills that go into a functional dental practice that it can be hard to keep track of them all. Seemingly inconsequential things like referrals can get the better of us if we don’t have a solid system in place.

Patient Friendly Referrals

The best specialist referrals involve open communication and provide patients with a sense of care and consideration. Patients prefer to be given a tangible referral tool, such as the specialist’s brochure, along with your confident assertions of their quality. This gives them something solid to associate their trust with and provides further familiarity.

Validation of your referral comes in other ways as well. Patients will want you to provide the introductory information that you might assume the specialist will want. It’s important to remember that they won’t automatically feel comfortable putting their health in someone else’s hands.

You might consider asking the patient if they would like your office to call the specialist to establish the referral and set up their first appointment. This strengthens their sense that you are actively involved in the referral and have a strong relationship with the other office and team. It’s proof of your commitment to their health.

A big no-no is not discussing the patient’s condition with the specialist before their appointment. It will become very obvious to the patient if you haven’t done your due diligence in helping the specialist understand their needs. They will feel stranded and ignored, and often are uncertain that the specialist will communicate back with you after their visit.

Finally, make sure you have an arrangement with the specialist ahead of time that they will check in with you after the treatment. Then, once the patient returns to your practice, you can share with them all you learned from the specialist since they were there.

How do you ease patient concerns during the referral process? Leave a comment below!

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Communication Challenge: Patient Referrals

March 14, 2018 Pankey Gram

One of the keys to delivering meaningful patient care is upholding the power of relationships in all aspects of your work life. For example, clear communication in the patient referrals process can either make a patient feel doubly supported or leave them feeling insignificant.

So how do you foster good relationships with the specialists you refer to that improve patient trust?

Patient Referrals: Communication, Relationships, and Trust

It’s not uncommon for a dentist to refer their patient to a specialist, only for the patient to realize the specialist hasn’t been told anything about their unique case. This clumsy pass between health care professionals starts the patient off with a heightened level of distrust.

Then, the situation can be made even worse if what the patient learns from the specialist is very different from what their dentist told them. They can become frustrated by the inconsistency or angry that they are being given conflicting information.

The solution to this problem is as simple as it is difficult to enact consistently. Patients will develop increased trust with their general dentists if they are led to believe the general dentist is skilled at referring them to specialists.

Additionally, they should feel that their case is handled with great care in the transition period. Their general dentist should make the process smooth for everyone involved and communicate expectations with the specialist.

Patient trust is everything. They will not follow you on the path to more advanced or complex treatment, or even come to think of you as their long-term dentist, if they feel the relationship is built on shaky ground. Who you refer to and how you do it can either strengthen that relationship or do the exact opposite.

More than anything, you must show the patient you are very familiar with the specialist and advise the specialist about the patient in turn. The specialist’s office should then be able to affirm your relationship with the patient by providing complementary care and information.

When you and the specialists you refer to provide conflicting treatment plans or explanations, doubt inevitably creeps in.

How do you communicate effectively in the referrals process? 

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