Sheri's Solutions: Gathering patient data

2015 03 31 16 23 41 686 Doniger Sheri 2015 200

"Do you want me to fill this form out? I don't understand English so good."

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.

Well, yes, we need to know very important information, such as responsible party, medical and dental history, as well as allowing us informed consent and HIPAA acknowledgement. We had this experience today, with a young 33-year-old patient. So, what are our options when we need this important information before seeing a new patient? The man's wife was working, and he did not understand the "call-a-friend" concept.

We assisted the patient to fill out his form, but there was still a major translation issue. After a few slow moments of conversation, I moved over to the computer. We typed in each part of the dental history into Google Translate. The patient read it in his native language and responded. It was so simple. His wife did fill out his medical history before the visit. We were also able to do the same chairside with his iPhone, when questions came up during the intraoral examination, such as "When did you have this crown placed?" or "Have you had bleeding when brushing?"

Translations are a little touchy. We try not to use the word "pain," so "sensitive" was the newly learned word of the day.

“It is amazing what we take as "simple" on our forms that are not that easy to translate.”

It is important to be aware of cultural differences and sensitivity. In some cultures, "washing" denotes "brushing." Depending on your location, some patients may be new English learners. English may not have been their native language. Their grade-school child may be the translator for the family.

With our multicultural society, this scenario may be inevitable in many practices. It is amazing what we take as "simple" on our forms that are not that easy to translate, such as chewing on one side of your mouth, clenching, or jaw clicking.

I know there are other venues to acquire translations, but this method was both free and timely. We all have so much dental technology in our offices, from intraoral cameras to state-of-the-art composites. Using something as available as Google Translate to assist in patient management appears to be a "low-tech" addition to our patient care.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She is the immediate past president of the American Association of Women Dentists and editor of the American Association of Women Dentists "Chronicle" newsletter. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. You can reach her at [email protected].

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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