Many patients do not understand what their dentists have told them during a visit and do not participate in decisions about their care, which leaves them ill-prepared to make daily choices and take actions that lead to good self-management.
Others are not yet even aware that taking an active role in managing their conditions, or health in general, can have a big impact. Enabling patients to make good choices and sustain healthy behaviors requires a collaborative approach between dentists and their teams, as well as patients. These enriching interactions help patients build the skills and confidence they need to actively participate in their care, which is a large component of the patient care experience.
For the purpose of this post, we have categorized ways to improve communication throughout the patient care process.
Before the Visit
(such as timely access to appointments and adequate preparation for the visit)
- Establish systems and technology to have staff members use their time efficiently and institute patient self-management by gathering clinical information and patient experience data prior to the visit.
- Have front office staff ask patients (or direct in your automated scheduling system) to bring questions, concerns, medications, and health information to their appointment.
- Hold daily scrums with your team to rapidly identify areas for bottlenecks and inefficiencies to occur and address immediately.
During the Visit
(including communication from all of your team members and supporting staff)
- Collaboratively develop a visit agenda with the patient, handling as many concerns as possible, and plan return visits as appropriate.
- Engage the entire dental team in supporting patients, use “warm handoff” introductions, and explain team member roles to patients.
- Ask about patient goals to improve their health and help them make action plans that build confidence in their ability to reach these goals.
- Use communication technology to page dentists and provide instant messaging for care recommendations.
After the Visit
(such as patient follow-up, communication of lab results, and the understanding of instructions)
- Prepare a written care plan or visit summary that includes goals and action plans to ensure patients and families know what to do when they leave the visit.
- Organize follow-up support to help patients sustain healthy behaviors between visits.
- Provide the opportunity for patients to complete surveys on the patient experience and to review your practice.
Consider how technology can improve communication and the care experience
Embrace new communication technology whenever you can. There is a fundamental transformation in the way patients and healthcare providers interact using smartphones and mobile devices. Ideally, your dental practice is using the same devices and software to make your jobs easier and more effective.
The right dental communication software:
- uses a single platform
- enables instant messaging between staff
- allows patients to sign forms digitally, on any device
- ensures secure storage of patient information
- uses secure email communication with labs and partners
- conforms to HIPAA rules and regulations
Want to learn more about dental communication platforms that support internal communication and patient experience? Download the ultimate guide for evaluating communication software.