With only 2 months left in the year this November issue is focused on the importance of engagement. These 3 key areas of engagement will ensure greater success, healthier patients and a happier teams. The cost of not having full engagement with your patients, team and community is that your business can stall and end up left behind in this fast changing environment. Let’s go into 2020 with a plan to make a difference for our patients, team and our community.
Typically, dental practices first associate patient engagement with marketing and the patient journey. This issue looks at patient engagement when new or existing patients are considering a treatment plan.
Patient engagement is critical for so many factors in dentistry. Whether NHS or private, dental practices not having fully engaged patients affects treatment acceptance, retention and patients’ self-care.
Engaged patients are better able to make informed decisions about their care options.
We all can agree the goal of any dental practice is to provide the best patient experience with the best quality of care. When patients are not engaged this can change the perception of dentistry and the quality of care.
During treatment consultations the real goal is to have your patient asking for the solutions. Dental professionals can have the habit of stating the problems and offering solutions right away to patients.
This habit can mean patients are not truly listening to what the solutions are. Practice by stating the problems you have found and the consequences that may come with this dental problem. Then do not provide the solutions (don’t say anything) until the patient asks ‘What should I do?’. If the patient does not say anything you can then ask the patient if they have any questions or ask if they want to know what the next steps are. The patients will say yes and will be ready to listen as they are now engaged to hear the solutions.
Implementing oral systemic education can lead to more patients being engaged because we all share the common goal to be healthy. Showing patients how the mouth is connected to the body will increase how patients perceive the importance of dentistry to their overall health. Having the right communications for patients to see how the mouth is the gateway to the body will help provide a balance of wellness within your dental practice and have more patients asking questions. Patients asking questions are engaged patients.
Use the tools you have. The greatest tool dental practices have that is highly under-utilised is the intra-oral camera. Make an agreement with your team to use the intra-oral camera on every patient every time – this will increase patients’ engagement significantly. Patients seeing the inside of their mouth makes any problems discovered more real as well as offer patients the chance to ask questions about concerns they themselves may see such as the straightness of their teeth. Having photos to take home with their treatment plan allows patients the chance to share with their spouse, friends or family as well as having an illustration to self-reflect on.
Patient engagement also promotes mutual accountability and understanding between the patients and healthcare providers
Engagement isn’t just for your patients. The importance of team engagement cannot be stressed enough!
Team engagement strategies have been proven to reduce staff turnover, improve productivity and efficiency, retain patients at a higher rate, and increase practice growth. Most importantly, engaged employees are happier, both at work and in their personal lives.
Having a clear vision for your dental practice is the most important strategy as your team needs to know where there are going. Your vision should be clear and measurable. For example a vision may be ‘Create greater health for 1,000,000 people by 2025’. You can measure this by tracking your patients that have had treatment and celebrating how many patients you brought to greater health.
Teams need to feel they are making a difference, that they matter and are supporting people to lead healthier lives. A practice that is equipped with the right tools, training and allows for positive feedback keeps your team happy to know they are supported.
Implementing morning huddles that show appreciation for the jobs well done can go further than most incentives.
This is where you can have even more fun with dentistry. Hosting events at your practice, at a movie theatre or community centre can help share your passion for health and dentistry. These events can be health-centric or just to sponsor a local run, sports event or charity foundation.
You are hosting or sponsoring these events because you have a passion for the health of your community.
Besides hosting events, a key part to community engagement is connecting with local healthcare providers, as dental practices have the opportunity to support patients with their overall health. This can be through oral systemic education and also observing any other health concerns like facial melanoma, patients expressing pain or observing something like a limp. Dental practices can ask patients about these areas of concern and support them with a referral to other healthcare providers using the NHSmail system.