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How technology, education, and access to care supports connection
From virtual reality and artificial intelligence, to robots performing dental surgeries, technology can certainly create positive changes in how dental care is delivered in 2022. But there’s one box that even the smartest, most innovative technology can’t check on its own: human connection. Human connection can help even the most reluctant patient to make regular dental care a priority. And for many patients, one of the main points of connection at a dental practice is their hygienist. Technology, education, and access to care are three key elements that can support human connection and drive more positive outcomes for patients in 2022.
Connecting Through Education & Access
As a trusted source of healthcare expertise and care for patients, hygienists have a great opportunity to connect with patients by educating them on important health information, such as the association between oral diseases and health conditions, including heart disease, digestive and respiratory conditions, dementia, and certain types of cancer.
Being there for patients in this way can ensure they view you as a key player of their health care team, which is particularly important as more people begin to expect their dental team to work more closely with other members of their healthcare team. This shift is expected in 2022 as we continue to see many people resuming regular dental care after a hiatus due to the pandemic, combined with the growing number of people further understanding the important connections between oral health and overall health as mentioned.
Education, however, goes beyond sharing new information and research. It can include helping patients understand how to manage the costs of dental care so they can get the treatment they need without delay. The cost of dental care continues to rise, which means dental insurance costs may also go up. Helping patients understand which dental insurance, dental savings plans or other financial options the practice offers, can help them realize that dental care can be affordable. This, in turn, can help more people access the quality dental care that is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Providing patients with a better understanding of the real financial and health benefits of good oral health can help them want to get the dental care they need in order to stay healthy. Rather than something they dread, a patient can start to see their dental care as a positive action and investment in living a healthy life.
Connecting Through Technology
Not all human connection has to be face to face (anymore, that is). The right technology can take human connection outside of the physical environment and into the digital world.
Technology provides possibilities that can create a patient-centric experience that enhances the commitment and trust between patient and dental office. It creates an opportunity for you to connect with patients between appointments in a way that they want to be connected with. Making patients feel that their preferences are respected can increase the chances that they book and follow through on their forthcoming procedures. Convenient patient communication tools, such as Lighthouse, Demandforce and Dentrix Patient Engage, that were essential during the pandemic are likely to become an expected part of the patient care experience for this reason, among others. Many people enjoy the convenience and efficiency of these solutions.
It is, however, a good idea to provide additional communication options for those who may want to communicate in a more traditional way. It’s also important to remember that not everyone has access to the consumer technology required to interface with digital systems – not all patients will, for example, be able to send texts confirming appointments. Ask patients how they prefer to communicate with you.
While appointment reminders and other digital communications are a huge plus for dental practices, patients may also be looking for educational resources – a blog, newsletter or social media channels are a great place to share information with patients in an effort to answer frequently asked questions between appointments. If you’re a dental professional who likes to write – consider writing an article that gets shared with patients to further strengthen your relationship with them.
Connection & Commitment
Any ongoing connection takes commitment, and vice versa. Gathering patient feedback by way of online reviews can allow all members of the practice to learn, improve, and make patients feel heard, while demonstrating your dedication to a positive, long term relationship with patients.
This continued connection supports patients and helps reinforce that their dental health team is their ally – something patients will be looking for in the new year and beyond. This can be especially true for those who are hesitant to go to the dentist due to anxiety over obtaining treatment, or who are reluctance to explain why they haven’t had a professional cleaning and checkup in years.
Together with dentists and dental office staff, hygienists can enhance outcomes, increase access, and share essential health knowledge with their patients and the greater community. Dental hygienists are already health educators and patient advocates, and they can continue to help improve the oral – and overall – health of the communities they serve by further connecting with patients in 2022.