The dental patient experience of paperless

July 23, 2012
Cathy Jameson
Cathy Jameson
Cathy Jameson

Cathy Jameson, PhD, is founder and chief visionary officer of Jameson Management, a team of management, clinical and practice building advisors improving the lives of dentists worldwide through consulting, products, events and more. To learn more about Cathy, follow her blog at www.cathyjameson.com.

Issue 3

Well known author and expert on relationships, Alan Cohen, said, “In our culture, presence in many relationships has been reduced to a trickle. In our fascination with labor-saving devices, mass production, lightening speed dental technology and unprecedented busyness, the human factor is often relegated to a low priority.

Well known author and expert on relationships, Alan Cohen, said, “In our culture, presence in many relationships has been reduced to a trickle. In our fascination with labor-saving devices, mass production, lightening speed dental technology and unprecedented busyness, the human factor is often relegated to a low priority. As a result, people are craving someone to look them in the eye, call them by name and recognize the thinking, feeling, caring person on the other end of the telephone or behind the keyboard.” (I take the liberty of adding-sitting in the dental chair). “When you give a client (patient) your full attention and presence, you are feeding them in ways they hunger for and your service is priceless. This is the ‘Power of Presence.’ ”1

And this article is about digitalization in your dental practice? Yes. But the twist here is that I believe digitalization can add to-not take away from-your focused attention on quality dental care and excellent “people care.”

While there are numerous ways to personalize and digitize your patient interactions, for the purpose of this article, let’s look at three specific ways:

  • Patient information and comprehensive documentation

  • Patient communication

  • Patient education

The proper recording of relevant information helps to pave the way for an excellent patient appointment. For a new patient, record specific information so each team member can roll out the red carpet. Create such an exceptional new patient experience that people become forever patients, not just one-time patients. Personalizing every interaction will be dependent upon the accuracy of information, which can be digital.

For your emergency patients-whether a new or an existing patient who has an emergent situation-gather appropriate information for your clinical team. Everyone needs to be informed so they will not have to keep asking patients the same questions. “Linkage communication” helps team members be better informed and thus better able to communicate with patients.2

Comprehensive, digitized documentation allows team members to communicate, carry out their individual tasks and care for patients. Nothing is worse than not knowing what is going on with a patient. For example, if there has been a diagnosis and recommendation of treatment by the doctor but this is not recorded by the clinical team, the business team members are helpless to proceed with financial arrangements or the scheduling of the next appointment. Mistakes can be made or people can fall through the cracks. On the other hand, if the business team does not inform the clinical team of the status of a new emergency or scheduled patient, the clinical team functions blindly. Linkage communication means team members are communicating so the right hand knows what the left hand is doing and vice versa. Accurate digital recording of all information is crucial, as is having both business and clinical work stations orchestrated for all patient interactions with accuracy. In the end, when information is accurate and easily accessible, “presence” with the patient can be a reality. How would you, your coworkers and your patients rate the current “power of your presence?”

Patient communication
How can we communicate digitally with patients? Can we actually ‘count the ways’? Good marketing dictates that we stay in touch with clients/patients every 90 days (minimally). A few ways to market digitally may be through e-newsletters, e-mailings, special e-marketing promotions of a special service (such as tooth whitening), websites, social media and digitally recorded webinars that are available on your website, to name a few ways. Consider using a flip video to actually record a member of the team (including the doctor) providing a message of education to your patients. Change this regularly and appropriately. In this manner, people can see your face, hear your voice, and connect more personally with you and the team.

For example, we do a 3- to 5-minute video clip of my husband, Dr. John Jameson, speaking about a relevant topic. We call this “Coffee with Dr. John.” We record these and offer them via social media to our clients. We have large numbers of people joining us for this short, but relevant educational piece. Try it.

No one is going to market your practice for you. You own your business. It’s your responsibility and opportunity to let people know why coming to you is a good decision. Focus your marketing and all of your writing on the patient. Use “you” language; talk about serving their needs. Make your marketing all about the patient, not about you.

In addition, daily communication with patients can take place digitally: confirmations, reminders of past due hygiene appointments, acknowledgement of dentistry diagnosed but incomplete with encouragement to schedule the next appointment. Text messages and emails are more readily accessed with today’s busy people than a phone call-unless  the phone call is to their smartphone and, even then, they’re most likely catching e-mail on the run! Each time you interact with patients, ask them about their preferred method of contact and make sure you have the accurate contact information.

Communication is the bottom line to your success in any relationship. You can individualize your digital contacts, stay in more regular contact with patients and personalize each connection. Are you making the connection and gaining a newfound commitment to the power of your presence?
Patient education

People do not know about dentistry when they walk into your practice. Educate people about their existing situation, recommendations for the restoration or smile enhancement and the financial options.

Approximately 83% of learning takes place visually, so the more visual education tools you can use, the better the learning. Digital radiographs, digital photography, the stored before and after photographs of your own patients can show people the possibilities for themselves.

The digitized world of patient education is here. It is remarkable. Patients benefit because they can see and therefore better understand why saying yes to treatment is a good decision. Your practice benefits because you will be able to do the kind of dentistry you believe is best for your patients.
In summary

Do not hesitate to explore the many ways to incorporate digitalization into your practice. Your patients benefit. You benefit. The world of digitization is here. The power of presence can become a greater reality for you as you take your practice to new heights.

References
1. Cohen, A. (2010). The Power of Presence. Life Coaching Training. Cohen: Maui, HI.
2. Jameson C. Great Communication Equals Great Production. Tulsa, OK: Pennwell Books, 2004

Cathy Jameson is founder of Jameson Management, an international comprehensive coaching firm. With a background in education and psychology, she worked alongside her husband, John H. Jameson, DDS, in his Oklahoma dental practice. Their diligent efforts led to great success. Now, almost two decades later, she’s helped dental practices refine the 25 dental business systems for greater success and she’s trained a growing team of coaches to do the same