The Impact of COVID-19 on Patient Education and Communication in the Office 

The world is changing. Businesses are opening up, then closing back down. Some places are mandating mask-wearing and some are just strongly suggesting it. Are you confused by the ups and downs caused by this pandemic?  

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the way we communicate and educate, making it difficult, but not impossible, to send the right message to the right people. Your patients need to know the truth of the situation we’re all facing and what changes it brings to your clinic. Your staff also need to understand what’s safe and what isn’t when going back to work. 

Seeing as we are all in this together as Canada moves through its reopening phases, we should all be on the same page, staff and patients alike, as to what the next steps are when it comes to effective education and communication within and outside the office.  

This post is focused on providing you with ways to better communicate with and educate your patients during this time and with options that are out there to make your office safer for everyone that goes in and out of your clinic. 

COVID –19 on Patient Education 

The impact of COVID-19 on patient education brings forward an entire list of topics patients should now be educated on.  

  • The COVID-19 virus and what to do if you have it 
  • The appointment procedure when it comes to scheduling (if no longer inperson) 
  • The procedure for the date of appointment 
  • What must be done and worn during the procedure 

 It’s a lot. But there are safe ways to keep your patients and prospective patients in the know as the reopening continues. 

Stay Updated on all things COVID-19 

Every province is different when it comes to guidelines versus mandates and it is up to you to keep on top of any updates. In our province, masks are not yet mandatory, but small businesses and even some big businesses have made it a point to offer no service to those not wearing a mask. No shirt. No shoes. No mask. No service!  

On the other hand, for the province of Calgary, mask-wearing has officially become mandatory in indoor public spaces and public vehicles. Read more here: https://globalnews.ca/news/7202137/calgary-city-council-mandatory-mask-proposal/ 

Read about Toronto’s mandatory mask or face-covering bylaw here: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-what-you-should-do/covid-19-orders-directives-by-laws/mandatory-mask-or-face-covering-bylaw/ 

Make sure that anything you tell your patients matches either your own guidelines or those of the province in which you live.  

Be empathetic 

I have been listening to the news and shaking my head when I hear of patients aggressively refusing not to follow office guidelines. But, as discussed before, saying that “it’s policy” will only bring out that anger, frustration, and aggression even more 

Tell your patients what you expect from them and why. Let them know that it’s for their own safety as well as the safety of others. We are all enduring the same pandemic — patients and dental professionals alike, so it is only fair to treat each other with decency, respect, and most important, empathy.  

Educate without even opening your mouth 

There are silent ways to educate as well. As you remove the physical touchpoints in your office, start posting bulletins and signs about COVID-19 and what your patients should be doing to protect themselves and others.  

If you have a website, don’t hesitate to use it to further educate your patients on your new guidelines to accommodate the new normal. My dentist sent out an email and text to all their patients, letting them know that all patients would have to call to schedule their appointment, bring their car to the parking lot, call to let the front staff know, and wait for one of the receptionists to come and get them.  

If you have social media, use it to also spread your message.  

COVID-19 on Communication 

Remove “communication” touchpoints 

You might not know this, but your office could have communication touchpoints. How do you communicate with your patients? Do you use business cards to provide their next scheduled appointment? Do you use postcards as reminders to help jog their memory of a scheduled appointment? Do you send claims manually? Do you ask your patients to fill out their information on paper inside the office? 

If so, it might be time to remove these communication touchpoints from your office. Other communication touchpoints include pens, paper, clipboards, and sticky notes.  

Leverage technology to communicate effectively and safely with patients and staff 

The one thing to come out of this pandemic is the knowledge that there is always another way. Strangely, I was one of those people who worried more about when technology failed us and we would have to go back to performing all our tasks manually; but in this case, technology really stepped up. That goes double for communication technology.  

Suddenly, communication technology is there to help us communicate with family, friends, staff, and patients through video conferencing, recall and reminder systems, emailing, and texting. Technology is there to help you minimize your communication touchpoints without sacrificing You don’t need those communication touchpoints anymore. 

Communication technology can also be used to reduce touchpoints and reduce person-to-person contact within the office with internal communication. Internal communication technology is a messaging system that allows for your front and clinical staff to communicate without leaving their desks while being guaranteed that the messages cannot be accessed online.   

 

Leverage technology to send claims 

You don’t just communicate with your staff and patients, you also communicate with insurance companies, which is why technology is very helpful in providing you with a system that can minimize the use of paper in your office.  

We just integrated CDA Secure Send into our software that allows for not only easy communication with insurance companies but secure communication with the ability to add attachments.   

Leverage technology to gather patient information 

What about gathering patient information? In a normal world, it would be safe to use a clipboard and paper for your patients to write down their information.  

But we are enduring a new normal, which means it’s time to innovate and find a new way. In this case, technology provides your patients and prospective patients with an online medical history form to fill out.  

Conclusion

Right now would be the best time to call your software provider and ask what they are doing to minimize “communication” touchpoints in your office. And if they don’t have options or tools to make this time easier, it may be time to switch and find a dental management software company that puts your needs and interests first.  

MaxiDent Software has made it their business to help dental clinics be more prepared with a range of tools to endure this pandemic, so if you would like more information, or you just want to talk about your needs and interests, give us a call at 1-800-663-7199. 

Resources 

https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/this-guelph-dental-office-is-taking-extra-precautions-to-protect-patients-1.5035390 

https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-what-you-should-do/covid-19-orders-directives-by-laws/mandatory-mask-or-face-covering-bylaw/