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Patient Education During the Pandemic

For patients to feel more confident about procedures they’re about to undergo or to understand what they can do to take care of their teeth and gums at home, it’s important for them to receive proper patient education; and with the Pandemic continuing to ragethis type of education is more important than ever.  

Routines have been smashed to bits and fewer people are paying attention to their oral health because everything that’s going on is so much bigger. The lives of your patients have changed dramatically over these past months. Some of them are working from home, some of them aren’t working, and some of them are working with a bullseye on their backs. 

As an example, the last time I was at the dentist for a cleaning was August, and I’ll be honest, I’ve been neglecting my oral health since then. Not to the point where I’m sure the next time I go to see my dentist, they will tell me that I have more cavities than teeth but just enough that I’ve noticed the difference.  

In this post, I’m going to discuss the importance of patient education, including what your existing and prospective patients might need to know right now, and ways that you as a dentist or hygienist can offer that education during the pandemic. 

What is the importance of Patient Education in your clinic?  

Patient education allows for an opportunity to reduce your patients’ anxiety 

Patient education encompasses two elements: health and wellness, treatments and procedures. The biggest thing to remember when it comes to providing your patients with proper education is that most patients don’t really know what they’re in for. Most new patients are bombarded by worst-case scenarios in their head of what’s going to happen once they’re in the chair.  

With the proper patient education, the not knowing, which is usually the reason for the anxiety, is reduced. The first thing I do before a procedure is I ask about it, including the steps involved and how much of it I’ll feel. For new patients, learning this information beforehand does help them to better understand and further appreciate the education during the procedure. The way I see it, the more I know, the better I feel.   

Patient education is a better form of marketing 

Most marketing seems to suggest a sale of some kind, or a promo, or something free, but informational marketing plays a significant role in your marketing strategy as well. By providing valuable tips for pre and aftercare, you solidify your authority with existing as well as prospective patients. This type of informational marketing can also include how-to tutorials on flossing or brushing, procedure breakdowns, and news and updates.  

Patient education makes your office life easier 

During this unpredictable and scary time, patients want to know everything your clinic is doing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. I have noticed a lot of offices choosing to do this with an e-blast, telling patients when they’re open, when they’re closed, and the guidelines they’re following to keep everyone safe.   

I would also recommend adding this to your website, posting it on your social media platforms, and possibly even providing this education over the phone. As a patient, I always prefer to know, in advance of an appointment, what my role is to help reduce the spread.  

What Existing and Prospective Patients Need to Know  

As a result of these changes to our lives, our routines have also become affected. This includes eating, sleeping, and brushing our teeth. Being in a constant state of worry can have dire consequences to a person’s normal routine. Just recently, I had a scare that, within the span of seconds after the phone call, changed everything. I didn’t eat, I barely slept, and I definitely did not brush my teeth regularly. I was constantly waiting for updates, checking my phone in the middle of the night, and trying to focus on something that wasn’t my older parents getting sick with COVID.  

I’m overjoyed to say that the scare passed, but that doesn’t change how it affected my routine, and how COVID in general is affecting everyone else’s routines (including yours). 

Patients are having a difficult time getting into the swing of their new normal, and even though there is a light at the end of the tunnel (a vaccine is coming!), it won’t be for a while. So, what can you do to help patients get back on track?  

Let your existing and your prospective patients know that you are a part of their overall system, that dental care is just as important as all your other health care. It is easy for people to fall out of their routine and could definitely use a nudge in the form of proper patient education.  

Update your existing and prospective patients about COVID – how it might be affecting your office, what the facts are, and most importantly what changes you are making to your office to accommodate as well as keep everyone safe.  

What are the best ways you can present useful patient education? 

Unfortunately, a lot of information and education is being transferred online. Even though you can inform your patients while they are in the chair, it is prudent to take advantage of all the ways you can reach them online 

Website  

Your website is a powerful tool to get important information out there not only about certain procedures and certain oral health care tips, but also information regarding COVID and how your office is coping with it.  

Because your website delivers information in shorter bursts, you can say a lot in a small space. For example, what you consider important to your practice is safety, and here is where you can describe in a sentence or two what your office is doing to keep patients safe during this time.  

Blog 

For those professionals with a blog, this is where you can expand on information about COVID, providing details, facts, and solutions. Talk to your patients like you would an equal, with empathy and compassion.  This is the best way to share patient education and guarantee that patients, existing and not, are listening.  

Social media platform 

Social media platforms of all kinds have been known to spread misinformation and disinformation fast. But with proper education through social media, you can help to mitigate and stop the spread of this type of false information to patients looking for real answers.  

Email or text 

Text messages and emails play a significant role in sharing patient education because they add a personal touch.  

For example, my dentist has made it a point to contact me via text before my appointment. I was able to have a conversation about the rules and guidelines, including asking for clarification on instructions. It made me feel better that the receptionist at the office could respond quickly. The relief I felt was palpable as I breathed a deep sigh of relief. 

Remember that these turbulent times are affecting all areas of the dental industry, and it’s time for your team to remind patients just how important their oral health care is and what they can do to make their lives better with the proper patient education.  

Resources 

https://www.participaction.com/en-ca/blog/how-long-does-it-take-to-form-a-habit 

https://www.dentistryiq.com/dental-hygiene/patient-education/article/14069156/3-suggestions-simplify-dental-patient-education