Bonnie Pugh

It pays to integrate patient education

Aug. 28, 2012
In today’s society, we communicate much differently than we used to.

By Bonnie Pugh, Dental Consultant

In today’s society, we communicate much differently than we used to. We’re constantly “checking in” to locations, looking at Facebook, and finding new ways to stay connected and stimulated. This combination of constant information-seeking behavior and a preference for multimedia stimuli should have dental practices thinking about their patient education routines. Dental patients are now more educated than ever when they walk in a practice’s doors, filled with information they’ve learned from television, magazines and friends. To reach today’s patients with meaningful and impactful messages, practices must consider how they can adjust to the dynamics of the everyday and ever-changing media landscape.

Enabling Co-Diagnosis

Practices that have implemented an organized patient education program, such as CAESY Patient Education, know that it can have a significant impact on case acceptance rates and profitability. By talking to patients about their diagnosis and then showing them a multimedia CAESY presentation on the topic, dentists and hygienists tell me this can really help drive home the information with third-party validation. A unique benefit to the CAESY Patient Education system is that it is now cloud-based. This allows staff members to show presentations chairside in a variety of ways including on an iPad, iPod or smart phone. This not only helps the office look technologically advanced but it also ensures that patients are receiving the most up-to-the-minute presentations on a variety of conditions and treatment options. When this kind of patient education is combined with showing the patient X-rays or intraoral photos of their own mouth, the patient is able to “co-diagnose” the problem; they have the basic understanding of the condition and they are able to see it with their own eyes.

Providing multimedia patient education, however, is not just about giving patients a flashy presentation. The ability to give patients take-home materials is also a key benefit of a patient education system. As much as we don’t like to admit or encourage it, dental work is seen in many homes as a discretionary expense. However, if a practice can show the patient a presentation and then put it on a CD, along with their own diagnostic images and other supporting materials, the patient can then take this information home and review it again privately or with a family member. When the images and information are right there in front of them, many patients and their families have an easier time recognizing the importance of the recommended work and the value of addressing the problem before it gets considerably worse.

Considering Proper Integration

These factors help explain the importance and the pay-off of investing in patient education. When selecting a system, however, dental practices must choose one that will integrate well – otherwise they may never realize the system’s potential. Questions to ask yourself before selecting a system include: what hardware do I already have on hand? Do I have budget to cover necessary updates? Where will patients be viewing these presentations most frequently? These basic considerations can help you decide between a cloud-based system or a system that utilizes a network connection or specific hardware. Understanding what best fits your practice and creating a balance between systems, teams and technology is what I have seen can best propel a practice, but without a balance the technology can easily fail.

Practices should look for a patient education system that is simple to use, so that every staff member sees its benefits and uses it with patients. When selecting a system, dentists should also consider how it will integrate with their existing technology, including computers, intraoral cameras and X-ray equipment, as well as practice management software. One benefit of an integrated system such as CAESY and Eaglesoft Practice Management software is that the software automatically notes on a patient’s chart when he or she has seen a presentation. This gives the practice a permanent record of the programs the patient has seen, which is helpful in documenting informed consent for procedures.

To efficiently deliver patient education, practice staff members need tools and technology that will work simply and seamlessly. When a practice finds the right combination of integrated patient education tools and technology that works when and how they need it, the technology becomes a great partner in building the practice.

Bonnie Pugh started her career in dentistry over 26 years ago as a business team member and quickly moved into technology with a leading technology company. Bonnie is a uniquely skilled, versatile business and technology professional, offering 26+ years combined industry and business experience. Her experience and multi-disciplinary skills in the industry and the business of dentistry make her the perfect complement to an office looking to grow. Prior to co-founding Practice Dynamics Group, Bonnie was the Product Line Manager for the Dental Division of Carestream Dental LLC, the exclusive manufacturer of KODAK Dental Systems. She worked with the company for 23 years and in this role she was responsible for the strategic planning of the dental practice management line of products. Bonnie lives in Maryland with her husband and wonderful family.