Texting while caring?

Last month in Dental Assisting Digest, we asked you to give us your thoughts about using social media for social purposes during an appointment with a patient. Here’s what you told us ...

By Kevin Henry,
Dental Economics managing editor

In last month’s Dental Assisting Digest, we asked you to give us your thoughts about texting during office hours. We also asked for your opinion about using social media for, well, social purposes in the middle of an appointment with a patient. Here’s what you told us ...

Have you ever texted/Tweeted/Facebook/Tumblr, etc., during a patient's appointment?

60% said “no”
40% said “yes”

Have you ever kept a patient waiting because you were texting/Tweeting/ Facebook/Tumblr, etc., on a computer or smartphone?

90% said “no”
10% said “yes”

On average, how often do you interrupt dental care by texting/Tweeting/Facebook/Tumblr, etc.?

84% said “never”
10% said “1-4 times per day”
6% said “5-10 times per day”
No one said more than 10 times per day

Does the social media communication ever involve purely social interaction instead of pressing family matters or emergencies?

50% said “no”
50% said “yes”

Have you ever kept another colleague waiting because you were texting/tweeting/Facebook/Tumblr (such as dentists making a hygienist wait for an exam while texting or texting before you clean an operatory or seat a patient?)

88% said “no”
12% said “yes”

Have you ever been kept waiting while another team member or dentist texted/tweeted/Facebook/Tumblr?

78% said “yes”
22% said “no”

Do you think tech-enabled distractions affect patient care?

66% said “yes”
18% said “no”
18% said “uncertain”

Do you think tech-enabled distractions affect your face-to-face connections or listening to your patients?

56% said “yes”
40% said “no”
4% said “uncertain”

Some of your comments ...

We should seriously consider the care that we are giving our patients if we are distracted by social media. What are the implications of the mistakes that could happen to us or to our patients? Even as a multitasker, everyone on the team — and most importantly the patients — deserve our full attention.

When you are working and/or caring for a patient, you should never be distracted. The patient should have your full attention. If you can't discipline yourself, then you should not be treating patients ... period.

Keep things professional. Don't offer less than what you would expect as a patient.

I just want to add that patient care is affected if you let it. Personally, I do not feel that I lower the standards of the care that my patients receive by texting. However, I do have a fellow employee who has her phone’s volume turned up and every time she receives a text (which is multiple times an hour), she is always quick to find a way to leave the operatory to check her phone. So, yes, texting can affect your patient's care, but only if you let the person texting you become more important than your patient.

I do not feel that it is appropriate at any time during business hours to use any type of social media. If you want to be known as a professional, then you must act like one. If there is an emergency and I need to be contacted, my family can call the office phone to reach me.

I'm glad you brought this topic up. I think we all need reminding that we could be way more effective if we put down our cellphones and got to work. I NEVER pull my cellphone out in front of the patient, but can very often find myself running to my phone to finish that article or look on Facebook while waiting for my dentist to come in to check the patient or start treatment. Wasting time on the Internet when I could be calling past-due patients or just simply chatting with the patient is not a good idea to me. I will work on it starting now!

Social media communication during patient care ... that is just so terribly wrong. I can’t fully wrap my brain around when it would ever be acceptable.

Save phone calls and texting for break time. If you don't have a break time, ask the doctor to tell you when it's OK to text. Otherwise you are stealing time from your boss.

I have never used technology during business hours. I believe it can jeopardize treatment. I think cellphones are a huge distraction and should be off during business hours. If there is a family emergency, I can be reached by calling the office and asking for me or leaving a message with our front desk person. I have waited for the doctor to finish texting to get started on the patient, and I’ve seen the front desk lady too busy answering texts to answer the office phone, letting all calls run into voice mail. I give 100% when I am at work and expect everyone else in the office to do the same. There is nothing that is so important that it can't wait until lunch or the end of the day.

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