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Engage your Patients, Educate your Patients, Reduce their Anxiety


July 1, 2014
by George Freedman, BSc, DDS, FAACD, FIADFE; Atul Joshi, BSc, MSc, DDS

The “waiting room” has always been the weak link in dental patient management. The patient is alone or with other patients. There is no representative of the dental team present. Waiting room time is inherently not a positive experience for patients who may be anxious about treatment, discomfort, and finances. These concerns may be negatively reinforced and exaggerated through conversations with other waiting patients who have similar anxieties.

A medical office study by Press Ganey, a research institute specializing in improving healthcare, revealed that patients spend an average of 24 minutes in the waiting room before their appointment. Dental offices tend to be more efficient. Understandably, the longer patients wait, the less satisfied they would be. Patients with their normal everyday worries are now faced with further fears and anxieties regarding the unfamiliar procedures they are about to endure. Their lack of dental knowledge, as it pertains to their treatment, is further compounded by financial worries about non-insured treatment costs. Typically the only activity available for patients is to leaf through a stack of old (usually very old) magazines — hardly engaging material.

The negative effect of this waiting room “down time” can be significant to the dental practice. Patients enter the operatory for their treatment on a negative note, and treatment has not even begun. Uninterested, uncomfortable, and unsatisfied patients are less likely to return to one’s practice in the future, but are likely to complain to their friends and family that they had to wait so long.

The best way to improve the waiting room experience and to prevent wait time anxiety amongst patients is to keep them actively engaged while they are awaiting treatment. “Active engagement” is more than just offering dated (or even current) magazines to read (boring!). “Active engagement” is a proactive process that offers patients several attractive options to stimulate their minds, to increase their dental knowledge and involvement in their own oral health, and to motivate them to ask personal dental and oral health questions that are of interest or concern to them. “Active engagement” generates curiosity and excitement about learning something new.

Imagine, for a moment, having a custom-made, personalized, dedicated educational TV channel in the practice’s waiting room to engage, educate, and inform patients. The focus is to coach the patient to be more aware of, and more interested in, their own oral health; to recognize their personal dental treatment potential, and to ask the dentist or team member specific questions about treatment possibilities. This approach allows the patients to be the quarterbacks of their own elective, or non-elective, treatment options. An educated patient is generally more committed, more involved, and more inclined to proceed with a presented treatment plan.

Bitebank Media’s (Toronto, ON) My Practice TV is a waiting room technology which captivates and easily educates patients, occupying them beneficially and positively while they wait (Fig. 1). Actively reducing their fears, anxieties, and perceived wait times, My Practice TV is a multi-track video montage of news, local weather, practice social media feeds, general dental information, and office-specific messaging (Fig. 2). The general dental information covers universal topics of interest to both the dental team and the patient. The practice specific portion is all about the office: the dentist and team can encourage specified services offered in the practice, display team photos and profiles, notify patients of new materials and equipment, plus many other personalized features. Some of the options are interactive with patients’ smart phones (Fig. 3).

FIGURE 1.


FIGURE
2.


FIGURE 3.

The process generates awareness, interest, and creates a patient dialogue, encouraging an environment where they can learn about the practice and the available treatments and materials to the point where they feel comfortable in asking questions of the team regarding services. In the interactive mode, by the time that the patient reaches the operatory, the dentist or the hygienist can track the waiting room topics that were of specific interest, and focus their chairside time on productive dialogue. Furthermore, patients can feel confident that the practice goes the extra, personalized mile in providing the best dental experience possible.

My Practice TV is designed to captivate patients in as many ways as possible. The screen is divided into various features (Fig. 4) that can be easily customized through the My Practice TV control bridge:

1. Choose from various layouts, styles, and colors to match practice branding.

2. All changes are instantly viewable via real-time previews.

3. Add the practice logo.

4. Strengthen the practice’s brand and enhance patient recognition.

5. Show your practice services.

6. Create video playlists by simply dragging and dropping into the menu.

7. Offers the practice complete control over video content.

8. Display procedures offered by the practice in the program.

9. Get patients to ask about services and products used in the office.

10. Generate production directly through patient inquiries.

11. Test patients’ dental knowledge and/or trivia knowledge.

12. My practice TV has hundreds of fun dental trivia ranging from dental science facts, animal dental trivia, and the history of dentistry. It makes the patient’s visit fun and memorable!

13. Keep up-to-date on social media feeds. Have patients follow the practice on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

14. Grow practice presence and reputation online.

15. Update local weather.

16. Update local news.

FIGURE 4.

There are 50 memorable high-definition Dental Patient Education Videos for the de
ntal team to select. The videos are clear and concise, simple to understand, clinically relevant, and highly educational (Fig. 5). Developed from excellent 3D visuals created by a team of professional artists, patients are exposed to the most accurate and cutting edge education possible.

FIGURE 5.

My Practice TV is an excellent modality for Internal Advertising. It specifically targets those patients who are already committed to the dentist, helps to reinforce and reinvigorate the existing confidence, and teaches the patient to be more pro-active about their oral health. The trust and confidence developed in the waiting room will profoundly affect the practice’s bottom line.

My Practice TV is also an excellent modality for External Advertising, by helping to enhance the practice profile and reputation. A business’ reputation is vital for its survival, and instrumental in its growth and development. A dentist with a good reputation will attract patients effectively. With the rapid increase of competition between practices, a solid reputation makes all the difference. My Practice TV can showcase glowing testimonials from satisfied patients, spreading the positive word about the dentist and the team quickly and effectively within the community. The interactive smile gallery posts before, after, and profile photos of the practice’s own patients. The best work is highlighted, displaying the smiles that show the most improvement.

Setting up is easy. After registration, connect the TV stick to the waiting room TV, and turn it on. It is that simple! Bitebank automatically pulls all of the practice’s important information- such as the practice name, office hours, team profiles, and social media feeds–from the practice’s online TV account. This eliminates the hassle of a manual transfer and saves valuable office time that can be better used to serve patients. Better service means more satisfied patients who are more likely return to see the dentist, and to promote the practice to their friends and family. If any technical issues arise, Bitebank support (including problems and questions) is only a call away.

Bitebank’s mission is to streamline the practice with quality products and services. They provide dental and medical professionals with cost effective and results-driven practice-enhancing solutions. Fully understanding that dentists have busy schedules including diagnosis, surgical treatment, follow-ups, daily meetings, patient charting, and endless forms, and business management, Bitebank realizes that practitioners have a limited amount of time to interact with patients.

Bitebank Media’s My Practice TV has been designed, and is continually evolving, as the perfect comprehensive, practice promoting, waiting room IT staff member. Every dentist has their own personalized, branded, in-office TV channel to promote the practice and engage patients while they wait for treatment. The waiting room “down time” has been converted to an excellent “learning time” which can be utilized to make patients more aware of their personal dental possibilities. OH


Dr. George Freedman is a founder and past president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, a co-founder of the Canadian Academy for Esthetic Dentistry and a Diplomate of the American Board of Aesthetic Dentistry. His most recent textbook, “Contemporary Esthetic Dentistry” is published by Elsevier.  Dr Freedman is the author or co-author of 12 textbooks, more than 700 dental articles, and numerous webinars and CDs and is a Team Member of REALITY. Dr Freedman was recently awarded the Irwin Smigel Prize in Aesthetic Dentistry presented by NYU College of Dentistry. He lectures internationally on dental esthetics, adhesion, desensitization, composites, impression materials and porcelain veneers. A graduate of McGill University in Montreal, Dr. Freedman is a Regent and Fellow of the International Academy for Dental Facial Esthetics and maintains a private practice limited to Esthetic Dentistry in Toronto, Canada.

Dr. Atul Joshi, B.Sc., M.Sc., D.D.S, is an alumnus of McGill University and practicing dentist since 1993. In 2009, Dr. Joshi co-founded BiteBank Media. BiteBank Media is now the premier global brand for dentists, offering robust, feature-rich websites, 3D animated content, online communication and marketing tools that promote new patient awareness and increased patient case acceptance.

Disclaimer: Dr. Joshi is the co-founder and executive director of BiteBank Websites Inc.

Oral Health welcomes this original article.