As an Orientation Specialist at Spear, I have the privilege of speaking with hundreds of dentists from all over the world. Even though they know the benefits and the necessity of change, there are many reasons why they have not implemented new habits into their practices. Here are just a few of the reasons:

  • “My team is too busy”
  • “We are short staffed”
  • “We recently made many changes and adding another is just not feasible”
  • “My staff has been with this practice for a while and as the new owner”
  • “I am not sure if I should start changing things”
  • “I am an associate doctor; the owner and current staff will get upset if I start making changes”

As a part of a dental team, how can we help our doctors overcome these challenges, build positive habits, and start implementing change within their practices?

Patient Education can be a step towards this type of change. The benefits of patient education on the financial growth of the practice and the emotional wellbeing of the patient have been proven. Increasing the usage of these videos throughout the patient journey, is one way to start building on positive change and creating habits in the practice.

using patient education video chairside

Small Changes Can Become Habits

When I think of habits, I immediately gravitate toward “bad” habits such as smoking, eating too much sugar, or watching too much television. It turns out, I am not alone. According to James Clear in the book Atomic Habits, it is much easier to build a habit when we have been doing it for a while, especially when it has a negative connotation and instant reward. We sensationalize these types of habits and use these as an excuse not to progress or move forward with better (new and sometimes scary), outcomes. This problem, however, has a solution…changing our habits, one tiny step at a time!

According to James Clear, we can reach our destination (goals) by starting with the tiniest changes, putting systems into place, and looking for aggregate results instead of expecting instant gain. Patient Education is an amazing resource that help doctors enhance their conversations with each patient, by showing them a short (3 minute or less) educational video. These videos can be shared chairside, by text, and email. The purpose is to reiterate the information, so that the patient can make a well-informed decision about their overall oral care. These videos have proven to ease patients' fear, and therefore, increase case acceptance.

The Benefits of Patient Education Throughout the Patient Journey

For best results, the ideal scenario is to use Patient Education videos throughout the entire patient's journey. This starts with the front office sending a first visit video that relates to why are they coming in and what they can expect. When they arrive, patient videos can be playing in the lobby to discuss the importance of proper dental hygiene. This is intended to prepare the patient for their visits with the dental team.

After their initial exam and discussions with the hygienist and the doctor, patient education videos continue to play a key role. Chairside videos create an opportunity to discuss treatment options with the patient and explain potential solutions. Once the patient has decided (or potentially is going home to think about his or her options), a customized playlist of videos can be created to depict, each specific patient's treatment plan.

The playlist is a series of videos that includes the patient's condition(s), potential treatment options, and ends with post-operative care instructions. Once the playlist has been created, it can later be modified in any way, as needed. The playlist can be shown to patients as a part of case presentation, texted, or emailed for further review.

demonstrating patient education platform to team members

Getting Started with Patient Education

Start building patient education habits into your practice with these three simple steps:

  1. Start with scheduling an orientation session for your team. During this orientation process, we will go deeper into the Patient Education platform with your team. We will show you step by step, how to implement everything from setting up and customizing Patient Education with your practice(s)' information, logo, and brand font color, to searching for videos, texting, emailing, and creating handouts with a library of over two hundred videos.
  2. Second, schedule and implement the following team meeting, “How to Jumpstart Patient Education Videos” (by the way, there are over 100 topics for team meetings, in the Spear Online platform!). At the end of your meeting, watch this one-minute video, “Patient Education Demo: Practical Applications” to get your team excited about this new process!
  3. Start your action plan, and once again, start small. These tiny little new habits will add up to great change. Select a small sample of patients to start with, all new patients scheduled for next week for example. Start by sending the First Visit Videos to each, depending on their needs (Watch the “Using Personas to Optimize a Patient's Journey meeting”). This same sample of patients can also be shown videos chairside during their hygiene process and receive a video by text or email. Finally, print out the handout as a tool where patients can write down any questions as they review the video again at home (and ask they bring it back on their next visit to discuss their questions and concerns).

Patient education has many benefits for your dental practice and your patients. Building habits like patient education throughout your patient journey, create positive change that has financial and emotional benefits. Remember, it is not about how fast you are implementing the resources and tools, it is about creating an effective habit-forming system that can be easily followed, this system should consist of small incremental changes. Once these small changes become habitual, it is more likely they will “stick”!

Lupe Dalluge, MAED/AET, is a Spear Orientation Specialist.