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Posted by: The Probe 3rd October 2019
Practical benefits to patient-centred practices
In any healthcare setting the patient’s wellbeing is pre-eminent, but too often patients can feel lost, confused, patronised or powerless. With years of professional training and experience, practitioners can make informed diagnoses and treatment plans, but it is important to remember to treat patients as more than a collection of symptoms – they are people.
Patient-centred care is an ethical aim and model of treatment, with tangible benefits to both patient satisfaction and outcomes. Patient-centred care attempts to shift the focus of a consultation away from the dental clinician, towards the patient – addressing their specific expectations, feelings and concerns. While there is no definitive methodology for achieving this, the general intention is for the patient to feel respected, to understand their malady and treatment options, and be better able to make informed choices about their treatment.[i]
Most will agree that patient compliance is critical to maintaining oral health, minimising complications and the success of treatments.
Multiple studies bear out the idea that a positive relationship between dental practitioner and patient has a significant beneficial effect. Not only with regards to the patient’s satisfaction with the treatment they receive, but also observably in greater commitment to dental treatment, better adherence to advice and instruction, and ultimately, better outcomes. The inverse is also true, a negative relationship with a dentist leads to lower satisfaction and worsens compliance, with all the repercussions that can have.[ii]
Communication – as in any relationship – is critical. Good communication aids patient understanding, but it is not exclusively useful for the transfer of information. Verbal and non-verbal communication can reduce patient anxiety, putting them more at ease and improving their satisfaction with treatment, which subsequently leads to them favouring treatment. Research indicates that pain is a major motivator of patients attending or avoiding treatment. Pain can drive a patient to making an appointment, but the association of treatment with pain can influence certain patients to delay and avoid treatment, resulting in more pain and damage than necessary. Where patients feel that their dentist is sensitive to their pain, and responsive in resolving it, patient satisfaction is greater.ii, [iii]
In addition, the patient’s perceptionis very important. You may be working as fast as possible to resolve their issues, but if you are uncommunicative and seemingly unsympathetic, they might not realise this. Rather than being reassured the patient’s anxiety may increase, leading to increased awareness and sensitivity to pain. Dental anxiety causes the perception of pain to be extended, and for memories of it to become more exaggerated. Such memories can drive avoidant behaviours, sometimes many years after the event.[iv]
Forging a good rapport with the patient is vitally important to managing anxiety. Patient-centred care and communication strategies are very helpful here. Taking the time to listen to patient concerns in a calm, composed and non-judgemental way helps them feel more at ease and forthcoming. Questions about treatment should be encouraged, and answers should be understandable and straightforward without being condescending – it is important that the patient feels you are taking them seriously. As a rule, people fear the unknown – the better informed the patient is about treatment options, the rationale and likely outcome, the more confidence in your care they will generally have. Avoid giving false reassurances where possible, as if these are not delivered on, they can massively undermine the patient’s trust in you (and potentially in dental practitioners generally).
Complementing this informative approach with good non-verbal communication, can greatly reassure the patient. Where possible, facing the patient, making eye-contact and avoiding fast motions can help put a patient at ease (though be aware people differ in how they respond to eye-contact – so be alert to any discomfort that the patient may exhibit).ivThis is not just a matter of how you project yourself – you need to be alert to how your patient is reacting.
When it comes to implementing more patient-centric care and other developing paradigms, there isn’t necessarily one definitive solution, and a great deal of practitioners’ valuable real-world experiences go unrecorded. Networking and liaising with colleagues and attending talks are great ways to update your knowledge, pick up novel ideas, and benefit from others’ hard-learned lessons. A great opportunity to do this is the annual British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show, which features a host of CPD and networking opportunities, as well as the hands-on exhibits where you can try out the latest innovations.
The British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show 2019 was an unmitigated success. Over ten thousand dental professionals attended the event, engaged with varied, high quality educational content and interacted with over four hundred exhibitors. It was such a success that 100% of exhibitors have already rebooked for next year, with even more signing up all the time, 2020 is shaping up to be the best year yet. Don’t miss your chance to be part of the biggest event in dentistry.
Improving humanistic aspects of your practice and care can be something of a trial and error process, but can pay dividends in patient satisfaction, compliance and attendance. By learning from others’ mistakes and successes, you can more smoothly and efficiently improve the care you provide, so take opportunities wherever you can.
The British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show 2020 – 15thand 16thMay –Birmingham NEC, co-located with DTS.
For all the latest information, visit www.thedentistryshow.co.uk, call 020 7348 5270 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
[i]Louw J., Marcus T., Hugo J. Patient- or person-centred practice in medicine? – a review of concepts. African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine. 2017; 9(1): 1455. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5675925/July 4, 2019.
[ii]Manríquez J., Pereira K. Satisfaction with dental care. A review of the literature. International Journal of Medical and Surgical Sciences. 2018; 5(1): 32-37. https://doi.org/10.32457/ijmss.2018.009July 4, 2019.
[iii]Mills I., Frost J., Cooper C., Moles D., Kay E. Patient-centred care in general dental practice – a systematic review of the literature.BMC Oral Health. 2014; 14: 64. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4054911/July 4, 2019.
[iv]Appukuttan D. Strategies to manage patients with dental anxiety and dental phobia: literature review. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dentistry.2016; 8: 35-50. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4790493/July 4, 2019.
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