Practical tips by Dr Bethany Rushworth: Patient Communication
Dr Bethany Rushworth talks about her experience and gives you an exclusive insight into her work to help you with your professional development. You can expect tips on communicating and interacting with your patients, stress management strategies, and testimonials on setting and achieving goals as well as finding a work-life balance in times of a pandemic. Listen to her tips and tricks and be inspired!
Dr Bethany Rushworth, an award-winning dentist with numerous scientific publications, has been focusing on the personal development of dentists for years. Her several years of coaching experience allow her to look at everyday dentistry from an exciting perspective.
Look forward with us to this special blog series!
The first topic for this week is patient communication.
Why is this important?
One of the most common reasons to receive a complaint in dentistry is due to communication, or lack thereof!1 This makes sense, as you are unlikely to sue or complain about someone you like! By communicating effectively with patients, we are able to educate them, not only potentially improving their oral health but also helping them to understand why our recommended treatment is valuable and important. If things are explained clearly, patients can make informed decisions about their care, minimising the chance of complaints and improving their experience. As dentists we can also rely significantly on word-of-mouth referrals; therefore, giving patients a great experience can have long-lasting implications including increased patient numbers and satisfaction.
An easy life?
If things are explained clearly to patients from the beginning, it will make your life easier as the clinician. Patients will arrive at each appointment feeling informed and it will save you time in most cases going back over things and clearing up misunderstandings! The rest of the team will also thank you for this, as there will be fewer patients going down to the desk asking difficult questions which will be answered by possibly non-clinical staff. This can lead to incorrect information being relayed to patients and add to the confusion.
Have your script and learn it!
Personally, 99% of the time I will explain each condition or scenario in exactly the same words, almost like a script. It will be tweaked each time to be patient specific but in general the content and language I use is the same. Not only does this help ensure I don’t forget anything, the nurses who work with me pick up on this and I have found them on many occasions using the same descriptions as I do when talking to our patients. This consistency within the team ensures that patients really understand what is going on and it helps prevent missing information or miscommunications. By getting into a habit of using a system or a routine, the appointments go more smoothly and I know that I have said the key points each time. I also like using pictures/diagrams and 3D models to explain things to my patients. This can really help if they are a visual learner or if things aren’t entirely clear.
Record, record, record
Whilst it is all very well saying these things to our patients, it is still essential that we document doing so. With the number of people we see and speak to each day, it would be impossible to remember everything, especially over a period of weeks, months and even years! Detail in the notes should reflect the level of discussion had and key points should be summarised in a list at the end of the notes for that appointment, to enable you to have a quick reference at each following visit.
Give some thought to the layout of your surgery. Is there anything you could do to improve it? For example, is there any way you could position your computer so you can write notes AND talk to the patient? Or position a chair somewhere that patients can sit and see images on the screen? Whilst not everyone will have this luxury, there are things which we can consider such as using a tablet to bring the images over to the patient or even having a book of printed pictures and diagrams.
Learn more about patient engagement in our next blog entry.
Dr Bethany Rushworth
108-110 Town St,
1. Why do dental patients complain? Br Dent J 215, 386 (2013).