Patient centered care: A dummies guide to effective marketing

Patient centered health care is a new catch phrase in the quality and safety world. Dental schools are required to teach this concept to students; the Australian Dental Council has this in its professional attributes and competencies; and the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Healthcare claims this leads to safer, higher quality healthcare.

When I first heard the suggestion that our practicing life was changing so we are now to practice “patient centered care” I wondered ‘what on earth did they think we were doing in the past’?

Weren’t private dental practitioners always ‘patient centered’?

In a market driven world where the ultimate consumer ‘review’ is to stay or leave a dental practice our ability to stay in business is wholly related to our success in giving ‘patient –centered care’.
When viewed in light of a reduced consumer market for dentists (due to economic conditions and oversupply of dentists) the precepts of ‘patient-centered care’ give a great outline for effective marketing and customer retention.

So what precisely is “patient centered care”?

Patient centered health care is healthcare that is ‘respectful of and responsive to, the preferences, needs and values of patients*’.

People don’t want to be told what you know; they want you to ask questions to find out whether what you know, and can do, is of added value to their own needs and goals.

Successful sales and marketing revolves around this technique for producing happy consumers. No-one wants to buy off a sales person who tells them what he thinks they need. Being mindful of the other peoples needs and values allows healthcare worker to use motivational interviewing techniques to effectively elicit changes in behaviour or elicit purchasing decisions!

[The bigger picture is: Does patient centered care reduce the ethical and moral obligations of healthcare providers where healthcare is totally market driven?]

*Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (2011), Patient-centred care: Improving quality and safety through partnerships with patients and consumers, ACSQHC, Sydney.

Quality and Accreditation – Dental introduction to accreditation

I recently attended a meeting talking about the new “ADA Introductory Dental Practice Accreditation Scheme“. Quite early in the meeting one of the dentists who had completed the accreditation said, “I think you should removed the word “Quality” from your publications if you want dentists to understand them”!

Wow! Get rid of quality!

Absolutely no – that was NOT what he meant. What he was trying to say was that for Dentists QUALITY means:

  • We do a fantastic colour-matched filling or crown with beautifully finished margins.

Because this is NOT the type of quality referred to with accreditation confusion occurs. Many dentists have signed up for accreditation without understanding the National standards (ACSQHC) and have been bitterly disappointed and surprised.

The ADA Introductory Dental Practice Accreditation Scheme would be better described as an introduction to dental practice safety processes “Accreditation Scheme”. There are many benefits in checking over the way your practice undertakes staff and patient safety procedures.e.g.

  • When did you last update or complete at your staff’s immunisation records?
  • What sort of new staff induction do you run?
  • Have your staff been kept up-to-date with confidentiality requirements (e.g. social media)?
  • Are you sure you are recording your sterilising processes correctly?

At SmartDentist we have started the “try before you buy” accreditation page so you can work through the accreditation requirements BEFORE you pay out for the “Introduction to accreditation” certificate. We believe that if the requirements for accreditation are a good idea – then dental practices should be encouraged to do them whether they pay for a certificate or not.
Isn’t the aim to encourage safe practice?
Let’s make it easy and transparent.

Why do we do the things we do?

Recently our practice began looking at our new patient information and medical history sheet because we are going to run out of the ones we presently use.  The source that we used to buy this sheet from has drastically changed the format.   (They are now asking patients twice the amount of personal private information)

We carefully and with great consideration looked at the increased amount of information that they wanted us to ask and we thought WHY?

Isn’t it easy to forget the purpose of the information we collect?

I remember this story by Anthony de Mello…

When the guru sat down to worship each evening the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshippers. So he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.

Long after the guru died the cat continued to be tied during worship. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be dully tied during evening worship.
Centuries later learned treatises were written by the guru’s disciples on the essential role of a cat in all properly conducted worship. (de Mello, 1982, Song of the Bird, p.79).

We have add our new patient and medical history sheet online so other members of Smartdentist can modify it for their own practices.