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. (Salesforce has excellent customer retention blogs which you can read to improve your services.)

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! Cohen Law Group in Florida sees to it that the patients’ rights are protected.

[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.


April: Flu and immunization month

I wouldn’t have a flu vaccination…

except that we all do it as a team ‘event’ at our practice.
I know it seems silly for a dentist to be a needle phobic but that’s how it is.

Looking for a project that the whole practice? Get your immunizations up-to-date with flu shots. Update your records in SmartDentist – simple

Have a look at our immunisation project youtube and talk about it at work!

Privacy policy and ADAVB surprise

The ADAVB came out with some surprising items on “Privacy” last week.

One surprise was a free practice privacy manual.
It was great to get something included for our branch fees and I congratulate the ADAVB this.

I was also surprised with some of the wording of the ADAVB manuals ‘example privacy policy’:

1. Sending information overseas.
I was amazed by the ADAVB example policy included the possibility of overseas ‘disclosure’. (Note: Disclosure is when you actually intentionally pass on the personal information rather than ‘use’, which would be simply utilising overseas storage where the storage facility would not access the information.)
It surprised me that there would be dental practices that would send information overseas to be ‘disclosed’ to an overseas recipient. Is anyone really getting an overseas agency to answer the phones or bill patients?

Any practice that does send information overseas this might like to consider the customer friendly statement in this area –

“We take steps to ensure that our service providers are obliged to protect the privacy and security of your personal information and use it only for the purpose for which it is disclosed.”

2. Complaints

The ADAVB policy says
“If you would rather not raise the matter with the practice directly you can complain directly to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).”
This is a surprising statement to have in the policy when the OAIC states that if people complain to the OAIC then the first thing the OAIC will tell them to do is go back to the organisation and attempt to sort it out the issue! (Check out for some informative easy to read material).

It would be unfortunate to think that a patient would be made to feel that they couldn’t or wouldn’t raise an issue such as this with the dental practitioner or staff due to the way the privacy policy is written. Again the Coles privacy policy, as an example, shows consumer-friendly sounding wording-
“For information about privacy generally, or if your concerns are not resolved to your satisfaction, you may contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner at and on 1300 363 992.”
The other area where I received questions from dental practitioners who read the ADAVB manual was in regard to “direct marketing”.

There are two separate issues here. The ADAVB has done well to address both issues:

  1. Using patients information within direct marketing
  2. Sending out direct marketing to patients – e.g. newsletters.

The ADAVB rightly points out the complications that can occur with de-identification of personal information.
Practices also need to have a simple system for patients to withdraw from any direct marketing. The new Australian privacy principles focus on this issue of making sure consumers can withdraw from direct marketing.

Of course the ADAVB privacy manual is a place for dentists to start with their own privacy policy development and I would encourage practices to take a look at a few corporate privacy policies (e.g. and check out the web resources– or you could look at the resources developed within SmartDentist! (We have a privacy policy already for you to easily alter or adapt as is along with many other resources including staff training online for easy access 24/7)

The benefit of looking at the simple to read banking or corporate policies is that they have customer satisfaction at the core of their information development.

At this time 9th March 2014 neither ADAVB nor the ADA Inc. web sites had organisational privacy policies available on their own web sites. The OAIC recommends that organisations have their privacy policy freely available on their web site.

Personally I am looking forward to a simple way to withdraw from some the non-relevant direct marketing. The ADA Inc. recently changed it’s site so practitioners can now very simply opt in and out of the ADA Inc.’s own newsletter! Great work! I look forward to being able to make the choice on other marketing.

PS. At the time of publishing this blog (9pm on 11 March neither ADAVB nor ADA Inc have a APP policy on their own sites – maybe they aren’t required to because of their size?)


Dental practice accreditation – in a market driven healthcare world

NSQHS Standard 10.3  says “Organisational clinical service capability, planning, and scope of practice is directly linked to the clinical service roles of the organisation”.

What does this mean in a consumer-driven free market healthcare service?
In our dental practice we do what we do! For me this means that I do the things I love, that I think I am pretty good at and I redirect people when I think that something has gone beyond my ‘comfort’ zone. Is this definable in a meaningful way in a policy document or business plan? Of course not.

Would attempting to define it improve standards of quality and safety in our practice. No! Each situation and person that comes under our care is a unique individual who requires their own unique attention. Flow charts are not the answer to all healthcare needs.

Recently I heard a singer on TV say that she does what she loves; ignores reality; and hope someone pays her for it. I loved what she said.

This Standard is one of the oddities that shows that “one size fits all”  health care organisation standards leads to incredibly frustrating and time wasting bureaucracy. We understand where this standard requirement comes from. In public hospital health patients are NOT realistically the consumer. It is incredibly hard to get up and walk out of a hospital that fails to deliver.

But this is not true of private dental practices and the risks and quality and safety of patients can not be seen to be improved by trying to make evidence of this statement.

Is it time for the ACSQHC to recognise situations where “patient centred focus” is market driven and moves from artificially imposed(by the NSQHC Standards) to an everyday business reality? Allied health practices need recognition for the problems we DON’T have. Perhaps the focus should be to look at us and follow the way we do things! (Rather than make us appear like mini-hospitals)

What if you “win” a Dental Board of Australia CPD audit?

What if you get a CPD audit from the Dental Board of Australia?

Just a reminder that the Boards Continuing Professional Development fact sheet says you need to have a record or logbook with the following:

  •  Practitioner’s name
  •  Provider’s name
  •  CPD Activity name
  • Date, time and location of the CPD activity
  • Number of CPD hours (excluding breaks) and the Type of CPD hours (scientific/non scientific) that are awarded as a result of completing the activity

The SmartDentist CPD log records all your SmartDentist CPD automatically and you can add in other records.

Just select the CPD report card and decide on print or pdf format. Too EASY!

Continuing professional development log book


CPD tax deductibility update

Th government has release a consultation paper about its plans to cap tax deductions for work-related, self-education expenses. Read the 20-page document and see what you think.

It seems odd that according to it’s own research the average deduction for professionals on a very high income was $2000 – then why is the government pursuing changes?

It will be interesting to see what happens!