How office managers can take the lead with patient education software

Sept. 1, 2012
When office managers talk about their daily responsibilities, “patient education” does not typically spring to mind.

By Natalie Rogers, Office Manager, Copperfield Family Dental

When office managers talk about their daily responsibilities, “patient education” does not typically spring to mind. In most practices, clinical staff members decide what type of patient education tools to use. But office managers can actually have an important role in streamlining patient education for a practice. The benefits of offering efficient and standardized patient education extend not just to the patient and clinical staff, but to the front office staff as well.

Introducing a patient education system to the practice

Our office began using the CAESY Cloud patient education system from Patterson Dental several months ago after I won a free trial at a conference for the American Association of Dental Office Managers. When I returned to the office, I organized a session to show staff members how to use the system and to explain its benefits. While introducing a new technology to a practice can be a bumpy process, in this instance the staff was on board in a relatively short time.

One important factor in the enthusiastic adoption of our patient education system was its ease of use. Because our practice already had computers in every operatory, there was no set-up necessary. Additionally, because it plays video content from an online hub, there was no installation to perform or discs to keep track of. Staff members found that the menus on the website were easy to navigate through, and they were excited by the fact that the video content could be played on mobile devices in addition to the computers in each operatory.

Our practice uses an iPad to help patients pass the time while CEREC crowns are being milled. The ability to play the videos on this device has helped us make use of waiting time, and stay flexible in how we offer patient education.

Benefits for every clinical staff member

Very quickly, our staff members realized how these patient education presentations made staff roles easier. The change was particularly noticeable for our hygiene staff, which had difficulties getting patients to understand periodontal disease and its proper treatment. But after showing patients the video presentations, case acceptance for perio treatment went up dramatically.

The hygiene staff has commented that the presentations do a great job of explaining why patients need to come in for cleanings more frequently, and why out-of-pocket costs are higher for this type of treatment. Our hygienists have found that the videos provide a trustworthy third-party voice to help inform patients and reinforce diagnoses.

Our dental assistants have also embraced this new technology. They have found that the videos do a great job of explaining procedures, and that they free up time, which allows completion of more tasks in a day. Now, in a typical case, the dentist leaves the operatory after giving a diagnosis and recommending treatment, and the assistant cues up the relevant video for the patient. The assistant can then come to the desk while the video is playing to give the treatment coordinator the necessary information.

After the video is completed, the assistant or dentist can answer the patient’s follow-up questions. By the time the patient is brought back to the front desk, the staff member has had enough time to compile estimates for treatment.

The patient no longer has to sit idly while the estimate is being made, and the assistant is able to maximize his or her time as well. When patient care is coordinated this way, patients can see that the practice staff is well educated on the recommended treatments, and also well organized.

Patient education in the dental office allows even office managers, who may have no dental or clinical background, to watch the videos and have a better understanding of procedures and their importance. This helps immensely when discussing treatments and answering questions with patients in-office, since the office manager is typically the last person to talk with patients before they leave their appointment. It also provides the office manager more of a clinical understanding for when patients call with follow-up questions, and when potential new patients contact the practice.

Added efficiency, added value

Prior to adopting this system, our primary tools for patient education were simply charts and brochures. While these were certainly better than nothing, we have been very pleased at how the multimedia videos have given us new capabilities in communicating with patients. It is clear to our staff members that when a patient sees a 3-D video that shows his or her condition and recommended treatment, the patient has a much better understanding of what is happening in his or her mouth and why treatment is so important.

Another benefit our staff members have discovered is the ability to play videos in Spanish. This helps immeasurably in making Spanish-speaking patients feel welcome and providing them with the same level of communication and care we provide for English-speaking patients. Staff members no longer have to worry that their message is not getting through due to a language barrier.

Of course, any office manager considering a technology investment wants to know about the cost and return on investment. Particularly with technology, ROI can suffer if tools become outdated or need frequent maintenance. But this highlights another great advantage of using a cloud-based system. We now simply pay a low monthly subscription fee to maintain access to our patient education service.

Additionally, we have real-time access to the most current presentations, and our materials are never outdated. New and updated presentations are automatically available online via the cloud for immediate use with CAESY. It is clear that we are more than making up for the monthly subscription cost with added revenue from increased case acceptance.

Office managers may not consider patient education as their domain, but as discussed here, there are a number of reasons they should. The added efficiency clinical staff experience from using this tool extends through the whole practice, right back to the front desk. In addition, researching and implementing a patient-education system gives office managers a great opportunity to expand their talents and play an even more vital role in keeping the practice running smoothly.

Natalie Rogers, CDA, began her dental career in 2004. She has spent four years chairside and is an office manager. She is a member of the American Association of Dental Office Managers, and was nominated for Office Manager of the year in 2010. Natalie’s motto is “sparkle and dazzle.” Natalie can be reached at [email protected].

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