Editor’s note: This is part 1 in a three-part series about communication. Watch for parts two and three in future issues of Dental Economics and here on dentaleconomics.com.
Communication is a critical management tool for any business and is essential for effective and efficient workflow, productivity, and outcomes.1 Effective communication brings peace of mind to health-care professionals and the best outcomes to patients.2
This series will introduce today's challenges and solutions integrating effective communication with emerging technologies and digital workflow. There are two central assumptions when discussing and selecting communication options. First, respect security and privacy. All applications, networks, and services should provide the security required by the federal government through HIPAA.3 Second, understand the concept of technical communication, which is critical for exchanging informationin health care.4
Examples of technical communication
- Information that accompanies and follows a specialty referral
- Lab prescriptions and the collaboration and conversations that follow
- Preparation and follow-up to manage a patient's surgical experience
- Distant patient consults and case management
- Managing access and effective use of digital information collected over the life of a patient's treatment and care
Technical communication managing patient care and the patient experience requires sharing and storing information, collaboration, and conversation between members of the care team. The information must be easily accessible and be more than a snapshot of a single moment. It should be available throughout and after the patient treatment experience.
New technologies and products often create challenges for collaboration that may lead to pain points. Technologies often provide closed proprietary networks limited to a specific data set and a specific closed endpoint. They seldom address the entire care team or the importance of collaboration and conversation, and they add costs for use and conversion of proprietary formats to open standards when available. In these situations, the caregiver must manage how to extract the information and make it more useful. Parts two and three will address specific products and channels for this.
A simple example is a secure email. Some security systems have a validation process for HIPAA that can be confusing, complicated, limit collaboration, exclude conversation, and be a barrier to adoption. Some solutions focus on the mobile environment and require downloading apps that can lead to limitations in functionality and obstacles to patient adoption.
Another example relates to the management of digital files from intraoral scanners. In some cases, the information is acquired as a proprietary format rather than an open standards STL file, which is universally applicable. The proprietary format provides the opportunity for a vendor to charge fees for access to files through proprietary channels and charge license fees to convert the proprietary file to an open standards STL file.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a single cost-effective solution to address HIPAA compliance, document sharing, collaboration, and conversation with all dental team members, including colleagues, labs, patients, and suppliers? There are many emerging technologies to improve technical communication and the user experience, including HIPAA-compliant text messaging, voice applications with artificial intelligence, and virtual assistants.
Here, we'll focus on texting as a tool.
Where do you communicate when you want a quick response? What do you use instead of a phone call and voicemail? Where do you turn to share information, experiences, and an image? You likely want to use texting. It is well documented that texting is the most efficient method to communicate, replacing the phone as a conversational tool.
- Texting is the most widely used app on a smartphone.5
- More than 80% of American adults text.6
- Text messages have a 98% open rate, while email has only a 20% open rate.7
- 90% of all text messages are retrieved in fewer than three minutes.7
- It takes the average person 90 minutes to respond to an email but only 90 seconds to respond to a text message.7
There are several texting applications for health care, and most focus on institutional services. Also, HIPAA-compliant texting applications focus on the desktop or mobile experience and may require you to download a mobile app. Here are some challenges.
- The first challenge is to commit to HIPAA compliance.
- The second challenge is to commit to separating social from personal communications.
- The third challenge is to select a platform that can support the technical communication required to manage your patient's journey.
- The fourth challenge is to find a platform that pays equal attention to the desktop and mobile experience.
- The final challenge is to review your current approach to technical communication with colleagues, patients, labs, and suppliers and how it impacts peace of mind.
Some selection criteria and questions to ask when choosing products or technology should include:
- Can I use this application for more than a one-use case?
- Is it simple to use and teach?
- Is it mobile- and desktop-friendly?
- Can I use this to communicate with a variety of members of the dental community?
- Is it dependent on an app that must be downloaded?
- Is it easy to engage patients and labs?
- Does it support multiple digital file formats?
- Does it support collaboration and conversation?
- Is it cost-effective?
- Is there potential for integration to third-party applications?
- Does it support voice and AI applications?
Invest time when adopting a communication solution to ensure that it addresses your needs and provides peace of mind.
In future articles, I will discuss these questions and how they can impact your peace of mind and the efficiency, productivity, outcomes, and user experiences in your practice.
1. Last S. What is technical communication? Chapter 1.4. Case study: The cost of poor communication. Press Books. https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/technicalwriting/chapter/casestudy-costpoorcommunication/
2. Defining technical communication. Society for Technical Communication. 2020. https://www.stc.org/about-stc/defining-technical-communication/
3. Kethcart R. Emails, texts, and HIPAA: 7 rules every dentist needs to know. June 29, 2017. DentistryIQ. https://www.dentistryiq.com/practice-management/patient-relationships/article/16366021/emails-texts-and-hipaa-7-rules-every-dentist-needs-to-know
4. Last S. What is technical communication? Chapter 1. Learning objectives. Press Books.
5. SMS still most important messaging svc for smartphone owners. Marketing Charts. May 10, 2012.
6. Duggan M. Cell phone activities 2013. Pew Research, September 19, 2013. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2013/09/19/cell-phone-activities-2013/
7. SMS Marketing Stats. 99 Firms. https://99firms.com/blog/sms-marketing-stats/#gref
ARNOLD ROSEN, DDS, MBA, has an MBA and specialty training in prosthodontics from Boston University, and training in maxillofacial prosthetics from Memorial Sloan Kettering. He served as director of hospital dentistry at New England Medical Center and is founder and director of the Dental Implant Center at Tufts University. He cofounded Global Telemedix, one of health care's first telemedicine providers, and launched Awrel LLC as the first company to offer HIPAA-compliant texting and voice-enabled solutions for the dental industry. To learn more about Awrel, email [email protected].