The Guardian recently published an insightful article about how patients who see the same doctor each time they need medical care may reduce the risk of death.[i] Previous studies have shown that the benefits of what is called ‘continuity of care’ are numerous – from patients more closely following medical advice to a better uptake of preventive measures. Yet new research has shown that there may be a link to rates of mortality too.
The article itself is quite interesting, and certainly worth the read – but what struck me more is the possibility of a similar trend in dentistry. Indeed, the article does mention that the effect is widespread across all medical practices. And it makes a great deal of sense. After all, we all have those patients who come in like clockwork, who we’ve seen in the chair for years and years, whose teeth we know like the back of our hand! And these are usually the patients who are sat in the chair for the shortest amount of time – they’re the in and out patients, who do what we tell them and have, as a result, a better level of oral health.
The key here is the relationship we have with these patients. We know their concerns and their habits, and in turn they are more comfortable discussing their oral health (and general health, in fact) with us. Through this relationship, we are able to give these patients a far better service, because it is more personal.
If nothing else, this is an important reminder about how crucial it is to reinforce the patient-practitioner relationship in order to retain patients past their initial check up and keep them coming back again and again over the course of their lives. But, as we know, ensuring this is now more difficult than ever. We are all aware about how much more transient patients are and how easily they may drift off to another practice if they don’t like the way they are being treated. This isn’t to say that patients are less loyal these days, it’s just that they have higher expectations and a greater sense of getting what they feel they deserve. Which, ultimately, makes our jobs even harder.
However, making that relationship work is something we should always strive for, because it will always be in the patient’s and our own best interests. We should always attempt to make our practice somewhere patients want to return to and make our service as attractive and empathetic as possible so that our patients feel safe and comfortable. We need to keep up with the times and appreciate that just offering good dentistry might not be enough to retain patients. We need to be able to offer the latest treatments, the best techniques and, importantly, the elements of dentistry that modern patients want: a good website, easy booking, the new technologies and more. But most vitally, we need to be able to offer them trust.
But what if you’re a practitioner who regularly refers patients off for different treatments? Doesn’t this undermine the ‘continuity of care’ that is so important to a good patient-practitioner relationship?
No – it doesn’t have to.
It’s about working with a referral practice that keeps you in the loop – and it’s about ensuring that you keep yourself involved too. Patients might need some reassurance that you are sending them to the right place, especially if they’re used to your care, but if you take an active part in the referral journey you will be able to maintain that relationship even when your patient is in someone else’s chair.
There are undoubted benefits to maintaining a positive relationship with our patients, from bettering their oral health to ensuring they keep coming back to the practice for treatment – and, as such, it’s important that we strive to keep up a high standard of continuing care.
For further information please call EndoCare on 020 7224 0999
[i] The Guardian: Keeping the same doctor reduces death risk, study finds; https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jun/29/keeping-the-same-doctor-reduces-death-risk-study-finds