3 Ways Technology Can Enhance the Patient Experience
The following technologies can help improve clinical care while also building patient loyalty.
When the COVID-19 hit in March 2020, it was an especially difficult time for the oral health industry as virtually all but emergency care came to a halt amid the gloomy uncertainty.
A year later, however, dental practices are once again seeing high patient volumes. This indicates patient confidence is returning for professional care. According to a poll conducted by the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute, since the pandemic began, 88% of patients have either sought dental care or are planning to.
As competitive as the dental care landscape is at present, there is an increasing need for professionals to engage patients in ways we never could before. It is critical to think about the experience you’re furnishing for your patients from the moment they enter your door.
Adopting state-of-the-art technology in your practice can take the patient experience from average to exceptional. Let’s see how.
1. Mobile Apps Give Patients a Sense of Connectivity
Today’s patients are highly tech savvy. This is why there is constant consumer demand for better accessibility to services of all kinds. Healthcare is no different.
In fact, that’s particularly true for the oral care industry, a segment that has been more reticent than other disciplines to embrace digitization. Needless to say, this means dental offices are ideal candidates for mobile technologies.
By developing specialty mobile apps, dental practices and the entire dental industry can quickly modernize to meet patient demand for ease of use and increased accessibility. Some of the ways mobile apps can help dentists augment the patient experience include:
A dental clinic that gets a dedicated mobile app developed can provide patients with an easy and convenient way to access all kinds of data and services. Just by accessing the app on a tablet or smartphone, patients can make appointments, pay dental bills, get instructions on posttreatment care, and check the oral health professionals available in a given location, to name a few.
The detailed dashboards furnished by mobile apps can be used to educate patients about important oral health practices they should be including in their daily care, provide information about dental diseases and treatments, and help them make informed decisions when there’s more than one treatment available for specific oral health issues.
By having a mobile app for their practice that stores data on a dedicated cloud server, dentists and staff can quickly check general health information, see the patient’s history with past diagnoses, follow up on treatments recommended by other health professionals, and even better organize their daily schedules.
A mobile app that easily integrates with other practice management solutions, such as telehealth, allows patients to communicate with their oral care provider without having to leave their homes. This is an excellent way to provide recommendations and early diagnoses to prepare for upcoming treatment or alleviate pain.
Besides the items mentioned above, there are many other ways in which mobile apps can help dentists provide patient-centric care and, in turn, make a seamless transition to value-based, holistic care delivery.
2. Virtual Reality Technology Can Help Overcome Dental Anxiety
One major problem that makes it difficult for dentists and staff to engage patients in a meaningful manner and boost the overall patient experience is dental anxiety, especially fear of pain. Despite swift advances in treatment techniques and technologies, many patients postpone or avoid care altogether due to such fears. Yet even though analgesics have been the conventional solution for reducing pain, this does not necessarily mean medication is always the most effective solution.
Studies have shown pain perception is strongly based on a psychological element — conscious attention. Therefore, a distraction induced with the help of technology can effectively take a patient’s awareness away from pain sensations. Virtual reality is one such innovation that creates a virtual environment that enables patients to be immersed in a simulated, interactive world. These systems interact at different levels with the individual, further stimulating via sights, sounds and motion to enhance distraction from pain.
On the dental care front, the findings of one clinical study note that patients undergoing periodontal treatment experienced substantial reduction in pain when using virtual reality technology, as compared to subjects who watched a movie or didn’t have any distractions in place.
For these reasons, it wouldn’t be wrong to say virtual reality is poised to become a viable form of fear and anxiety control for dental treatment in the future. This technology helps oral care providers enhance the patient experience while facilitating optimal outcomes.
3. Three-Dimensional Imaging Helps Improve Care
Ultimately, the patient experience does not simply depend on the ease with which patients can approach providers or cope with dental anxiety, it also depends on how well dentists understand their patients’ unique needs, and their ability to plan and deliver appropriate care. Three-dimensional (3D) imaging is one tech innovation that helps providers do just that.
Cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) is a 3D imaging method with wide application across many dental disciplines, including general practice, endodontics, orthodontics, implant dentistry, oral surgery and more. When indicated, CBCT provides high-quality imaging data that aid treatment planning and care delivery. In cases in which 3D radiography is clinically justified, tech-savvy clinicians can use machine settings and special techniques to further minimize radiation exposure.
The advantages of this imaging modality help facilitate optimal long-term outcomes. In support of this, research comparing spiral computed tomography scans to limited volume CBCT found the latter could compute distances in a more precise manner. For example, CBCT scans allow the surgeon and restorative dentist to effectively plan, place and restore dental implants. In addition, the benefits and uses of 3D imaging in implantology extend throughout the continuum of care — from initial patient assessment to treatment planning, implant delivery and verification, and follow-up care.
While similar utility applies across various dental disciplines, uses of CBCT in implant treatment include:
- Identifying vital anatomic structures, and calculating critical distances
- Determining if a sinus lift and/or bone graft are required
- Visualization of bone and contours
- Optimizing implant location and angulation
- Selecting the correct implant size and type
- Maximizing surgical precision and reducing chairtime
- Increasing case acceptance
Due to the numerous advantages of incorporating 3D imaging in daily practice, forward-looking clinicians should definitely consider integrating CBCT technology to improve outcomes and, by extension, the patient experience.
As shown by these three examples — mobile apps, virtual reality and 3D imaging — providers who embrace technological innovation will find it to be a practice builder that fosters patient trust, confidence and loyalty. Yet even though technology can augment the patient experience and support successful care, it is important to remember technology only acts as a facilitator — it is not a replacement for human touch.
In the end, it boils down to maintaining healthy relationships and nurturing those relationships in ways that increase patient comfort and satisfaction. To succeed at the highest levels, dentists must learn to achieve the right balance between digital innovation and traditional care delivery models.