Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post published by permission of its author.
Technology is seeping into almost every life venue and is changing the way people communicate with each other including how we communicate with our patients. Today’s young people spend large quantities of time in the digital world — a world that is adapting, growing, innovating, and changing at the speed of light.
I was in an office recently that called their patients (as many offices do) one week after the initial bonding appointment. I asked how many times they actually talked to a live person and their response was “not very often”. So my question to you is, how many times things are done just because that is always how we have done them? Maybe it is easier for us, but is it what works best for our patients?
The world of communication has changed greatly over the centuries of mankind from sounds, sign languages, speech, development of language and in modern times using machines like the computer, mobile and internet. Over the past five decades, the change in communication is remarkable. Positive patient communication is always necessary to build confidence, increased rapport and cooperation and minimizes misunderstanding. Our challenge is to provide the best environment for communication with a diverse population of interest, personalities, generations and culture.
Consider this study from the July 2013 issue of The Angle Orthodontist:
“Researchers at Seton Hill University Center for Orthodontics found that a text message sent from an orthodontic office following initial appliance placement resulted in a lower level of patient’s self-reported pain. Additionally, the researchers found that patient anxiety is at its peak the day following the initial appointment and decreases from that point forward.
For the study, 39 orthodontic patients were randomly assigned to one of two groups and matched for age, gender, and bracket type—self-ligating versus conventional. The subjects completed baseline questionnaires to ascertain their levels of pain and anxiety before initiating orthodontic treatment. Following the initial appointment, subjects completed the pain questionnaire and anxiety inventory at the same time daily for 1 week. One group received a structured text message showing concern and reassurance, while the second group served as a control and received no post procedural communication.
The researchers found that there was a statistically significant difference in pain in relation to time between the text message group and the control group. Mean pain intensity increased and self-reported discomfort was longer in the control group. Anxiety was determined to be at its peak the day following initial orthodontic appliance placement and gradually tapered off from that time point. No intergroup difference was noted when analyzing anxiety”.
Children born after 1992 were “born digital” and have always had access to instantaneous communication and the integration of digital media into their daily lives. This group is a large percentage of the patient base for many offices. While it’s critically important to be aware of multigenerational differences, one also should avoid the temptation to automatically stereotype a patient based on his or her age. Clearly, individuals are just that, and each person may not reflect the typical characteristics of their particular generational group. When we understand these concepts, it can help us better understand the needs of the digital generation (and all other generations) and the way in which we should communicate with its members.
Andrea Cook’s in-office, hands-on training motivates and energizes orthodontic clinical teams. She bases training systems on practical knowledge gained through 20 years chairside experience. She works as a clinical consultant and trainer for premier orthodontic offices across the country. Andrea has assisted many offices in developing their guidelines. Contact her for assistance in developing yours! Learn more at AndreaCookConsulting.com