All successful oral surgeries require an equilibrium of effort between practitioner and patient: excellent dentistry on your part, and an adherence to postoperative care instructions on the part of the patient. It’s likely you feel confident about your role in this equation … but how do your patients measure up?
Do they ignore instruction and consequently threaten clinical outcomes?
Do they demand more of your time in after-care requests than you believe is necessary?
If so, you probably need to revamp your postoperative efforts. But what’s the best way to craft your message to influence patients? The following best practices will yield better results for your patients, the least amount of rework for your team, and a customer experience that’ll keep patients squarely in your corner.
1. Give your patients the WHY
To avoid complications that could result in rework, let patients know exactly why they’re supposed to abstain from certain actions or habits. For example, drinking alcohol and smoking are terrible ideas after an extraction because they may result in the loss of the clot needed for healing. You may already be communicating this to patients. But the bigger “why” here (for the patient) is if they don’t follow your instruction and ditch these habits for the prescribed time, the result is going to be pain – a lot of it. And if they think they’re in pain now, wait till they end up with dry socket. Tell them that.
2. Set proper expectations
“Increasing the quantity of postoperative preparatory information significantly increases pain relief.” This, from our good friends with the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Who would have thought simply arming patients with effective postoperative care instructions could reduce their overall experience of pain? But it can. That’s why it’s so important to provide patients with a modicum of control when they feel they’ve surrendered it all to you. When creating post-op instructions, let them know the degree of pain they’re likely to experience, how to treat it, and for how long “normal” pain should last. By offering instructions that prepare them, you’ll help allay any fear their pain is unique and lessen chances of an unwarranted call to your office.
3. Keep your audience in mind
Language barriers, age and patient anxiety can each cause a patient to retain less of your postoperative care instructions than you’d wish. For this reason, you’ll want to craft instructions each of these audiences can take with them after a procedure. In other words, it can’t just be verbal. You’ve got to include written instructions as well. The upside? Compliance ends up being greater as a result (a randomized clinical trial that looked at compliance of postoperative instructions following the extraction of impacted third molars bears this out).
4. Go beyond the computer printout
You may have the craftiest and most influential instructions, but what happens if the paper they’re printed on gets run through the washing machine? Exactly. Extend the impact of the written word by offering instructions via email. This way, if any of your patients are among the 64% of Americans attached to their smartphones 24/7, they’ll have your instructions wherever they are. That equals (again) less likelihood for rework, less patient dissatisfaction and fewer interruptions.
At RevenueWell, we automate the whole post-op process for our customers. Prewritten templates for the most common dental procedures eliminate the obstacle of crafting the message, and editable content ensures the message says exactly what you want it to say. Add in the ability to add links, images and videos, and you’ve got a custom-tailored email solution aimed at delivering the best clinical outcome (and best patient experience) you could imagine.
So, what do you think? Is it time to revamp your commitment to post-op instructions?