Orthodontic specialist Dr Michael Sultan highlights the importance of a little reassurance
Recently released statistics show that just five individuals, known as “frequent callers” were responsible for ambulance services being deployed more than 8,000 times in a single year . A spokesperson for the health service said the calls were often related to mental health, chronic pain and alcohol or drug dependence, which, according to some mental health charities, indicates that these people’s needs and concerns were not being met.
But why would some people be calling the emergency services so often? Could it really be simply that they do not feel properly supported by their healthcare professionals? In dentistry, where patients are already anxious, we know how much support and reassurance is needed – particularly by those who are more vulnerable.
We have all had a patient, I'm sure, who has called back after an appointment with what we might consider an inconsequential complaint or concern, but to them it’s far more serious. And that, I think, is the point. From our point of view – after years of training and experience – these small things may be of little concern, but to the layperson they can become something far scarier or even threatening, and all they need is some extra reassurance.
Overcoming this concern is incredibly important in our profession, and we need to be receptive regarding new ways to improve our service – from our patients’ first entry to the practice to the best aftercare. By utilising our trained expertise and delivering clear and relevent information and reassurance to those who need it we can improve the efficiency of our profession, while also ensuring patients have no reason to call us when they do not need to.
Building our patients’ trust and settling their minds before niggles become concerns helps improve that all-important relationship we share with our patients. Establishing trust and reassurance will also help ensure they remain compliant with treatment recommendations – and that they will return to our practice for repeat treatments as necessary.
Essentially, we need to do all we can to show our patients that we care for them, and that we are ready to look after them when they need it, or – just as importantly – when they think they need it.
By introducing relatively simple systems into our practices we can provide much needed reassurance to patients when they need it, freeing them from worry over a bit of gingival sensitivity or pain. It can also help streamline our recall process. If we can identify issues earlier on we can make sure the right patients are called back for the right reasons.
In conclusion it is important for us to remember that our patients do not have the luxury of a dental degree to reassure them that all is well if they experience discomfort after receiving dental treatment. The duty for providing this peace of mind falls squarely on our shoulders and is a vital facet in our duty of care.
Dr Sultan is the founder and principal of EndoCare, one of the leading groups of endodontic practices in the UK dealing both directly with patients and referrals. For more information, call 020 7224 0999 or visit www.endocare.co.uk
1] BBC: Five patients made 8,303 emergency calls in a year. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-43293581