James Goolnik: The importance of communication during COVID-19
It is not yet clear when and how dental practices in the UK will re-open, but a gradual approach is widely anticipated. A keen advocate for clear and constant communication, James Goolnik – Principal of Bow Lane Dental Group – explains why the way practice principals engage with their teams and patients now, as well as the protocols they put in place, will help encourage a smoother return to work.
“The number one thing Principals should be doing is reassuring colleagues – the worst thing to do is go quiet. Your team are looking to you for direction so it’s important to provide some reassurance that you are there for them.”
James organises weekly team video calls and emails to help everyone to catch up, discuss the latest in dentistry and stay positive, helping maintain the team spirit and encourage the wellbeing of each team member. He believes it is just as crucial to remain visible to patients.
“We have added a pop-up to our website to direct all contact to email, so patients know we are still here for them. We are also regularly updating our social media pages, being respectable of the difficulties that so many are facing. It’s not the time for advertising smile makeovers. Instead, we are offering helpful information and advice on how to deal with common dental problems or emergencies.
“We are also communicating the importance of reducing sugar intake, which is encapsulated within my Kick Sugar book at www.rewardsproject.org. With more time on their hands, we are encouraging people to cook healthy meals from scratch with their families, promoting balanced nutrition to support patients and focus their attention in a positive way.”
Ready yourself and your business
Keeping open channels of communication with patients makes it much easier to triage enquiries and concerns ready for when the practice is open again. James offers a few hints and tips on how practice teams can use the information they gain from patients to better prepare.
“I recommend building a database of patient queries received, so you know who requires what treatment and how urgent it is. You could also organise a shift schedule for staff so that you can open longer hours if necessary – and review the PPE in stock. Consider in which order equipment should be switched on, which service providers you’ll need to contact, and how you could enforce social distancing and create a contactless patient journey.
“Everything you do to protect your patients and your staff should be communicated with both parties. Patients need to know you have exceptional infection control protocols and will follow any additional evidence-based recommendations as announced.”
Predicting change – support the supporters
James adds: “The public are more aware of holistic health connections. They also better understand cross infection control, so it’s important for practices to make their protocols more visible. I think remote services will be maximised as people reduce travel and maintain a sensible level of social distancing.
“While dentistry will always require at least some physical contact, I predict a shift towards long-term, permanent solutions that will reduce the need for regular practice visits. This could lead to more conversations about long-term and holistic approaches to dental and general health.
“The next couple of years may be difficult and we will not be going back to where we were – rather, dentistry will have a different model altogether. It is vital to remember those individuals and companies who supported you throughout this crisis and to support them on the other side. This will make for an even stronger profession.”
James is just one of many high-profile speakers at the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show each year. A spokesperson concluded: “The next event will once again bring together hundreds of experts in their respective fields, as well as industry-leading manufacturers and suppliers. For now, we hope you find these expert insights useful in preparation for your return to dentistry.
“One thing that does seem clear, however, is that the provision of dentistry will change. The type of treatment offered and the way in which it is provided will need to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and this means dental professionals must be ready to evolve.”
The British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show, Birmingham NEC, co-located with DTS.