Video Tutorial: Securely Send Touchless Health History Forms to Patients

This week, we have a new tutorial showcasing one of ABELDent’s newer features.  

Much like our previous video, our new tutorial shows you a new ABELDent CS/LS+ feature that allows you to send touch-free health history forms to patients. Not only does this easy feature help your practice save paper for hundreds of patients, but it also saves time. Once the patient finishes their health history form, they can submit the form which goes directly into their electronic patient chart. Your team does not need to manually insert patient information, which is a downside of using paper charts along with electronic health charts. 

The importance of protected health information 

When your patient receives the email you just sent, they are linked to a webpage that allows them to safely and securely insert their health history information on the form. The link that the patient receives is a one-time use link only, meaning it breaks after its first use. This ensures that your patient’s information is being delivered directly to their chart from the webpage efficiently and securely. 

Additional benefits of online health history forms 

Dental offices moving away from paper-based forms may have patients use tablets or similar devices in the waiting room. Online health history forms allow to patients to fill out the forms anywhere on their smartphone or Internet-enables device.  This minimizes delays in the waiting room and eliminates the risk of having your devices dropped, broken, stolen, or tampered with.  Additionally, online health history forms speed up the practice workflows by automatically entering the information in patient charts.   

Video summary: 

Here are the steps that are outlined in our video tutorial.  

  1. Navigate to the patient’s clinical sidebar
  1. Click the email icon to send an email under “health history” in the clinical sidebar. 
  1. Edit or adjust the text if needed. When you’re ready to go, click “send”. 

We hope you find our new tutorial helpful for learning these new features. We look forward to providing more tutorials and walkthroughs in the coming months.  

How to Send Hands-Free Questionnaires to Your Patients in Seconds

The spread of COVID-19 in late 2019 and early 2020 caused us to adapt to new ways of working with each other. While Ontario is now in phase three of reopening various businesses and organizations, it is apparent that we are going to keep some changes permanently going forward. A change that we have already embraced prior to the outbreak is hands-free technology. To counteract public health risks, people have developed newer technologies that favour touch-free environments; for instance, digitized paperwork and patient charts. 

Worldwide, dentists have accommodated the necessary new changes that maintain social distancing in practice. Although many dental offices have already moved to a paperless-based practice, multiple still retain some physical documents such as intake forms for compliance with proper dental recordkeeping.  

Whether your practice is fully paperless or not, pre-screening can take up a significant amount of time over the phone or in-person. ABELDent’s new feature gives providers the option to send COVID-19 pre-screening forms to patients before they even step foot in the clinic, saving your team time and preventing paper forms.

This feature maintains your patients’ private health information (PHI), which must be encrypted when sent via emails. The pre-screening survey sends a one-time link that your patients can fill out prior to their appointment either at home, or right outside your office before entering. The information is automatically updated in the electronic chart, saving time and effort for your team. 

If you want to learn more about this new feature, we hope you check out our new video. Our overview goes through the basics of sending quick pre-screening surveys, and how you can customize the message to fit your office’s needs. As always, we hope you enjoy the video. 

Mental Health’s Relationship to Oral Health

How do mental health and oral health influence one another?  

In today’s blog, we explore the connection that oral health and mental health have with one another and provide some resources that provide further insight into the relationship between the two. This blog references various studies from multiple researchers and serves only to be a general outline.   

Patients living with mental illnesses or other conditions may experience symptoms that may put these individuals’ oral health at risk. A portion of these individuals also experience barriers in acquiring oral healthcare, such as unresolved dental anxiety and unemployment. Various connections with either symptoms of the illness itself or the prescribed medications that a patient may take can influence their oral health and their experience in the operatory. Dr. Kevin McCann’s in-depth article from 2012 goes over common mental illnesses that patients may have and the effects that regular medications have on their bodies, and by extension, their oral health. For instance, McCann points out that individuals taking antidepressants have an increased chance of complications with vasoconstrictors in local anesthesia, particularly in patients with additional underlying medical conditions. Another example is the involuntary muscle movements that affect patients taking antipsychotic medications. These muscle movements may sometimes be noticeable in the operatory chair.  

Other issues that link mental health with oral health are symptoms that make oral hygiene upkeep difficult. Some symptoms of untreated mental illnesses may result in a lack of oral hygiene (e.g., depression). Alternatively, some conditions may cause individuals to perform unhealthy hygiene habits, such as vigorous brushing. Various medications for many mental illnesses are also known to have side effects such as dry mouth or bruxism.   

McCann’s article ends on a holistic note, reminding providers that taking a nonjudgmental approach to obtaining any patient’s health history is crucial. Edwin T. Parks and Cindy Marek provide a comprehensive guide to effectively communicating and working with patients who have mental health issues. Due to the stigma that mental illnesses have had in the past, patients may not share their whole health history with providers, especially if they are not aware that their oral health is affected by their mental health. Parks and Marek explain:  

“An effective way to open discussion when the dentist suspects that the patient has a psychological disorder is to mention a physical finding that may relate to the disorder. For example, because some medications for psychological disorders cause dry mouth, a nonjudgmental, nonthreatening question such as “I notice that your mouth seems much drier than usual. Have there been any changes in your health that could account for this change?” may open a discussion in which the relationship between physical findings and psychological status can be described” (Parks and Marek 2007).  

Parks, E. T., & Marek, C. (2007). Managing the Patient With Psychological Problems. In Treatment Planning in Dentistry (pp. 367-389).

Asking questions directly pertaining to oral health may help patients feel inclined to share any information that they may have initially held back. Making sure your patients are fully aware of how their oral health is impacted, and what they can do to maintain healthy habits is crucial.  

Each patient has different needs, but in general, applying the same empathetic approach to all patients will help motivate your patients to maintain good oral hygiene in between dental appointments. Many resources indicate that listening to patients, having a kind demeanor, and using social skills also does more to help patients with mental illnesses get through their appointments, which to many, may be a source of stress.   

References  

  • Parks, E. T., & Marek, C. (2007). Managing the Patient With Psychological Problems. In Treatment Planning in Dentistry (pp. 367-389). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-323-03697-9.50018-1  
  • McCann, KJ. (2012). Assessment and management of dental patients with mental health issues. Oral Health. 2012:102(6)25-32.   

Do You Use Social Media to Encourage Ongoing Healthy Habits for Patients?

Some, maybe even most individuals that come to your office are very motivated when it comes to keeping up their oral hygiene routine. For most offices, however, there are a few patients that struggle to allocate time for the necessary hygiene practices that prevent oral disease. Can you do more to ensure your patients are sticking to proper oral health habits in-between visits? In this week’s blog, we are going over some approaches that your office can take that may help prevent your patients from falling back into old habits.  

In comparison to other countries, Canada has great dental care and limited individuals with oral disease. CDA’s status report of Canada’s oral health recognizes the country’s relatively good oral healthcare, particularly when viewed on a global scale. They state in the report that “based on a wide range of metrics, we can state definitively that Canada is among the world leaders when it comes to the overall oral health of its citizens.” The report also acknowledges, though, that there are some groups of people in Canada that suffer from poor oral health due to barriers such as physical, socioeconomic, and geographical restraints. 

Ensuring your patients are going home with knowledge of proper hygiene upkeep is a crucial part of recall visits, but unfortunately, patients tend to fall back into old habits after a few weeks. Thankfully, there are certain approaches your office can take to counteract this issue and encourage patients to continue their oral hygiene regimens at home.

Prioritize the provider-patient relationship

Having a positive experience at your office is a large factor that contributes to your patients’ at-home care, especially those with anxieties surrounding dental care or healthcare in general. Having a good experience establishes trust with your patients and motivates your patients to continue oral hygiene habits at home. The dentist-patient relationship is defined in this article as “the core of dentistry” (Bishop 2018). Generally, patients are more likely to remember instructions and advice given to them from someone they have a positive relationship with and can relate to on an interpersonal level. The best way to leave a lasting impression on your patients is by showing compassion and maintaining professionalism. Soft social skills make a world of difference when it comes to the patient’s experience. A positive experience at your office will motivate patients to continue proper hygiene at home. 

Encourage healthy habits through your online presence

We have spoken before about the benefits of running a social media page for your practice. Even if your practice has a small following online, posting some generalized oral hygiene tips on your social media page (i.e. Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook) has the chance of making a difference, even it is small. Additionally, using your platform to debunk and discourage “DIY trends” that are harmful for patients may prevent your audience from trying at-home remedies that cause harm to their oral health. 

While social media usage can provide many opportunities for your practice, you must follow the guidelines of professionality to stay in accordance with the associations in your area. RCDSO, for instance, provides an advisory for maintaining dental professionality on social media and offers some insight on best practices for social media use. Whether you are regularly updating your social media outlets, or sporadically posting, your office is still reinforcing good oral hygiene habits for your patients in a virtual and casual fashion. 

While using the approaches mentioned in this blog may help patients become more enthusiastic about their oral health, they may also just serve as regular best practices for your office. Whether or not your patients are influenced by your potential social media usage or nonjudgmental listening, these approaches still work for the betterment of your office. Patient care is the most important, and while dental offices transition towards a post-COVID-19 future, these approaches may not be a priority if your practice is not ready to utilize specific online tools. Prioritizing the provider-patient relationship is prevalent whether you utilize social media or not, as doing this is viable for most appointments and social skills can always be refined.

The Quickest And Easiest Way to Update Multiple Patient Records With ABELDent

It is critical to keep your patient’s contact information up-to-date, especially since we are heavily reliant on virtual forms of communication that allow coordination from a distance. It can certainly be difficult to keep certain patients or families’ contacts updated, but it is important for your team to always make an effort to make sure contact records are accurate.

We recognize that in this industry, contact information can easily become outdated. Family dynamics change, families move, and dental providers can often end up with a wrong number or email address on file. If a patient indicates that their contact information should be used for specified few family members, it can be a hassle going in between files making sure that each patient’s contact outlets are updated. In our newest video tutorial, we go over a feature that ABELDent has that allows you to quickly update contact information for multiple family members without having to go back and forth between files. This feature helps to eliminate drudge work and gives your team more time to focus on more important tasks that drive your practice forward.  

Be sure to watch our newest tutorial to find out how you can update contact information for multiple contact members in one simple click, which is just one of the improved features in ABELDent’s updated version. If you liked the video and want to see more, let us know! We look forward to providing more tutorials to demonstrate how ABELDent can be used to make practice management easier and gives you more time to focus on patient care. 

How Your Dental Practice Management Software Helps You Reopen

Things are rapidly changing in the world of dentistry. There have been multiple changes over the last few months in terms of how care can be provided to patients. With various provinces across Canada in different states of ‘reopening’, we think it is important to discuss dental providers’ options. This week, we want to delve into the various ways you can utilize your practice management software for a smooth and gradual office reopening. 

While offices are permitted to provide non-essential dental services to patients, some dental offices are still currently refraining from booking routine patients. RCDSO is also becoming more lenient on the use of aerosols in dental treatment, as long as the patient has not been tested positive for COVID-19.  

Patients that need dental treatment must be prescreened for COVID-19 either over the phone or online. ABELDent’s Patient Portal allows you to set up an online screening form for patients to fill out prior to coming to appointments. By setting up this functionality in your Patient Portal, you save your team time that would otherwise be spent on the phone. Once patients have completed filling out the online form, their patient record in your system is automatically updated. Having an efficient and streamlined pre-screening process like this helps your team adjust to how things will likely be for a while. 

Having ABELDent’s Patient Portal, in contrast with a third-party communication tool, boasts secure and seamless integration. You can also use the Patient Portal to minimize in-person contact, paper use, and time spent by encouraging patients to use these features online.  

Many dental practices have executed the first steps needed for reopening. Some practices in other areas have fully reopened their doors, accepting both hygiene and emergency appointments.  

In addition to solutions that your dental software system provides, there are many more ideas that you can integrate into your practice to encourage both your team and your patients while you work towards reopening. 

Things Dental Offices are Doing for their Team: 

  • Investing in negative pressure air systems to reduce their personal risk of contagion 
  • Normalizing new guidelines and extended approaches as standard practices for the team to make the transition back to work feel more comfortable. For example, Dr. Beaulne in Fort McMurray found that when his team started a routine again at work, their anxieties about returning started to go away. 
  • Restricting office hours for minimal exposure to patients 
  • Restricting usable operatories to minimize patient contact 

Things Dental Offices are Doing for their Patients: 

  • Spacing appointments apart adequately 
  • Asking patients to wait in their car rather than the waiting room; if the patient has to come in for whatever reason, the waiting room chairs are an appropriate distance apart 
  • Continually educating patients on the current situation and proper sanitization techniques inside and outside of the dental office. 

We will continue to provide resources on reopening processes throughout this time period. If you are interested in purchasing ABELDent’s Patient Portal, please feel free to contact our team, or let us know you are interested here. 

How to use Microsoft Teams in Your Dental Practice

Dental professionals have remained flexible, adaptable, and innovative in recent months in the wake of a global health crisis. Many offices have opted for virtual conferencing to maintain communications with their patients, while others have utilized social media and their website to facilitate conversations via the web.

Dental practices have demonstrated the power of remaining adaptable in the healthcare industry. Although routine appointments have been interrupted, important business functions have had a chance to take the forefront. Some of these functions include updating the team’s training, switching practice management systems, treatment planning with patients, and organizing the practice’s finances.

 While dental offices are reopening, it is important to remember that the tools that you have learned to use during this time can still benefit your practice daily. Virtual conferencing is a useful tool when patients are unwell, presenting certain symptoms, or live far away from your office. Having your team post on social media every now and then helps maintain your office’s presence on the web and helps you by bringing more prospective patients in.  

If your office has not utilized any virtual conferencing applications, we have created a walkthrough for you detailing how to download and use Microsoft Teams. Applications such as Teams help you continually provide care to your patients via Teledentistry. Microsoft offers a free version of their application which you can use in your practice to virtually connect with your patients as your office adopts a new level of normalcy.   

We hope you enjoy the video. If you have any questions, concerns, or feedback, please email us, message us, or give us a call.

Communicate With Your Patient Base Effectively as Ontario Reopens

Last week, we spoke about the challenges associated with reopening your practice, including limited PPE, spacing apart appointments which result in delays, and new changes that are necessary, such as removing toys or magazines from your waiting room.

There is a lot to do when it comes to reopening, and communicating your details with your patients is a large part of the process. Being open with your patients also creates a transparent line of communication, helping to alleviate anxieties patients may have about coming to your office while COVID-19 still remains an issue. This week we are outlining some measures and best practices you can do to keep the line of communication with your patients open, and how to send bulk messages efficiently.

There are various tools and methods that can be used to efficiently communicate with your patient base, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Some popular methods you may consider using (or may have already used in the past) are manually sending letters to patient addresses, putting in extra hours to phone patients, or conducting mass email communication by sending automated messages to hundreds or thousands of patients at a time. While putting together letters to send to patients’ home addresses provides a personalized and old-school presence that many patients may appreciate, it takes excessive hours of labour, and also may be costly depending on the number of patients your office has. 

Phoning each individual patient, much like sending letters, provides a personal connection which can strengthen your patient-to-office relationship. Doing this may be ineffective, however, for the following reasons:

  • Many mobile users have not set up their voicemail inbox
  • Overall decrease in mobile users checking their voicemail inbox. CBS, in 2013, cites 33% of people listen to voicemails from businesses, and only 18% listen to voicemails from unknown callers
  • Patients who have not come for a long time may have outdated phone numbers

While sending automated emails may lack the personal touch of a letter or phone call, messages can be customized to appear personable and friendly in tone. The important part is that emails send vital information to large numbers of people efficiently. It is very likely that most dental offices will opt for emailing their patients their reopening policies, as it is a trusted form of communication for many patients. Just like the case for mobile calls, however, it is important to routinely verify that your patient contact information is updated to minimize errors in sending.

While there are drawbacks associated with any form of mass communication, there are times that it is necessary for your office. Ensuring that your office records have updated contact information for patients minimizes the margin of error when sending out messages to your patient base. This can be done by routinely verifying contact information with the patient when they have appointments with your office. 

Another point to address is the use of virtual communications to consult with patients prior to your opening. Patients will naturally have questions regarding your office’s plans and processes regarding reopening and performing treatments. Microsoft offers a free version of Teams businesses and families. You can utilize tools like this to facilitate meetings, and also keep recordings of the meeting for your files. We are working on making a video outlining the basics of Microsoft Teams for patient virtual care, so keep an eye out.

3 Reasons an Oral Health Blog Boosts Your Practice

Health professionals are preparing to reopen to the public, presenting an excellent opportunity for creating informational materials. As you reopen your practice, educating patients on the measures you and your team are taking to ensure everyone’s safety will encourage your patients to come in, as well as dismiss any misinformation that they may have regarding their safety. Making information readily available via social media, your website, a company blog, or even flyers and handouts benefits both your practice and your community. This blog post focuses on the reasons for having a dental blog for your office.

Valuable patient treatment is not limited to work done inside of the operatory. Providing regular and digestible resources for your patients to improve their health literacy improves their wellbeing. Having an understanding of their own oral health generally makes patients more enthusiastic about their oral hygiene and necessary dental treatments. This naturally leads to increased patient influx due to word-of-mouth, as well in more recent times, good practice reviews. 

While it is important to continue accumulating positive patient reviews by providing exceptional service, posting expert blogs builds practice credibility while contributing to your practice’s online presence. Great blog posts in turn also foster more positive reviews that together drive more patients to your practice. Maintaining positive reviews is one of the many reasons for having an office blog. For this post, we will present three specific ways that maintaining a blog can boost your business. 

1. It influences how prospective patients perceive your practice 

Instead of first visiting physical locations, people these days tend to screen businesses online beforehand. Potential patients may be curious about your office’s values, the treatment that is offered, and your quality of service. Prospective patients often refer to public reviews and your homepage first for this information. Unfortunately, several bad reviews can turn potential candidates off if even if they may not appear credible. However, if you provide a blog, you can present your business values on your own terms. Providing regular blog posts adds value to your online presence and works to build trust with your audience. Potential patients can read your own content, which is highly preferred in comparison to reading medium-to-low rated reviews that are beyond your control.

2. It educates your patients and the public 

When people experience dental pain, they are likely to research their symptoms online to determine whether their issue is temporary, or if they need to seek professional help. You can increase your page views to these people by properly geotagging (adding geographical identification to) your posts, implementing SEO strategies and using key words as identifiers in your post. These strategies and tools are usually included with most major blogging platforms such as WordPress or Blogger. Blogs of this type expand your public domain since they will attract both individuals researching the symptoms of their dental discomfort, and folks who are reading your posts as they are seeking out a new dentist.  

Blog posts that educate the public on good oral health habits remind individuals of the importance of maintaining a healthy mouth and potentially prompt them to do something about it. A blog that educates the public not only contributes to a healthier community that values their oral health but can also be an effective source of new patients for your practice.  

3. It shows that you care – and helps you gain patient loyalty 

person on phone texting gif

Your dental practice’s blog can subtly and over time, work to reduce no-shows and missed appointments. Regular blog posts, especially if they are sent to patients on a subscription list, create a new conduit of communication for your patients. This open stream fosters patient trust towards you and your staff and helps build credibility for your practice.  The trust formed from these blog posts builds patient loyalty that will likely translate into more booked appointments and fewer cancellations and no-shows. 

While blog posts can present this opportunity, be mindful that your patients likely receive a lot of emails per day and many may end up in their junk mail folder never to be read. As a result, they may not even see your blog posts unless they go to your website on their own..  

A strategy to combat this problem is to inform your patients of your blogs on a regular basis and what valuable information they offer. For example, try embedding a blog link in your automated appointment or outstanding treatment reminders. Additionally, you could post a sign in the reception area encouraging patients to look at your website and blog. Lastly, make sure you provide a blog link directly from your homepage so that visitors to your website can easily find your blogs. 

It may seem overwhelming – but you’re not alone 

There are many resources that are made to help you and your practice have a great online presence starting with this guide. For practical advice for starting or maintaining a dental blog check out this article.  

Even just sharing and briefly adding to posts from other authors is helpful for company blog upkeep.* For instance, Colgate’s blog covers a variety of topics pertaining to oral health with information that may be highly beneficial to your patients. Making information like easily available to your patients encourages healthy oral practices.

If the commitment of posting your own blogs regularly scares you here are some suggestions: 

  • Consider starting by writing a few posts over a few months and then evaluate your engagement 
  • Share posts or articles written by oral health experts as mentioned, but add more value by summarizing the main points so your patients can easily understand the premise 
  • Delegate blog posts to a trusted person in your office with dental expertise and/or find a team member who has strong communication skills.  
  • Do an email promotion of the posts to your patients that have given you permission for email marketing.*  

Whether it is a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly blog post, having an oral health blog can greatly benefit your dental practice by increasing the number of positive reviews you receive, establishing your credibility in the marketplace and improving your overall patient relations. 

* Note: be sure to always give credit to the original author. 
* Note: be sure that you are acting with CASL’s protocols 

Virtual Tools to Keep Up Patient Relations

The last few months have marked a period of adjustment worldwide. Some industries are adapting to the circumstances by finding ways to work remotely and limiting social contact. Many professions, like dentistry, share a very different story, wherein most work cannot be done as it requires physical contact. While attending to dental emergencies are essential, how are dentists extending oral care guidance to their other patients? 

Dentists are employing virtual tools to facilitate conversations with patients. Virtual connections allow dental providers to continually help patients. This is the main defining factor of teledentistry, which we have spoken about in the last few blog posts (found here and here). Teledentistry includes treatment planning, video conferencing, and even telephone calls that entail a dental provider performing any kind of virtual treatment, for example, giving follow-up instructions. Various studies have been done on the validity of teledentistry. These studies are highly prevalent at a time like this, as they offer the industry a perspective on how using virtual treatment tools can objectively help dental practices and patients alike, while also acknowledging precautions. 

Teeth images coming out of computer screen

We have spoken about the various ways virtual communications aid both your practice and your patients a few times. Using resources to keep patients informed and motivated ensures that they are bettering their oral health, even if they have to delay hygiene visits. 

Try sending emails to your patients on file to inform them of oral hygienic practices they can keep doing at home. You can use your dental software’s messaging system for quick and effective communication with your patients. Reaching out to your patients in any capacity contributes to a positive doctor-patient relationship, and will benefit both them and your practice in the long run. 

Something as simple as a reassuring or informative email can leave a positive impact on your regular patients. You can also utilize your social media outlets and your practice’s website to let patients know how your team is doing or provide information on health and safety. For instance, adjusting your homepage content to address whether your office is currently accepting emergencies, or wishing good health to webpage visitors creates a great first impression. Doing this also addresses the situation, thus helping minimize patient anxieties. 

Difficult situations such as outbreaks are bound to happen. All industries face their own set of challenges, and it is important to keep looking forward and remain adaptable in a changing world. While this is a challenging time, doing the best with our available resources make our communities stronger. 


Works Cited: 

Alabdullah, Jafar & Daniel, Susan. (2018). A Systematic Review on the Validity of Teledentistry. Telemedicine and e-Health. 24. 10.1089/tmj.2017.0132.   
Arora PC, Kaur J, Kaur J, Arora A. Teledentistry: An innovative tool for the underserved population. Digit Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Apr 28];5:6-12. Available from: http://www.digitmedicine.com/text.asp?2019/5/1/6/249836