THE LIFEGUARD APPROACH™
The dental hygienist who circumscribes her chairside role to merely chatting, polishing, and telling patients to floss foregoes opportunities to identify patients at risk for or in early stages of disease. This dental hygienist fails to build meaningful relationships with patients and fails to leverage what she has learned from evidence-based science.
Hygienists often expend time trying to reach patients with universal scripts such as “if you brush and floss more, the bleeding will stop!” Universal scripts are impersonal, passive, and patronizing. These messages fail to address individual patient’s values. While some patients simply value moving away from the consequences of disease, other patients prioritize moving toward the benefit of health and wellbeing.
As such, the hygienist sells herself and her patients short. In a sense, both the hygienist and the patient struggle to stay afloat in deep water.
Who are you going to be for them?
What do you want for your patients?
WHAT IS A PATIENT LIFEGUARD?
Today’s dental professional is in a unique position to take life-saving approaches and be a LifeGuard for their pool of patients. It is time to reevaluate our approach to patient care and to become active LifeGuards in the health monitoring and education of our patients.
When a patient asks a question, it is common for the healthcare provider to make assumptions about why that question was asked by that patient. Because there can be ten different reasons and ten different answers for why a patient asks that one question as well as ten different assumptions that a health care provider might make upon hearing the patient’s question, what you must do is STOP answering the question without first seeking clarity.
Feigning politeness gets in the way of helping patients get what they want. If you want to build rapport with your patients, stop making assumptions, get to the point, and ask quality questions and become a true LifeGuard to your patient.
A LifeGuard creates predictably higher levels of health and wellness in today's dental patient by:
Directing and focusing attention on the lifestyle, habits, and oral health of their pool of patients.
Acting as patient advocate by developing relationships based on trust, communication, and respect.
Offering a LifeLine to patients through education that empowers and shifts behaviors.
WHAT ARE PATIENT LIFELINES?
Just as a LifeGuard may cast a floatation device out to save a swimmer, a dental professional may offer a LifeLine to a patient found to be in a dangerous health situation. LifeLines are indispensable for the protection of life because when a LifeLine breaks or is absent, the patient may either become ill or suffer serious disease or death. It is up to us to become the lifelines for our patients.
In dentistry, critical LifeLines are healthcare providers, as well as, the most advanced science, screenings, protocols, and technologies used to:
i) assess patients’ level of risk
ii) drive providers’ selection of patient care
iii) reduce patients’ instance of life-altering events
iv) contribute to the health and wellness of the practice.
Basically, everything that you can do for your patient becomes a LifeLine.
LifeLines yield data for a health/survival analysis, which you can use when measuring and monitoring patients’ progression from the Danger Zone into the Safety Zone. Basically, LifeLines provide contact and support for ongoing success and survival.
Therefore, don’t be afraid of what you might uncover through use of these LifeLines; be afraid of what you might miss without them.