Behavioural change has to occur in two arenas for it to work. The first is in the minds of the health care professionals. The vast majority are still working in the old ways; the ways of treating disease rather than maintaining or creating true health, and the ways of treating patients as numbers whilst working in a treadmill environment.
Healthcare professionals must firstly truly believe in the wonderful effects they can have on peoples lives by changing their own thoughts and then delivering care in a new better way. This change can occur through the creation of new ideas and systems of delivery and the use of new, safe and beneficial technologies.
As individuals, we must then help our patients to join us on this journey. In many ways patients are already ahead of us but are unable to access the care they want, or are put off by the nay-sayers amongst our ranks.
Within periodontal care, behavioural change must operate in a number of ways and at various points along the ‘patient journey’.
Blast the blockages
Let’s consider ways in which this can manifest and why it is currently not happening – the blockages. Blockages occur at many points and we must develop strategies to blast them out. Please note the word ‘blast’ for future reference.
1. Initial patient attendance. Why do only 50% of the adult population attend regularly?
2. The uptake of necessary dental and periodontal care. How can we help our patients to accept more complex treatment options if it is in their interests? Why don’t they buy?
3. Patient compliance with preventive health strategies. Why do patients give up and return to their old unhealthy ways?
4. Patient recall attendance. Why do 60%-70% of patients drop out of periodontal maintenance in specialist practice?
If we consider all of the above it appears to me that there are missed opportunities for all. Patients are failing to receive the care they need on an ongoing basis and practice owners are missing out on an increase in patient retention and revenue for their practices. By changing behaviours we all win.
Behavioural change is therefore necessary to:
1. Deliver better patient care by helping them access and maintain preventive health strategies.
2. Help healthcare professionals in practice develop their businesses along highly ethical and profitable lines through better sales strategies. The resultant profits can then filter back through to the patients via re-investment.
Over this series of articles, we will consider practical strategies to develop the behavioural change within the field of periodontal care, looking at each of the above in turn.