“How do I know if it’s working?”
I’ve been training and consulting dental professionals for most of my career. Much of this work has come with industry-leading think tanks, national learning collaboratives, and innovative companies promoting a prevention-first approach. In many ways, the work was and is rewarding. There is a definite sense of satisfaction watching a light bulb go off for a dentist, dental hygienist, or dental assistant looking to move beyond “telling patients what to do” and into the world of evidence-based support as it relates to behavior change. But for all the lights that were turned on, I was still in the dark, as success was still only anecdotal. “How do I know if it’s working?” was a question that ran through my head. There are ways to measure the process from a practitioner perspective, but ultimately, the true transformation rests with patients. I needed a better way to not only support the practitioner, but to engage with and empower patients.
There are many companies that are building products, digital and physical, for dental professionals to use during patient care. Some of these products are designed to be used with patients. But very few companies, if any, are building products for patients that they can use with their dental team.
What would it look like to start with patient values, preferences, and needs, creating valuable digital tools and products for their dental journey that simultaneously equip providers for innovation, understanding, and authentic relational support?
If we could do that, might we truly redefine the experience of dental care from multiple perspectives, not by trying to be better than solutions that have come before us, but but by thinking differently?
How We Support Dental Professionals
The vast majority of dentists, hygienists, and other dental professionals working in oral health care want the best for their patients. They got into dentistry to help people, whether ensuring they feel confident smiling while on a job interview, pain-free while enjoying a meal with friends and loved ones, or assured that their healthy mouth decreases the chance for other health complications, like heart disease or diabetes. They want to provide in-office experiences that help patients feel cared for and respected, give them a central voice indecision-making, and allow them to access care when needed. However, despite herculean efforts, the question of “How do I know it’s working?” always lingers. To answer this question, we must do one thing: ASK PATIENTS (as Jen Horonjeff at Saavy Cooperative likes to say). And once we ask patients, we have to know how to build tools, create structures, and support providers in actually doing the things patients want.
At DifferentKind, we’re in the habit of helping dental professionals ask patients. We’re in the habit of helping dentists and hygienists listen. We’re in the habit of knowing evidence-based actions and building evidence-informed tools to meet patient values and preferences. We have patients on our advisory board. We buy patients dinner and listen to their stories. We pore through their insight and feedback to truly equip dental professionals for innovation in a relationally authentic way. And we do all of that transparently, to help dentists and hygienists create trust and build rapport with the patients they are working so hard to help.
How We Support Patients
Vivian Lee, the president of health platforms at Verily Life Sciences, recently wrote, “Patients can become a market force in driving quality and value in healthcare.” We agree with her. For too long, patients, the actual center of the healthcare experience, have been viewed as a recipient of care instead of an active partner in it. The first step to change this historical monologue into a modern dialogue is to recognize that we will all be healthier when we do this work together. Partnership is not a “nice-to-have”; it’s an essential ingredient in the recipe that produces great experiences and optimal outcomes.
At DifferentKind, we are helping dental professionals hear the patient voice and respond with kindness, compassion, and improvement actions.
We enable patients to find a community of trusted dental professionals that shares an individual’s values and goals. We’re building products and tools that seek the patient voice as a starting place, not an afterthought. And we’re doing all of this transparently, to help patients foster trust and build rapport with the dental professionals that they choose to entrust along their dental journey.
We’re excited to be on this journey with you, whether you’re a dental professional or a patient. Here’s to doing this together.