By Clark M. Stanford, DDS, PhD
1. Communication. Fluid and open communication between the staff, the referrals and especially our patients is vital to understanding the risks and benefits of implant care. Implant therapy is a replacement for no teeth, not a replacement for teeth. We cannot lose sight of this. As such, a consistent communication of the risks and benefits of tooth replacement therapy by the entire team in my office, clinic or university is vital to our success. Consistency means we must have a constant dialog with all staff, students or faculty coming in contact with each patient. One breakdown potentially ruins the system. Yet, one message, one connecting communication, one consistent message from your team, solves many issues.
The five things I cannot do without in my implant practice
2. Patient Care Coordinator. This person guides workflow and assures a uniform and smooth patient experience. Patients arrive at our clinics, confused and concerned. Our clinics are foreign and induce anxiety, no matter what we try with wall colors, TVs or couches. Yet, a warm and friendly face is a great salve to anxiety. A great patient care coordinator embraces our patients as family, enables them to feel what the practice wants to achieve; a focused outcome to resolve his or her concerns, allowing patients to continue their life’s journey. They also assure communication throughout the patient’s encounter, and retain a communication circle with third parties and our referral colleagues.
3. Organization. Given the complexities of implant care, knowing the procedures specific to an implant system and having a standardized inventory and workflow is essential. The most frustrating aspect is opening a tray and having things unorganized while in a surgical and prosthetic field. The only unorganized thing should be the challenges the patient presents, not the systems used to provide care. Complications should be handled in a smooth and seamless manner, with the appearance of “normality” (okay, the blood pressure goes up a few notches…).
4. Colleagues. Many people have made mistakes before me, who are now my mentors. They guide me through everyday challenges. Engaging a wide range of providers occurs all the time. Talking with and learning from the challenges of others allows our team to understand the “pain points” in our systems and allows the entire team and our networked colleagues to learn from each other. System learning is the name of the game.
5. Manufacturers. People who care about high quality products and devices and assured care through well documented implant systems and devices. Great manufacturers are key partners to successful treatment of our patients. A challenge in today’s world is opening a package we have spent a large sum to obtain, and having strong assurance that the medical device we are laying our professional reputation on will perform in a manner consistent with our brand and the ethical framework we base our practice on in implant dentistry. This only occurs with clear, open and honest communication through peer-reviewed science and communication of the implant system’s performance.
In the end, we can do many things in implant practice, but we can do nothing without our patients. This is a human trade, a trade and reputation, respect and ongoing diligence to assure the best in patient care. We can only do this with Communication, Coordination, Organization, Colleagues and Manufactures as partners in our quest for the very best. As I heard recently from a great colleague, we strive for perfection and we settle for excellence. This only occurs with the team we frame around us.
Currently AO’s Treasurer, Dr. Clark Stanford is UIC Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Illinois at Chicago.