Dentist opens virtual store to support patients during COVID-19 lockdown
Like many dentists, Guy Deeming, practice principal of Queensway Dental in Teesside and past chairman of the British Orthodontic Society’s Orthodontic Specialist Group, was forced to close his doors to patients – many of whom are mid treatment.
Determined to offer some continuity of care during lockdown, Guy launched his website – https://bracebrushes.co.uk – to make available a variety of specialist orthodontic products rarely found outside a dental practice.
Guy and his team are also carrying out digital treatment reviews and online consultations to stay in touch with patients throughout treatment, as well as posting regular COVID-19 updates and dental health tips and advice, including a video guide to making a replacement retainer at home.
Among the products available are a range of plastic-free oral orthodontic hygiene accessories and cheek retractors for online reviews and consultation.
Guy says: ‘The online store gives people access to specialist supplies while they are unable to make routine visits to a clinic. Our aim is to help people in the process of treatment maintain their hygiene and oral health both conveniently and safely from home, in accordance with government advice for social distancing.
‘Now more than ever, care extends way beyond the practice of dentistry. It is about the demonstrable behaviours that are empathetic, generous and sensitive to the times. Simply being present and available to support patients and reassure them that it will be okay and that you are doing all you can to support them is a symptom of this.
‘In essence, continuity of care is analogous to continuity of communication. Whether or not dentistry is delivered is, in our experience during lockdown, a relatively minor consideration if patients feel – and believe – that you care.
He adds: ‘The store is open to all, and we’re really pleased with the selection of products which not only do the job, but also, thanks to our zero-waste range, reduce the impact on the environment.’
So far, the practice has seen 400 transactions in three weeks, which, Guy says, ‘while not Amazon, I think is pretty good’.
The online store idea was a long time in the making – with Guy already uncomfortable with the concept that patients had to attend the practice to pick up at-home care products.
Zero-waste care packs
He says: ‘The store reduces the friction patients experience trying to obtain these supplies. We are really keen to get our zero-waste care packs out there as part of plastic reduction plans for the practice. It also made sense in terms of reducing the load on our reception and telephony teams.
‘Now more than ever, it feels right in that patients can get hold of items to support their treatment and keep healthy mouths, but even more so to avoid the need for unnecessary travel and social contact. It is happenstance that some available time has come along to allow it to come to life. It has been developed and launched with a small in-house team working with our web team.’
Guy also saw an opportunity to use the practice website as a platform for video engagement with patients in a way that, he believes, ‘is more real and relatable than long prose or blogs – and also more fun’.
‘For me it is about being visible and communicating with patients and the team in a way they want engage. That human connection is the only thing that matters I think at the moment. We all miss it.’
He suspects the profession in the early part of a fairly steep adoption curve when it comes to digital communication with patients, and suggests virtual activity in many guises will become a standard part of practice.
He says: ‘In my experience, I have never regretted upgrading and simplifying processes in the best interests of patient convenience (and now safety) – and business efficiency.
‘Digital activity is helping us make connections and understand what is happening out there to our patients. Hopefully, this is building trust and goodwill and will allow more effective triage when we mobilise.
‘We are also seeing a surprising number of self-referred digital leads via the online platforms. Reassuring as it demonstrates people still want what we can do.’
Meanwhile, the virtual doors of bracebrushes.co.uk will remain open long after dentists are back at work.
Guy adds: ‘The core objectives remain valid and perhaps even more relevant in terms of reduced contact and (with the zero-waste products) reducing our waste footprint.
‘People have responded really well to our efforts and it’s been a heart-warming experience. It’s the legacy of how you behaved during these times that gives brand value and patients will always remember who had their back during this pandemic.’
Queensway Orthodontics, which already has two sites, is set to expand across the North East in three new locations the coming months.
For more, visit https://www.queenswayorthodontics.co.uk