Background on Provider Education
What are provider education strategies?
- Interventions that train qualified health care providers to counsel or provide advice to individuals in order to encourage them to change their oral care habits (e.g., brushing teeth, using fluoride, flossing, visiting oral health professionals regularly, and getting oral cancer screening).
- This type of intervention is geared towards health care providers working in clinical settings including physicians, nurses, dentists, dieticians, etc.
- Provider education interventions can enhance oral health providers’ and other health providers’ knowledge and skills related to counseling individuals about the prevention of oral diseases and illnesses (e.g., cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer). In addition, this training offers health care providers access to information and resources about:
- the benefits of oral care habits for preventing oral diseases and illnesses as well as related health conditions (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, stroke, HIV/AIDS, pre-term or low-weight births, osteoporosis);
- the health risks of related lifestyle behaviors (e.g., avoiding tobacco, minimizing use of sugar and alcohol, and using protective head and mouth gear during athletic events);
- how to improve culturally competent communication between individuals and health care providers; and
- ways to change individuals’ oral care habits by increasing support (e.g., dentist or dental hygienist recommendations for brushing and flossing) and reducing barriers (e.g., access to toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, or fluoride) for self care.
How can provider education impact oral health related behaviors?
- Oral health providers are a primary and respected source of health information. Many individuals and families seek out the advice of these providers to maintain their health and quality of life on a regular basis. Therefore, health care providers are ideally suited to have an ongoing influence on individuals’ decisions to prevent oral diseases and illnesses.
What are provider reminder strategies and how can they be used in oral health interventions?
- Provider reminder interventions can be developed as part of oral health professional and other health professional training. Provider reminder interventions give cues or prompts to these providers to increase the likelihood that they will discuss oral care habits (e.g., flossing, using fluoride) and oral health-related behaviors (e.g., quitting tobacco use, reducing intake of sugar and alcohol) with individuals. Provider reminder interventions utilize various strategies to prompt providers to discuss oral care habits and oral health-related behaviors with individuals, including changes to the individual’s chart (e.g., stickers, colored folders), changes in the physical environment (e.g., posters in exam rooms) or personal prompts (e.g., laminated pocket-sized information sheets).
What types of settings are appropriate for provider education strategies?
- Provider education interventions are usually offered to oral health professionals and other health professionals in traditional public or private health care settings, including a dental offices, provider offices, hospitals, health department, or assisted living facility. However, oral health providers and other health care providers with or without specialized medical training can participate in provider education interventions training for non-traditional settings, including communities (e.g., mobile clinics), schools (e.g., school nurses), worksites (e.g., health screening), faith-based settings (e.g., health ministry), or individuals’ homes.
Where are opportunities for interventions in during patient visits?
- As part of their interaction with individuals, health care providers typically include the following:
- An assessment of oral care habits, oral health-related behaviors, and oral diseases and illnesses (e.g., cavities, gum disease, or oral cancer). This assessment enables the provider to provide personally relevant information to the individual about their specific needs. For example, it may be used to increase knowledge or awareness of the importance of reducing sugar intake, teach tooth brushing or flossing skills, provide social support to change their oral care habits, or change attitudes.
- An opportunity for the individual to ask questions or clarify what they have been told. This exchange with the provider can help to ensure that the individual understands the information and recommendations that they have been provided.
- Referrals and resources within the community to assist the individual in following recommended oral care habits. For example, the provider can give the individual a toothbrush and floss or refer them to programs to assist them in quitting tobacco use.
- Subsequent interactions between the provider and individual, including a reassessment of the individual’s oral care habits and oral health-related behaviors as well as a discussion of challenges, benefits, and advice for maintaining improved oral care habits and oral health-related behaviors.
- The information given to patients or clients may be provided face-to-face or over the phone, during a single session or over multiple sessions, or through informational materials including brochures or videos created for this purpose.
What are the best methods for educating health care providers?
- Provider education training works best if it is hands-on and practical. This may include discussions among oral health professionals and other health care providers about how to counsel or provide advice to specific individuals (e.g., those with special health care needs, those who show no change over time), how to respond to individual barriers to dental care habits (e.g., family traditions involving food or alcohol, peer pressure to use tobacco), how to reach high risk populations, how to work in different settings, and how to integrate effective practice strategies into different practice styles. Previous studies also suggest the need to consider longitudinal education strategies, employing a dentist or hygienist, tailoring provider education about oral care habits to specific conditions (e.g., HIV/AIDS, diabetes, heart diseases, pregnancy), training on community and policy influences on oral care habits, in addition to the more traditional focus on individual services and improved methods for patient tracking, repeat testing, and referral. Interventions should be accomplishable in a quick and succinct manner.
What are the barriers to implementing provider education interventions?
- It is difficult to understand the effectiveness of these interventions because the interaction between the provider and individual is unique for each individual, relatively short in duration, may involve recommendations for multiple behaviors at once (e.g., eat less sugar, wear protective head and face gear, and quit smoking), or may lack institutional support for sharing this type of information during a visit (e.g., policies, procedures, training, or incentives).