As medicine moves towards a more preventive and relationship-based approach, healthcare services are dedicating themselves to ensuring that this work starts as early as possible. We speak to two clinics in Camden Medical who have created dedicated child-friendly spaces to make visits to the doctor and dentist as pleasant as possible.
With their bright colours, cartoons and miniature furniture, the clinics at T32 and IMC clearly make a statement about who their VIPs are. Each of these clinics at Camden Medical have created separate child-focused spaces to cater to the unique healthcare needs of their young patients.
At IMC, the medical team consists of internationally-trained paediatric specialists as well as nurses with vast experience in paediatrics. “Our nurses play a very important role in reassuring young patients especially during procedures,” said Dr Gina Dahel, “They are great at talking to children and building rapport.” This, she says, goes a long way when managing children. Children, especially children who are very young, are unable to communicate, so it takes extra time to diagnose, ask parents and probe to better understand and identify what is wrong.
Dr Amanda Law, Dental Surgeon at T32 also takes extra time to get her young patients comfortable and welcome in the dental setting. “A lot of times we don’t just jump straight into the dental treatment, especially if we see that the child is afraid,” she shared. Instead, to acclimatize patients, they may talk about school and hobbies or favourite cartoons and introduce the dental treatment room. “This makes it less intimidating, more relatable and even fun.” In fact, some children end up becoming quite curious about the chair and equipment.
This engagement helps to create a good experience builds up a good foundation for future health – whether in the doctor’s office or dentist’s chair.
According to Dr Dahel, it is important to ensure that the child is the focus of a consultation. “We are moving towards speaking with children directly rather than only talking to parents. It is important to involve the child in their consultations as it helps them feel more empowered about their care.” This communication and relationship become even more key for patients with chronic illness as it can help them maintain compliance with medications as they grow up and become more independent.
In dental health, pleasant dental visits mean patients will be more receptive to treatment and develop a foundation of good oral hygiene habits. “Children are impressionable at such a young age and a lot of the anxiety you see in adult dental patients often stems from an unpleasant experience when they were younger,” Dr Law pointed out. “This could lead to dental issues in the future because they avoid to go to the dentist so decay goes undiagnosed and doesn’t get treated. This becomes a negative cycle.”
Apart from creating a welcoming environment for young patients, it is just as important to engage parents too. A large part of the job of caring for young patients is also to alleviate the concerns and anxiety of parents. “We try as doctors to advise parents,” said Dr Dahel, “While parents are savvier and well-informed, thanks to the internet, there is also a lot of misinformation out there as well. We try to cut through the noise to give evidence-based advice so that parents can make more informed decisions.”
Dr Law noted that that walking parents through the treatment options and process, assuage their worries too, which positively influences a child’s anxiety.
Ultimately it is a combination of appropriate spaces and empathy that drives a good patient experience for children. At IMC, practical steps are also taken to make visits more convenient for busy parents. “We try our best to accommodate tight schedules,” said Dr Dahel “We happily do quick consults over the phone or over email to save parents a trip. If parents cannot make it, they can give their consent for their child to be brought in by the helper and do a consultation over the phone.”
Though treating children has its challenges, Dr Law finds it deeply satisfying, especially in the long-term relationship she builds. “It is very fulfilling to play a part in paving the way for their dental health journey in the long run,” she said.
The information provided in this article is meant purely for general information purposes only and may not be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please seek the advice of your doctor or qualified healthcare provider. The views, information or opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the writer and the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect those of, and are not endorsed by, Camden Medical Centre.