Do Your Patients Trust You?

Susan Becolay (a fellow dental blogger) asked a question on LinkedIn the other day that had me thinking:

How would you characterize the transition that has occurred in the profession in the last 20 years? What has it gained? What has it lost? Where is it headed? How do you feel about it?

Where Did The Trust Go?

Over 12 years ago, I remember when the Reader's Digest article came out titled "Can You Trust Your Dentist?”

After reading the article, I was scared to death!  I thought my career was over.  I thought to myself; "my patients are going to think I'm ripping them off", they aren't going to believe me". 

I had to do something different, and it was like 'turning on a light'!  I would learn that I'm not going to change my patients behavior, I'm going to have to change mine (and my team's).

I remembered something Tony Robbins taught me in my training; "The quality of your life is directly related to the quality of your questions"!  So the question that  came to mind was: "What MUST I do to instill TRUST in my practice, maintain integrity and still BE me?

The answers became a practice builder for me (behaviors I could change):

  • In order to instill trust with my patients, I would have to create tremendous value for people.
  • Spend the necessary time to truly understand patients’ needs and desires.
  • Show them that I care.

So, with the intention of being trustworthy, and a little bit of time…the message traveled fast. When a "trusted friend" referred to the practice, there was NOT much selling going on, and I wasn't going to have to rely on the patient to DO something.  I was thinking from a different point of view.

I had always been truthful and honest with my patients, but my perspective had shifted from 'about me' to 'about them' and getting answers to questions that focus on GIVING instead of GETTING; “what can I do for you?”, “how may I best serve you?”, “help me understand what it is that I can do for you.”

What's been lost?

In getting back to Susan's question above; I believe that one of the things that has been lost in dentistry today is the focus on GIVING, HIGHER LEVEL COMMUNICATIONS and BUILDING MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS with those that seek our care. Today, it seems that there is more attention on "getting" more patients, "getting" production up, "getting" collections up, and a general spotlight on the practice and the individuals within the practice.  Instead, the opportunity is in a true TEAM contributing to something much bigger than the individuals within the practice.

From Filling Teeth to Creating Beautiful Smiles

There is not enough room on this post to go into my thoughts on the reasons for more of a focus on "getting" (or selling) in dentistry today.  But, one of them I’ll point out, the transition of the industry from “drill-and-fill dentistry” to “elective/cosmetic dentistry”.

There has been a significant transition in our industry from filling cavities and treating gum disease (25-30 years ago), to an emphasis on beauty. Plastic surgery used to be more about surgical repair of deformations; today, it is more about beauty and cosmetics. Heck, I don’t believe “cosmetic surgery” or “cosmetic dentistry” was even used 25-30 years ago!

I believe this has impacted the industry more than many realize. A plethora of products have been developed around this focus on “cosmetic”. Public demand created and perpetuated this trend, and it has moved away from HEALTH and WELL-BEING. With the correlations between periodontal disease, diabetes and heart disease; studies on the effects of anti-oxidants and the hosts’ response to inflammatory processes combined with a decline in the demand for “cosmetic/elective” services (due to an economic “hangover”), I believe the dental field will cycle back around to a focus on HEALTH. It comes back to TRUST….and what we can do to BE TRUSTWORTHY.