Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Which way did he go?

Okay, I'M BACK! I don't know how great that is for you, but I am guessing you like me okay.

Had a great time at the beach but, at this time in our lives, the beach is a lot of work. Going on vacation with my family is just relocating the chaos. At least in my house I know where to go where my kids won't find me. In a beach condo. there is no place to hide. Also, David is only 21 months old, so we are really tethered by the nap. And if he doesn't get one - look out.But we did make some memories.

Lots of playing in the sand.

We rode an airboat.

The guy on the beach next to us did some sand-sculpting, and my kids got a kick out of this.

I tried surfing for the first time since my freshman year of college. That was an eye-opening experience. Who would have thought that getting from lying down to a standing position could be so difficult? The next day everything on my body hurt.

But my vacation is not why I brought you all here today. Today I want to talk to you about that patient. I am going to tell you about this patient, and you tell me if you have this person in your practice.

This guy was a patient of mine from when I was an associate at another practice 15 years ago. He has been a patient of mine since I was a rookie. His wife came to my office and then the whole family. I liked the whole family.
Since then the two got divorced followed. Then they both came in separately for awhile. The kids went to college and moved away. So then it was just the two parents. The wife remarried and moved away, but the one constant was this guy.

He and I played racquetball together on a couple of occasions. He would come in like clockwork and bring pictures of his kids. He would tell us about all the things he was doing. He was a big wig at a large restaurant chain, so he retired at around 55 years old.

He brought in photos of his huge home in the mountains that all the staff gathered around to look at. He would drive a different car a least once a year. He was into supping up cars. He would buy a $60,000 car and then put $25,000 into the engine and buy $11,000 high-performance wheels. Then he would drive his new Harley to the office. All of these things would involve me going out to the parking lot and checking everything out. We had a good thing going and I liked him.

But one day, about 13 years after our relationship started, I realized I hadn't seen him in awhile. I looked in his chart and I was right: he hasn't been in since 2008. Huh?! He and my assistant had really hit it off too, so I told her to give him a call. She called and left a message.

I started to think if we had done anything to make him unhappy with our product. We never really did any work in his mouth. He had pretty good teeth. I am racking my brain about this. He has totally dropped off the face of the earth. Did he want veneers (he was kind of vain) and I didn't offer them? My associate job was about 20 miles away; was this too far to drive? (But he drove those extra 20 miles for the first 20 appointments, why would this be a problem now?) Did he have a bad experience here? I would think that we were close enough that, if he had a problem, he would just tell me and rather than stop coming.

I mean, this is a guy who had money (so that was never an issue) and he was always on time for his appointments. And I thought he liked us (and we liked him). What else could you want in a patient? He was perfect. But now he is gone. I talked to my assistant and we just shook our heads and said, "I don't know."

This kind of gets me to the core. What am I doing here if I am not producing raving fans? If I am not producing people that like what I am doing here, I am doing nothing. I know what you are thinking. "You are being to hard on yourself. It is just one guy."

Yeah, but he was THE guy. He drove past 50 dentists every time he came here. He was the guy that made me pump out my chest. He was the one guy that I would brag about to my other dentists. "Yeah, I still have patients that come to me from my associate days."

I know we all have this issue. How do we close the back door? We worry so much about how to get patients in that we sometimes forget about keeping them here. But in this blog, we are big about keeping people.

What am I doing if I can't keep people here? I want to get people in here, wow them, make them feel like better than they have felt at a dental office before, and then just be us.

I feel like I do this. People tell me they like me. People say, "I WILL NEVER GO TO ANOTHER DENTIST". I love this place". But you know what? If everyone who said that stayed here, I would have to rent out the building next door too to hold all my patients. Somehow, some of them are gone too.

I know I can't keep them all. I know he could have moved to the mountains and just forgotten about us. I know the repo guys could have caught up with him and took all his cars and house away and he couldn't afford to pay for his teeth cleanings. I know there could be tons of legitimate reasons that he didn't come back or call, but I keep going back to ME. What did I do?

Do you have this guy? Has he left your practice too? Do you just blow it off, knowing you've got plenty of other patients? I try to blow it off. I go a month or two sometimes without even think about it. And sometimes it is just a fleeting thought. But it nags at me.

I guess it continues to try to make me sharp. I remind myself that if I can lose "that guy" as a patient, I can lose the person sitting in my chair too, so I better be on.

How is it with you?

Have a good Wednesday.



Dr. B said...

I have a few of those type of patients and every now and then one comes in after 5 years and they have never been anywhere else..I have been in practice for 20 years.People never cease to amaze me!

drdancer said...

Or you can hear from someone else that he died last fall from mouth cancer at 46. He never would give up smokeless tobacco. . . and then you wonder what else you could have said or done to make him listen.
Why do we beat ourselves up like that? Good ol' Catholic guilt?
We have to be responsible for every action that happens in our lives. . .
My son, an actor, told me once about 10 years ago that every night he steps on a stage and puts his heart and soul into a performance. Some nights it falls on deaf and dumb ears, 'they just don't get it'. "Just like I can't play to every audience, you can't be everyone's dentist."
That being said, if we have one fatal flaw as dentists, it is that we just want to be liked! Every negative thing that happens somehow ends up being very, very personal. Those of us who really care, turn out to be very good clinicians and in the process of taking care of everyone else, make our selves mentally ill trying to achieve perfection. But, hey, have YOU found Nirvana?

Anonymous said...

A couple of things could have happened. The most likely is he met a new chick - much younger than him and quite a score for an older guy - and now he's starting to feel the need to be younger looking in order to keep his new love interest. He's done the viagra thing and he runs every other day to keep in shape, but now she keeps pointing out his yellow teeth and he's not as young looking when he looks in the mirror. After her boob job, she had 8 veneers done with her dentist - who is a "Cosmetic Specialist" by the way, plus he's just around the block from where he lives - and now she's encouraging him to get them done as well. And hey, you never did much work for him anyway so he has no way of knowing how good you are. So he caves to her pressure and gets them done at "The Specialist". And it turns out that they ain't that good once done - A1 opaque Chiclets. But he can't go back to you now because you will know that he cheated on you and he doesn't want to hurt your feelings. So he has to give you up although he never really wanted to in the first place. Hey it's possible.

Or, in a worse case scenario, he had a stroke and is immobilized, or even worse, he has died.

Or, even worse than that, he found someone with a MAGD!

G in BC

gatordmd said...


But you know what? I was thinking while reading "This probably could have happened." I am so twisted.

And then read the rest of you comment and really thought that the only one of these scenarios that would make me feel any better is the one that he was dead.

Oh my gosh what is wrong with me?

I need a vacation...wait I just got back from one...I need a shrink.


Dental Implant Melbourne said...

I never had that type of a patient.. anyway , that reminds me I need to take a vacation as well.

Cosmetic Dentistry Melbourne said...

And I thought I heard it all!
Well almost :-)

gatordmd said...

Dr. King,

Keep reading. You are over a year behind. Hopefully you will hear stuff that will make you laugh and make you cry. But stuff that you want more of.

Thanks for reading and commenting.


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