Monday, July 2, 2012

Dollars and Dentists

I am starting my summer vacation tomorrow. One week at St. Augustine Beach, Fla. There are nice beaches and it's the oldest city in the U.S. I am looking forward to some more time off.

I decided that during the summer months when the kids are out of school I would take Fridays off. But I am already getting spoiled, and by the time Thursday gets here I feel like the week has gone on forever. It is great having Friday off, but it is not all fun sitting by the pool drinking daiquiris. I usually run around town doing things like getting a hair cut or running to the bank. I take the kids along and have lunch. Sometimes we go bowling and to the movies. They seem to enjoy it.

Anyway, did anyone see the PBS Frontline special on dentistry called "Dollars and Dentists"? It was an investigative piece that comes across pretty harsh on the dental community. It starts off somewhat positive and quickly begins to attempt to expose dentistry, mainly corporate dentistry, as a money-hungry scum. It focuses on the Medicare system and how corporate offices milk and abuse the system. Issues such as over-treating with stainless steel crowns and taking advantage of little old ladies with third-party financing credit cards. It dives into the system of rewarding dentists and staff with production or sales-based bonuses and the ethical conflict this presents. Several large chains come away looking like very dishonest operations. I have heard and have always thought badly about the offices that give the staff bonuses or a percentage of what treatment plans they sell. That has never sat well with me.

Our office got rid of the overall production-based bonuses more than a year ago. I never felt that comfortable with them and did not want patients to think that we were all about money.

Dentists do have a business to run and one of our goals is to make a living. Dentists often have hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt to pay back. License, taxes, equipment, supplies, and staff are very costly. However, I do not make decisions based on potential income, but rather what is best for my patients.

The program also touches on how organized dentistry is trying to shut down some of the low income clinics and dental therapist programs to protect their turf, despite the impact on the communities they serve. My state is featured in the Frontline piece and the old dean of my dental school is interviewed, and it didn't make me proud!

The program goes over some other issues that can be viewed as an albatross around our necks. I advise you to check out the program so that you are ready for that first patient that asks you about it. Let me know what you think.

Have a good week.



Anonymous said...

The good news is that it was on PBS so 99.9% of the US population will never see it ;-)

New Lenox Dentist said...

I worked at a place like this and I often felt that there was a great pressure to be more concerned about dollars than about the patients by many of my colleagues that worked there. Due to low reimbursement for managed care and medicaid services, I am not surprised. That is the practice model that those places have most of the time IMO. Its unfortunate, but it is becoming a reality. I am finally out of there and I have always done what is best for my patients regardless of dollars, and the money seem to come to me anyway. I sleep at night very well.


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