In my opinion, most of us do not think we are bad dentists. However, we all have bad days. Sometimes our work may not be perfect, but overall, I think our goal is to always be very satisfied with our clinical work. You never perceive yourself as having bad intentions, so it feels surprisingly disheartening when strangers criticize you online.
The Internet has done great things for dentists in terms of marketing and keeping the public up-to-date and more aware of their oral health. But all good things must have some downside, right? When you are putting yourself out there online, you are making yourself vulnerable to all kinds of commentary.
Have you ever watched the segment that Jimmy Kimmel does with celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves? It’s funny, but it humanizes these famous people and makes you realize that they have feelings too. That’s kind of how I felt when reading some comments about me on a popular review-based website. The thing that was most upsetting was that it had nothing to do with my dental work. It basically put down the way I looked (too young), the way I talked (weird accent), and implied that I acted like I had no interest in what I was doing and cared very little about the patient. Excuse me? Let’s just get one thing straight: dentists have feelings too!
At first, I was shocked that something like this bothered me. I generally have great experiences with new patients, but we all know that no one is perfect and you cannot make everyone happy. You have all had that unpleasant first time patient encounter. Whether it was in dental school or residency, like me, I am sure most of you did not let it keep you up at night. Seeing a reminder of it forever etched in time on the Internet seemed to be much more significant in terms of affecting my self esteem.
I will be the first to admit that I do not enjoy schmoozing with patients. I am very straightforward during my consults. I like to be efficient and not waste my time or theirs. When I am the patient or a customer, I appreciate it when I am treated in a similar way. That is just my personality. I can see how that may come off as being disinterested. I realize I cannot expect everyone to love or even like me, but the fact that someone thought I was not doing the very best job that I could for him or her made me feel horrible. In the words of Carrie Bradshaw: “When it comes to life and love, why do we believe our worst reviews?”
Anyway, time went by and I started getting more reviews. Some were great and some were okay. I have definitely learned a lot from this experience, and would love to share some thoughts with you.
1. We like to believe we are in the healthcare industry. But guess what. We are also in the service industry. Like it or not, our patients are educated consumers, and contrary to what you may think, they tend to prefer great service over great dental work. Many of them will compare how you treated them to their waitress at dinner last night or a salesperson at the mall. Most patients won’t care that you spent an extra 15 minutes perfecting the contours and anatomy of that MOD composite or that you have hundreds of hours of CE under your belt. What they will care about is if you took the time to ask about their day and made sure their visit was quick and painless.
The take-home message here is this: Combine great dental work with great service. The most perfect dental work in the world will mean nothing if the patient feels they are not being treated well or given enough attention. As appealing as it may sound, you cannot turn into the Soup Nazi of dentistry if a patient even dares to question your intentions. “No teeth for you!”
2. Take those negative reviews in stride. When someone writes that I am too young or even tells me to my face (it happens often), I graciously accept the compliment. I offer tips on maintaining your youth, such as eating healthy, practicing yoga and staying out of the sun.
3. Get better at reading people. I am working in a new practice, so many of our patients are new. If they seem cagey, I try extra hard to win them over by making jokes or chatting about something other than dentistry during that initial visit. I am not great at this, but it is something I have been trying to work on.
4. When all else fails, just let it go. We all get those patients that are difficult, no matter what. Nothing pleases them, they have unrealistic expectations, and some may even threaten you with bad reviews if their demands are not met. I do not negotiate with terrorists.
5. Remember that the good, appreciative patients that you want do not look to the Internet to find a healthcare professional. I am the first to admit I frequent this site when I am traveling and want to find the best place to eat in the area or a great hotel to spend the night in. I know many of the reviews are biased. I find that it helps more when I can get an opinion from someone I know and trust. I like to think many of your best reviews will come from the patients that appreciate you the most, which they will pass on to their friends and family.
6. Still upset about something you read about yourself on the Internet? Just repeat after me: “I am good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”
Enjoy your weekend!
Lilya Horowitz, DDS