Friday, April 25, 2014

Firing Your Patient

I’m a huge fan of the TV show “The Good Wife.” I try not to miss a single episode. If you’ve been following this season’s plot, you know that the writers completely blindsided fans by unexpectedly killing off the main male character a couple weeks ago. Fans are still in a state of disbelief. Okay maybe it’s just me. I am in a state of disbelief as I mourn the passing of my TV crush. But, I digress.

Last week, the strong and, at times, calculating female senior law firm partner of this deceased character, in a state of emotional strain, had one of the best scenes ever. An extremely high-end and lucrative client of her law firm was being his usual demanding, condescending and disrespectful self. He was being callous and uncaring about the fact that she had just lost her friend and business partner. After this rude client finished his tirade that included unreasonable expectations, the lawyer looked at him and quietly told him that she was firing him as a client. After a moment of stunned disbelief, the client snickered and said she couldn’t do that. But she proved to him that, yes, yes she could. And she did!

This scene was incredibly powerful on so many levels. And, perhaps it was one of those “you had to be there” situations that doesn’t translate well into a retold story. But what struck me was that this lawyer had the courage to do what so many of us have probably wished we could do: she fired her client.

How many times have you wished that you could fire a patient?

You know who I am talking about. There is the patient who is a serial last-minute canceler, despite having been charged cancelation fees (these little nuisances have no effect on their sense of responsibility). There is the patient who thinks that they know more than you about dentistry and disagrees with your diagnosis and treatment suggestions. Then there is the patient who never stops talking throughout an entire two hour procedure, making it nearly impossible to complete your work. Let’s not forget the patient who complains loudly at the front desk when presented with their balance that they must be paying for your boat/car/college education of your kids/mortgage after they just told you about their two week cruise through the Greek Isles. And, of course, the patient who is rude to your staff and just barely civil to you.

We have all experienced these patients and worse. And yet, we usually bite our tongues, swallow the urge to fire them and move forward. And under normal circumstances, the character in the show would have typically done the same thing. She would have chalked it up to owning a service business and moved forward. This time, though, the client had gone too far. This time, the client crossed the line and this epic scene was borne. The fans watching whose professional lives are centered on the service industry let out a collective shout of glee when that fabulous lawyer, in a moment of complete clarity, calmly said, “I am firing you as a client.”

And then we all sighed and went back to business as usual.

Claudia Anderson, DDS


Dr. Andy Alas said...

I've fired many patients in my career. I have a letter that I mail to them. The dentist I used to work for would actually hand them the letter in person as they were checking out at the front desk.

I actually am surprised by patients' reaction. It usually goes something like, "What? But this is the best dental office I've ever been to"


Unknown said...

Hi Andy,

First of all, thanks for reading my post and for your great comment! I LOVE that the dentist you used to work with would actually "fire" his patients as they were checking out at the front desk! That is SO Diane Lockhart!! (the senior law partner on The Good Wife). And it IS really interesting that the responses from fired patients indicate that, despite the issues that caused their "dismissal", they still think that you are the best dental office ever! That tells me that their bad behavior has nothing to do with you or your is just "who they are". Interesting!
Thanks for sharing your story Andy!

Boboro said...

If we look up at our schedule and get a tightness in our stomachs when we see the name of a patient it is time for them to consider another office.
Only need to do it a couple of times a year.
Bullying a member of my staff will get you out of the office really quickly.
Best thing for your and your staffs mental health.

Unknown said...

Hi Bob!
Thanks for reading this post and for your kind comment! I totally know that pit in the stomach feeling when you look at the schedule and see "that" name...makes you just want to turn around an go back home. You are right...get that feeling often enough and it is time to do something about it...nothing is worth making your staff and/or yourself feel miserable anticipating the arrival of a patient that should be fired!

Thanks again!


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