Friday, June 23, 2017

Online Dental Information: Marvel or Myth?

No doubt we’ve all used or heard the phrase, “I read it on the internet.” But what this exactly means is unknown, not to mention risky. I’m certain that countless health care providers hear it all the time from their patients and clients. I gather information from the internet, too. Is an internet search a good thing or bad thing? It may be both. 

Naturally, being able to sort through the infinite amount of available information is no easy task and, just like the products at the eye level of grocery shelves that draw our attention, we focus on the first few search results. Those results are not there by accident. Their placement is the result of a highly sophisticated algorithm that is computed with utmost binary accuracy. That’s wonderful and “informative,” but it still may not give me the answer I’m looking for. And that’s just the point; it’s not supposed to. Rather, it gives you information. For those who can remember, that information used to come from a collection of thick, heavy books called “encyclopedias.” Just substitute “encyclo” for “Wiki,” and you have your 2017 version.

Where am I going with this? In comes my patient who tells me she read about a procedure online and then decided against it. How did she come to that conclusion? If we search via Google for “root canals,” for example, thankfully the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) has the upper hand on the information. But scroll a little more, and it’s stunning to see myths about root canals that are available by clicking just one search result below that of AAE’s.

When I was considering Lasik surgery on my eyes, I had a hard time not reaching for my computer and simply typing “Lasik surgery” into a Google search bar. Instead, I consulted with my optometrist, who gave me advice not only based on evidence-based research, but that also tied in to the particulars of my case. Decision made.

If the internet was to provide us with the answers to our medical and dental questions, I think health care providers would have easy careers. I’m not against being informed; on the contrary, that is the basis for our “informed consent” forms. If we’re not informed, we’re not making an educated decision about dental procedures.

However, that information must be credible, scientifically valid and accurately apply to a particular situation. I think dentists should give patients sources that are sound and ethical from which they can draw reliable information on their own time. Then they can tie it all together in an open discussion to reach a solution best suited for the patient.

Now, that advice should be available on the internet.




Zeynep Barakat, DMD, FAGD

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Relationships Matter above Everything Else

As we know, dentistry has entered a new economic reality — a reality that is reshaping the way in which we do business, as part of an industry whose foundation is built upon the appreciation and realization that relationships matter, above everything else. Yes, everything! Stated another way, no longer are our clinical skills the differentiator between success and failure. Rather, it is the manner in which all team members commit to building relationships that has meaningful and lasting importance.

In 2017, dentists are no longer insulated from market forces. In many communities, the competition is fierce, employee engagement is abysmal, and the price shopper is alive and well. For the new dentist or seasoned practitioner, the ability to carve out a “niche” is seldom based upon clinical skills. Rather, building long-term relationships that lead to a following of lifetime customers is key to personal and professional satisfaction. Considering less than 1 percent of dentists file for bankruptcy, I don’t think we need to worry about going out of business. However, as an industry, we can do better. How much better? A lot! We are fortunate to have chosen a profession that by its mere existence is financially successful. Consider us wise from this perspective. Or maybe lucky? Who knows.

For most general dentists, their profit margins are shrinking and will continue to do so. Why? The competing forces are fierce; dental insurance reimbursements are continuing to decline as more dentists enroll (this is simple economics: supply and demand); corporate dentistry will grow (they want a piece of the profits); fewer dentists will retire (many because they didn’t prepare for retirement); and there will be more graduating dentists, not to mention poor business acumen and an employee-engagement profile that is frighteningly low. What does this mean?

According to Gallup, a worldwide strategic consulting firm whose focus is on “analytics and advice to help leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems,” only 32.6 percent of employees are engaged in their place of business. Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. The remaining 67.4 percent were found to be not engaged or actively disengaged at their place of employment. In other words, they are underperforming and costing the business owner a substantial amount of money in wages and lost production. Suffice it to say, there is a production crisis and relationship disconnect in today’s workplace. Gallup’s employee engagement work is based upon more than 30 years of in-depth behavioral economic research involving more than 17 million employees.

A recent study by Deloitte, one of the four largest consulting firms in the world, reported a direct correlation between the patient experience and perceived quality of clinical care, noting that higher patient experience ratings are associated with higher profitability. Relationships were key. Not only was there an increase in profits, but there was also an increase in customer loyalty, reputation and brand while boosting utilization through increased referrals to family and friends. The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions’ outcomes mirrored the Gallup poll findings, stating, “A highly engaged staff likely boosts patient experience, translating into better performance.”

Are these new findings? No. According to the article, “Top 10 Online Patient Complaints – How Does Your Customer Service Stack Up?” published in September 2012 in the McGill & Hill Group LLC newsletter, McGill Advisory, nine out of every 10 dental patient complaints are relationship-based and continuing to rise. Our employees and teams can do better, and when they fail to do so, they are hurting our business. How are your relationships with your team and patients? Are they built upon a culture of “do no harm” or “do unto others as you would have done to you”?

While we may be facing big-box dentistry, miserable insurance reimbursements, and a marketing maze of well-intending individuals and companies, there is no substitute for a culture whose core is built upon developing rapport that leads to value, and value that leads to trust. When patients trust you, they will buy from you.

While we can’t be all things to all people, we can be all things to some. This includes our patients and team members who appreciate our services, education, and commitment to each of them and each other — a type of credo that nourishes relationships built upon rapport, value and trust, or what I refer to as “RVT,” an association between the services we provide and a relationship-driven culture that leads to brand loyalty for life.

Are your employees engaged, enthusiastic and committed to their work and workplace? Remember, a highly engaged workforce means the difference between a company that outperforms its competitors and one that fails to grow. Relationships matter, above everything else.














Duke Aldridge, DDS, MBA, MAGD, MICOI, DICOI

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Extinguishing Fires — Literally

“Doctor, the radio keeps turning off!”

So began my morning. Little did I know that within the hour, an electrician, my dental equipment repair team and an electrician would be in my office. My staff also would be cancelling all of my appointments for the day.

“Why does the radio keep turning off?” I asked. No one knew.

“By the way,” I said, “who is smoking a cigarette in my office at 7:50 a.m.?”

Being a dentist and inhaling all of those chemicals over the years, my sense of smell is not the greatest. So I asked my assistant, “Do you smell anything?” She responded, “Oh yes!”

I quickly realized that we had an electrical fire. Somewhere in my office, an electrical wire was starting to burn. Where? It did not matter. My staff and I rushed to the circuit breaker box and turned off all of the switches for the operatories. We were finished for the day.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Fair enough. The trick is to know when it is no longer the small stuff you are dealing with. A light bulb burns out in your private office? Small stuff. Smelling smoke each time you turn on a light switch? Not small stuff.

I learned this lesson a few years ago from a colleague. He got a call early in the morning informing him that there was a fire near his office. Within minutes, he drove up to realize that it was his entire office that was on fire. The cause? A water leak mixing with a power junction box inside his office. The total loss? His entire office.

This is not sweating the small stuff. This is knowing that things can go wrong — really, really wrong.

After my electrician checked things out, he gave me his report. The radio kept turning off because the circuit kept breaking. The circuit kept breaking because a fire was about to start. We were a few minutes away from ending up on the local news.

The electrician informed me that he would need to tear up the floor in our operatories in order to get to the wiring.

He tore up my flooring, dug a hole and located an outlet. This outlet had been buried for at least 15 years. It had given out. My electrician replaced it, and we were back in business.

Our patients were understanding about having to reschedule their appointments. As you well know, our patients are already nervous about having a filling placed. Now, having a filling placed inside a burning building? They’ll happily hold off until another day.

If you show up to your office and something keeps switching off, you may want to take it seriously.

Andy Alas, DDS

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