"He was yelling at her, asking her to rush, telling her she was stupid, while he was audibly exasperated."
I always ask my patients about their referral experience. We have specialist offices to whom we refer because we have a relationship with the practice. Most of the time, these offices are practices we have used over the past years. At other times, or, if on the rare occasion a patient does not mesh with the office, we use recommendations from dentists in other towns. The benefit of working with specialists who you trust and work well with helps the patient's total comprehensive care. I prefer this team approach.
On occasion, patients present who are on a specific plan. Though they may want to pursue out-of-network treatment in our office, they would prefer to seek out specialists within the network. This particular patient is one of them. She needed endodontic therapy. As I did not know anyone on her plan, she sought out a name close to her home.
As is my routine, at our next appointment, I questioned the patient on her experience. We are always looking for new specialists in networks and, if the experience were acceptable, I would add the endodonist to our recommendation list.
She had some interesting tales to tell. Apparently, the endodonist told her she would need two sessions, although he was able to complete the procedure in one. He was visibly exasperated with this dental assistant during the procedure, audibly reprimanding her and rolling his eyes.
This made the patient very uncomfortable, and she also felt horribly for the assistant. On completion of the procedure, she visited the front desk. The receptionist asked what her benefit maximum was, and questioned if she had spent any money out of her benefit this fiscal year. As an honest woman, she stated she had a maximum of $1,000. She felt they did not know what to charge and were fishing for a fee. She left with a bad taste in her mouth (definitely no pun intended) with the office and the dentist's demeanor.
This is one of those stories in which, if someone is happy, they will tell three people, but if they are unhappy, they will tell 10. I felt badly for her experience, though it was her choice to seek care outside of my recommended endodonist. It is sad because root canals truly have a bad reputation. For the majority of the teeth treated, the procedure is comfortable and quick.
The moral of this story is that patients listen and are quietly observant. If we are having a bad day, we need to leave it at the door. If we are dissatisfied with our team members, we need to work on retraining their skills to ensure patients have the most comfortable, professional experience. If they are not able to do the task we are assigning, bad-mouthing them in front of a patient is not a practice builder.
The two main reasons patients do not seek dental care are fear of the unknown and fear of the costs. We do not need to give patients excuses not to seek treatment.
Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She is currently vice president and president-elect of the American Association of Women Dentists and editor of the American Association of Women Dentists "Chronicle" newsletter. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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