By Mary Osborne RDH
I wrote recently about moving our conversations with patients away from insurance benefits, and into conversations about the benefits of health. While we cannot ignore the role insurance may play in the choices patients make, I’m concerned that we sometimes lose sight of other factors which contribute to the process of making healthy choices. While we have no control over the future of dental insurance, we can influence all the other aspects of the equation.
CSJ + PO + FF + MOP = Health
Care, Skill and Judgment + Preferred Outcomes + a Fair Fee + the Method of Payment = Health
Today I will speak to the first part of the equation: Care, Skill, and Judgment. This refers to what we bring to the process, and this factor alone is completely within our control. Each practice has its own brand of Patient Care, and it varies from one practice to another. Your level of care involves among other things your acceptance, your patience, your gentleness, and your compassion. It goes beyond competence and efficiency which do little to distinguish your practice in any significant way. It’s more than hospitality. The way in which patients feel cared for in your practice comes out of their experience of feeling safe, and of being seen as a unique individual worthy of your time and attention. It is the singular quality that makes your practice most distinctive to your patients.
The level of Skill you bring also has value. Each practice decides how much they are willing to invest in terms of time, money, and commitment to ongoing refinement of skills. A high level of technical skill in any aspect of dentistry will affect the outcome on your patients’ health, whether the procedure is primarily restorative or esthetic. The comfort, function, attractiveness, and longevity your patients experience will be based to a significant degree on your technical skill. The importance of relational skills is less widely understood. In our academic training we get what I see as “Communication 101.” We learn something about language for educating patients and something about how to connect with people on a somewhat social level; introductory communication. But it is our confidence and skill in navigating through the more difficult conversations which allows us to help our patients. More advanced communication and relational skills are required to support them in working through the barriers they see to getting as healthy as they can be. If we want to do the dentistry we know how to do, and make a difference in the lives of our patients, we cannot underestimate the value of relational skills.
The value of Judgment is often the least recognized by dentists. Your judgment is the sum total of your training, your knowledge, your experience, and your character. It takes your recommendations out of the realm of cookbook solutions and into truly personalized, individualized care. It forces you to ask yourself what is appropriate for this particular individual. To take into consideration their unique physical, emotional, and behavioral history. To factor in their circumstances and their objectives. Your judgment combines everything you know about dentistry with everything you know about a given patient, and asks you to make recommendations based on what is in the best interest of that person.
Your Care, Skill, and Judgment have value that should not be diminished. The clearer you become about that value, the better able you will be to convey that to your patients. Care, Skill, and Judgment represent the part of the equation for the health of your patients and the health of your practice over which you have the greatest control. Taken alone they do not entitle you to trust and appreciation from your patients. You still have to earn that. However, your Care, Skill, and Judgment are significant factors in the equation that makes up your ability to help your patients become healthier, and make your practice truly exceptional.