Over the past several years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in dental patients, which I call “consumerization.”
I love a well-educated patient in my chair. I do not love a savvy consumer in my chair. Let me explain the difference.
Well-educated patients are thoughtful about their care. They may ask questions, they may be anxious, and they may come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. But what they have in common is respect for the dentist-patient relationship. They trust their dentist. They honor clinical skill. They appreciate the materials and craftsmanship of the laboratory.
Savvy consumers are not thoughtful about their care. Their questions and anxieties have a common, poisonous undertone: they view our services as commodities. Commodities are interchangeable and can be bargain-shopped. There is little or no respect for the dentist-patient relationship. No trust, no honor, no appreciation… just dollars and cents.
What can we do to stop this trend? Perhaps better controls over dental advertising. Let’s not have anything resembling a coupon in our ads, shall we? Perhaps better quality information online, like Mouthhealthy.org. These and other measures are being undertaken by the ADA to help protect our profession. What else do you think can be done?