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21st June 2013

A new world

I once worked as an associate for an elderly principal who was struggling with change.  In a quiet moment, he confessed to me that he was glad he was reaching retirement age as he had already lived through one huge change in clinical life and couldn`t face another.  He had trained at a time when extractions and dentures were the bread and butter of practice life and he had made the change to the era of crowns and bridges.  Now, he couldn`t “be doing with this prevention lark”!

There is a new paradigm shift operating quietly around us and this is the move to a consumer led world, where the `customer` is king.  Nowhere has this caused more change than dentistry.  It manifests in a number of different ways, some more difficult to accept than others, but all of which we should honour, respect and embrace because resistance is futile.

We have become so used to instant communication, to faster journey times and to cramming in more `play` to make up for more `work`, that long term planning is not a priority.  There is a tendency in today`s society to look for the quick-fix answers to most problems and the need is applied to clinical services too.  This is the next sea-change that my old principal would have had problems with if he had still been in practice.  People will shop around now and demand instant replacement of teeth, an instant white smile and regular access to a hygienist who can make up for our rush-job with a toothbrush at six o`clock in the morning.

We can fall into two traps in this new world.  The first one is in fully practising what people want and demand, but there are hidden clinical pitfalls that can catch us out.  Secondly, we can try to live in the past and slowly lose patients.  However, and this is why I am writing this blog, there is a third alternative.

The third alternative is `Patient Involvement`.  Yes, that phrase is in the CQC Essential Standards and it is a tenet that we can fully embrace in order to flourish both personally and commercially.  Getting to know a patient is the best way of resolving the issues that consumerism throws in our professional path.  Patients are people, and have desires, worries and fears many of which you probably share.  Moreover, letting go of the grip on that old-fashioned professional pedestal releases a lot more energy and a surprising amount of time which we can use to everyone`s advantage.

Explore and share information about the choices.  Patients need to know about realistic prognosis, risk and cost.  The more information you give, the more you lay down the burden of holding the choice for them and the more they can make an informed choice themselves.

Topics: Dentists

John Shapter

Dental Specialist

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