My patients don't like tints on their composites. My patients don't like to talk, they just want to get in and out. My patients only care about how fast I finish their treatment.
In your beginning years, your patients will be pretty random. This is why having a new practice is so frustrating. No one knows what you stand for or your reputation so they just come randomly and may or may not be a good fit.
This leads to a dilemma.
Do you slowly react to the patients that complain and let your practice evolve to suit them? Or do you have a vision an hold to that realising that some patients will leave, but others will value what you do?
There is danger in both.
In the former, you run the risk of tailoring your practice to a whole group of people who complain about dentistry a lot. Since you try to tune your practice toward them, you get more of them. And you lose those that valued your original vision as you no longer suit them.
The danger in holding to a vision is that sometimes our vision is out of touch with reality. And if our vision is too exotic, there might not be enough people who value what we do.
In general, it's better to have a vision and work toward it slowly in steps rather than trying to go big or go home. Too often you go home :).
Over time, you will get a group of patients that reflect your own values or if you don't have any, you will get a random group that sometimes causes you frustration.
I value patients with toothache and nearly always get them in on the day. Often they are anxious about dentistry which is why they keep putting it off. Or perhaps they just never saw the value because "my teeth don't hurt yet".
Nonetheless, you can treat them two ways. One is a good source of revenue to be treated as efficiently as possible. Or as a new patient consultation with treatment attached.
Whatever you do, you will get more of. Some people thrive on the quick treatment planning and treatment that is required to rapidly treat a toothache.
I find it very stressful, particularly in these days of heavy regulation requiring very strong record keeping and informed consent. So I tend to treat emergency patients like a new patient consult.
Obviously we address the cause of the emergency if we can. But once it is diagnosed and a treatment plan formulated, and while waiting for anesthesia, we then roll into our full examination. As I have outlined in an earlier post, with well trained staff, you can do a very thorough examination with full photographs in a few minutes, including full documentation.
And for just a few minutes more, you can sit down with the patient (local anesthetic is doing it's thing and staff can be setting up for the procedure) and go through the full photos and educate the patient as to what is going on in their mouth.
I find people are often visual and seeing is believing.
These patients then by and large become those that want planned treatment rather than just quick emergency fixes.
Whilst it makes the emergency appointment less profitable, it does make my practice generally more enjoyable and full of patients that more closely resemble my vision.
In the long term, you will end up with the patients you deserve.
How do you manage the emergency patient?
Dr Lincoln Harris has been completely focused on excellence and quality from the beginning of his career as a dentist. He established the first private dental practice in Bargara – Harris Dental Boutique in 2000. Since graduation he has trained extensively in Aesthetic Implant Techniques and Full Mouth Rehabilitation to attain immense skill and knowledge. With his vast dental knowledge Dr Harris coaches and trains dentists from all over the world on complex aesthetic dentistry, surgical techniques and business management. Dr Harris is the founder of RIPE. Restorative Implant Practice Excellence: Full Protocol group an international forum of over 70,000 members worldwide. The purpose of the group is to share information and excellence in the dental industry. He has also lectured in multiple cities throughout Australia, North America, Asia, Singapore, United Kingdom and Europe.