As healthcare providers, our expertise and skills are at the forefront of what we do, but our “bedside manner” is just as important, precisely because we are dealing with other people’s health. This means that being attentive, honest and respectful is part of who we are and how we work. But this also means that the relationship between practitioner and patient should be reciprocal. As a patient, your attitude can go a long way in making sure that you get the best treatment possible.
Health is personal
In my profession, I invade people’s personal space all the time. And I have to, there is no other option, because how else could I get a good look inside a patient’s mouth? However, I understand that it is still an invasion, and that it can generate a certain level of anxiety and discomfort. This is perfectly normal. But even taking that into account, there are some patients who, quite honestly, are not nice people. They are rude, they give off a negative energy, they are just not pleasant to be around. And that affects us as healthcare providers, because although we want to help everyone, it’s very difficult to give the best care possible to someone who doesn’t treat other people with the respect and dignity that every human being deserves.
First appointment: why it’s so important
I want to start off by highlighting the importance of the first appointment, because that is when we meet and get a feel for our patients. So, first of all, when you call to make the appointment, just be straightforward and keep the conversation simple. And I should say that this is what happens most of the time, but some patients will want to discuss prices right away, which is very hard to do over the phone without seeing them. So, as a patient, please understand that there are a number of factors that can influence the cost of your treatment, and I can only ascertain them during the first consultation. And only after that initial appointment can I give my patients an estimate of the cost of the treatment, never before.
Trust begins on day one
The first appointment is the moment when you have a chance to become partners with your dentist, as I like to say, instead of being just one more client. Listen to what your dentist has to say and try to understand the difficulties and challenges of the treatment. Try to be nice and polite, because we really want to create a healthy relationship with you. I’m going to be completely honest here: I have personally refused treatment to patients who were rude to me or to my staff because I don’t want the stress of having to deal with someone who doesn’t treat us respectfully. I like to keep my clinic as stress-free as I can (even if it has a negative effect on our revenue at the end of the year) and refusing to deal with these types of patients is a big part of how we do that.
Honesty is everything
There is also a level of trust that needs to be built between me, as a doctor, and you, as a patient, so the easier you are on your healthcare professional, the easier it is for that trust to exist. And speaking of trust, you must be honest and forthcoming about any issues you may have that can potentially affect the quality of the treatment. For example, imagine that you can’t open your mouth very well. To you, it may not seem that relevant, but your dentist will have to know that beforehand because it will increase the time he is going to spend treating you (and, consequently, the cost of the treatment). If that information comes out halfway through the treatment, it will create another layer of stress for the dentist.
Listen first, question second
At the same time, please refrain from being overbearing about the treatment plan your dentist presents. This includes anything from trying to correct him by quoting things you have read on the internet (which has happened to me, believe it or not!) to outright not listening to your dentist and not wanting to do what he thinks you should. Please note that as professionals, we always have your best interests in mind, experience matters and our treatment plan is 100% personalised for you. We also know that questions and concerns may arise – it’s only natural – and we always set aside special time for addressing whatever is on your mind.
It really doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – I have patients from all walks of life, from the lady down the street to some of the highest paid athletes in the world, and I give everybody the same quality of care and attention. Honesty, respect and trust is what you’ll always get from me and my team, so that’s exactly what we expect from our patients as well.