Everyone agrees that mutually beneficial, and enjoyable relationships are key to a practice’s long term success. But what does “relationship” mean in this context?
To some, a good relationship represents two people who get along and perhaps enjoy being in each other’s company. But is that enough to build a successful health-centered practice?
I would argue not.
Getting along and even enjoying the presence of other people alone doesn’t go deep enough. It only addresses good rapport, and good rapport is only the starting point of a truly helping relationship.
So we need more.
We need shared values. We need shared understanding. We need shared goals. And to a large degree, we also need a shared vision of a preferred future so that all the goals are oriented in a specific mutually agreed upon direction.
And that vision must largely originate from the patient, because it is their water to carry, not just ours (Yes, we can facilitate the development of the patient’s vision, but we can not give it to them).
Consequently, I will call the achievement of this type of relationship, “patient-centered” or “client-centered”. And it is only possible through mutual trust – and a lot if it at that, because we must have enough trust present within the relationship to allow for open and transparent communication to occur. This type of communication is much deeper, and it includes discussions around fears, personal challenges, barriers, short-term agendas, as well as longer-term goals.
When a patient trusts us, they are essentially allowing themselves to be vulnerable to our actions, which could, if they go wrong, harm them physically, emotionally, and/or financially.
Some patients will extend their trust to us quickly without a lot of justification simply because we have big letters after our name on the wall, but with the advent of the internet and an increasing amount of predatory activity in marketplace, this de facto trust is becoming more and more rare. And in its place we have cynicism and DIS-trust; we must now commonly EARN our patient’s trust through our action, attitudes, philosophy, and behavior.
So, exposure of and meaningful discussions around trust-related issues represent the key distinction between a health-centered practice and an attractive and pleasant place where dental services are provided in exchange for money. Hence, a health-centered practice therefore must be centered around trust, both the earning of it and the maintaining of it.
This represents both a challenge, and an opportunity. Marketplace trends today, particularly with regard to the expansion of corporate practice models, are making trust a more rare -and therefore valuable – interpersonal commodity. And this means that if you become exceptionally good as a team at building and maintaining trust, your have discovered an important strategic advantage as the market continues to devolve toward reductionism.
Our ability to establish and maintain trust-based relationships with our patients must therefore be a central focus, because without trust, dentistry quickly degenerates into a price-driven, commodity-type transaction ripe with miscommunication, disappointment, or even worse.
Trust therefore represents a key metric in the quality of your future in dentistry. Trust also becomes a key metric in the quality of your patient’s experiences with dentistry. And both are directly linked to happiness and fulfillment.
Paul A. Henny, DDS
Though Experiments LLC, ©2018
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