"Phenomenal case acceptance" said it all

Dec. 1, 2003
I have been a staunch reader of Dental Economics for many years. Generally speaking, I have found the articles to be very interesting and informative, but a little self-serving.

I have been a staunch reader of Dental Economics for many years. Generally speaking, I have found the articles to be very interesting and informative, but a little self-serving. The October issue, however, was the best conglomeration of articles I have read in a long time. The piece that impressed me the most was by Dr. Steven Rasner on "Phenomenal case acceptance" (page 56). I found it educational, inspirational, and motivational from the first word to the last. As a management consultant, I have recommended numerous books, tapes, and articles to my clients to assist them in improving their case acceptance. This article says it all, and with conviction and sincerity.

Sari Reis
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Dentistry needs marketing campaign

Dr. Blaes, I have enjoyed your magazine for many years. Particularly, I have used many of your suggestions and "Pearls," incorporating them into my practice. However, that is not the point of my letter.

I have been in practice for more than 20 years, reading innumerable articles, attending a multitude of continuing-education courses, and hiring several consultants. In each situation, I tried to glean what I could to improve my practice, my team, and myself. I would like to think that I continue on the path of continual improvement to this day. Yet, the impression I get from the many dental magazines I receive is that success in dentistry — and for most of us, that success is defined in economic terms — is just a function of management. It just is not that simple. I do not believe that there is any one system or idea that guarantees success. In fact, I contend that we dentists are the victims of our own perceptions, the relatively diminutive size of our individual practices, the absence of a collective marketing effort, the public's perception of need, and, perhaps most importantly, finances.

Because the majority of dental practices are basically solo practices, we are small businesses. This creates small windows of view. That is to say, we each have our experiences, and those experiences shape our views.

The vast majority of the public does not seek dental care on a regular basis. A significant portion of the population only seeks care on an emergency basis. In my opinion, the public perception is that there are too many dentists when in fact, if we were to adequately serve the entire population, we would actually have far too few dentists. So why is it that relatively few patients seek regular dental care? I suggest it is a combination of factors — a lack of sustained marketing efforts, the public's perception that teeth are either unimportant or inevitably lost, and the financial aspect of obtaining dental care.

In my career, I have never witnessed any sustained, national marketing effort conducted by any organization or company. All too often, we dentists are told to "market" either externally or internally. The problem is that we lack the ability, time, and resources necessary to properly launch and sustain an effective marketing campaign. This can only be done on a collective basis — perhaps on the level of the ADA or AGD — or with the participation and support of for-profit companies such as Proctor and Gamble. To my knowledge, no such program exists.

Finally, there is the financial aspect. I am acutely aware that people buy what they want and what they feel they need. All too often in dentistry, other desires occupy priority positions — cars, vacations, clothes, etc. I am quite sure that I am not alone in facing the "economic priority" factor. Certainly, part of the problem is the perceived need, but let us face the reality that presenting someone with a $5,000 or $10,000 (or more) treatment proposal is daunting. The patient may have some level of desire to receive the proposed treatment, but may be petrified over assuming that level of debt. It is not just a matter of language or emotional intelligence. It is a function of money and priorities and it is a problem that is growing as we abdicate control to the insurance companies. They are slowly but surely cutting into our fee structures. There is just too much incentive for employers to cut benefit costs and for insurance companies to make money. We dentists, as a group, cannot legally collude to lock out PPOs, and yet, if we want patients, we have to accept lower fees. It is precisely the same model that was constructed for the rest of medicine years ago and it is happening to us. And let us not be too hasty to blame the patient. We all want a discount whether it is when we purchase our clothing "on sale" or ask the car salesman for "a deal." We all want to keep as much money in our pockets as possible. That is normal and reasonable.

I love dentistry and the patients I treat. Dr. Blaes, you are right when you state the satisfaction of treating a patient well, but frankly, I am not optimistic that the problems I have presented will be going away anytime soon.

I know that I am working harder than ever before, and although I am working smarter and more efficiently, intelligence and efficiency will only take me so far. I do not believe I am unique or different from the overwhelming majority of dentists across this country. It is my assertion that unless we progress from our current state of "Mom and Pop" practices into larger groups, or have our national organizations evolve into more economically practical entities, we cannot expect an improved or different future. Education, teamwork, and organization will only take us so far. I believe we need a lot more help than can be obtained with tips, techniques, or consultants.

Dr. Richard J. Reinitz
Houston, Texas

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