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Are we losing our moral compass and treating patients as customers?

Sunday_at_the_market The marketplace

We all, I would like to think, got into this profession for the reason of trying to help others and improve the health and wellbeing of patients. If we were in it solely for the money, there are plenty of other professions that can give the financial rewards without the types of stress that we face on a daily basis from all aspects of our wonderful profession.

Before I continue, I should note that yes of course we all need to make a living and there is nothing wrong with wanting to earn more. That is not my concern here, but more that I am worried that we are starting to see our patients as customers, and therefore trying to sell them a product rather than provide a health service.

A recent dental conference I attended had a stand hosting a lecture titled ‘How to earn an extra £100,000 a year through facial aesthetics’. Now my issue here is nothing to do with facial aesthetics at all, it could just as easily be swapped with dental implants, short term ortho, smile design or whatever aspect of dentistry one may be more interested in. For me, it’s more the headline like that got me thinking - are we becoming ever more financially driven and could this lead to us ‘selling’ patients treatments or rather a product they may not necessarily want or more importantly need. We are all part of the health care sector but are we making dentistry into an industry more than ever and forgetting that it’s actually a profession? I’ve even heard of undergraduates taking external courses on ‘how to sell private dentistry’ when they haven’t even passed their licence to cut exam yet so if that is the motivation from such an early stage, is there cause for concern?

There is already a misconception by members of the public that dentists are there to take patients money, so this made me think that we could be adding fuel to the fire.

This is not aimed at people wanting to be a successful practitioner and earn a good living or run a profitable practice, it’s a general concern about our profession losing its way a little bit and putting profits above patients.

We have all seen those cases on social media whereby unbelievably invasive dentistry has been carried out at both a financial and biological cost to patients, when really a much more conservative treatment plan would achieve just as good if not better results. I’m sure many of us have looked at those cases and thought that clearly there has been a financial objective here as why would a well-informed patient actually consent to some of these treatments.

That’s not to say that patients don’t have the right to elect to do these types of treatments and of course maintaining patient autonomy is key. However, with the continuing role and influence of societies’ obsession with achieving the perfect aesthetic (in many aspects not just dentistry), are we being lured into this type of dentistry by the financial gain and compromising our moral obligations to our patients? Is the ‘Love Island effect’ or the role of ‘social media influencers’ (not just celebrities but even dentists these days too) starting to influence us as dentists, not just our patients?

 

"Sunday in the City 338" by Carl Campbell is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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