In 1997 Reader's Digest ran a story that questioned the honesty and consistency of dentists.  I think most of the dentists in the country found it very frustrating that their integrity be questioned.  I certainly didn't like it.  On the other hand, the article was instructive and even fascinating, given my interest in behavior.  If you want to read the article, I have included a button at the bottom of this post that will allow you to do that.  What struck me is that the 50 dentists never asked the author an obvious question.  "What do you want?"  To me, that was the single most important piece of information.  What motivated the client to ask for help?  Health?  Esthetics?  Peace of Mind? Pain?  No mention of that.
Healthcare must be centered on the patient...the whole patient, which includes their history, concerns, preferences, and physical condition and not just what the doctor wants to do for or to the patient.  With dentistry, much of it is elective.  What I mean is that most dental problems are rarely lethal.  Yes, an abscess can be lethal and 150 years ago was one of the most common causes of death.  Not now.  It is now uncommon that people die from dental disease.  In modern first world countries, dentistry is a matter of life style and health.  It is a decision about how to look, feel, and live.  If we assume that to be true, then the most important single issue is what the patient wants.  In the entire article, I read nothing regarding that singularly important question.  Fifty opinions and fifty different solutions to many different sets of perceived problems.  What struck home to me that the suggested treatment was more related to the education, preferences, and assumptions of the dentists rather than the needs and wants of the author/patient.  Perhaps he was being dishonest to be inflammatory?  I don't know.  What I do know is that healthcare practitioners need to understand the mind of the patient.  Be in the moment and try to be empathetic. Humans have one mouth and two ears.  Ask "What do you want?" and listen at least twice as much as talk.

--Dave
 


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