Patients Are People Too….

A few weeks ago a friend of mine [not a dentist] received a phone call from the dental practice he goes to about his upcoming hygiene visit.

The call was made six days before my friend’s scheduled visit.

And this upcoming hygiene visit had been booked and locked in some six months ago.

The phone call went something like this:

“Hi Bob. It’s Rachel from Westwood Dental. I’m calling about your hygiene visit next week.”

“Your hygienist is on maternity leave, and we haven’t been able to replace her, so we need to reschedule your appointment.”

“At this stage, we’re booking you in six more months down the track when we know that she will be back.”

“We haven’t been able to find a replacement for her.”

“But if do, and anything comes available before that next appointment, we will phone you and get you in sooner, is that OK?”

We live in interesting times…

At present, in Australia, the employment climate out there is so “up in the air”.

Because of COVID, the Australian employment market has literally been turned on its head, figuratively speaking.

COVID has meant no incoming tourists to Australia, many of whom would have been here on working holidays, and the flow on from this has been that there are less people around to fill all of the jobs out there, so there definitely is a manpower shortage in the labour market.

And that effect has flowed on to a variety of sectors. Hospitality. Service. Travel. Accommodation. Food and beverage….. the list goes on…

And now it seems dental…. as well…

And now it seems the manpower shortage is affecting dental practices.

There are not enough staff out there looking for work to fill all of the available positions vacant within the dental industry.

Does this create a conundrum for Bob?

Bob values his regular hygiene visits. He knows their importance and he knows their value.

Both to his oral health. And his systemic health.

As Bob’s friend, I’ve beaten the hygiene message indelibly into Bob’s thick skull.

“It’s not JUST A CLEAN, Bob. It’s so much more…”

It took me a long time to educate Bob that his hygiene visit was not a “clipping”… it was a necessary regular treatment that the absence of, or delay thereof, would have an immediate effect on his long-term oral health, and also an effect on his systemic well-being as well.

But Bob’s gripe was this:

Whenever Bob has a hygiene visit coming up, his dental office calls well in advance to make sure that Bob is coming, and that he hasn’t decided to delay, or cancel his appointment.

And the dental practice calls Bob often.

And Bob gets it….

After all, when he has a hygiene visit scheduled, it’s just plain rude to have that appointment booked for 180 days prior, just to then go and reschedule or cancel it at the eleventh hour, just because something better came up.

It’s called commitment.

And it’s about reliability.

And so when the boot is on the other foot, the seaming “disregard” shown to Bob by failing to give him a heads-up about the impending hygiene visit possibly [or probably] needing to be rescheduled, has made Bob a little bit antsy.

As we tell our coaching clients…

If you were cooking a special dinner for a couple of friends you know well, and you had the roast in the oven and the vegetables basting, and those friends phoned you up late and said that they weren’t coming, would you be upset?

Would you tolerate that behaviour, from friends?

And would you ask if everything was OK?

Would you want to know a legitimate reason?

…and after all that, what would you do with all that extra cooked food?

The thing is, if you wouldn’t expect or tolerate a last minute “standing up” from a good friend, why should you as a dental practice accept and tolerate that sort of behaviour from a patient?

And if you were a dental practice that didn’t appreciate patients cancelling appointments at the eleventh hour, how do you think your loyal patients should feel if you, their dental practice, starts cancelling and rescheduling them, especially for appointments that they [the patient] have held [and worked their personal schedule around], for a long period of time?

Is this a case of “Do as I say” and ignore what I do?

Golfers are people too…

Years ago, a golfer friend of mine Greg phoned me and asked if I could nominate him to join my golf club.

Greg was a member of another golf club that had a lot of members…. So many members that it was difficult for Greg to get a game scheduled each week on the Saturday morning time sheet.

So Greg used to just turn up early at his golf club every Saturday morning and wait for the inevitable last minute cancellation, sleep in, or no-show, and jump straight in to play in that vacant spot…


…one Saturday Greg turned up, and the club professional asked Greg whether he had put his name down on the “official” standby list for Saturday cancellations.

Greg politely told his golf club to “go jump”.

And resigned his membership.

Golfers are people too.

There is only so much “being taken for granted” that people will tolerate

There is only so much “being taken for granted” that people will tolerate, as customers, and members, and patients, before they take their patronage elsewhere…

As providers of a service, dental practices need to be mindful that the behaviours that they [the practice] exhibit, will be mirrored and reflected by their customers and patients, as being equally acceptable behaviours.

When in fact, these behaviours may not really be behaviours that the practice is desiring of their patients.

Food for thought?


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