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Losing Your Religion

February 18, 2013



Time was expiring on my Groupon at a hot new restaurant in town.  We called ahead for reservations, but they didn’t accept them.  They asked if we had a Groupon.   When we arrived, the maître d’ seated us, throwing the menus on the table.  I sensed displeasure.  Twenty minutes later she took our order.  Are you starting to get the picture?  The only thing acceptable about the experience was the shrimp marinara which she threw on the table with the same gusto as the menu.

I am not a big fan of social e-commerce, for many reasons, mostly because of what they can potentially do to a business and the people who work there.

The maître d’ in this case was also the waitress, and the owner.  She was understaffed.  A lone busboy and another waitress helped her with the crowd.  The stress was palpable. 

I think “roller skates” is the term we use in dentistry. The scene reminded me of the way I practiced dentistry many years ago…when I participated in all of the dental plans.

I shouldn’t have been surprised.  This is what happens when we work with partners with incongruent business plans.

I changed my way of practice many years ago…to a practice driven by TAO—trust, appreciation and ownership.  Hence—the way—I practice.

I spend time getting to know each and every patient so I can serve their individual needs.  We serve the best food too.  High quality materials and and dental laboratories…really good shrimp marinara.  But what I really take pride in is the service…the very intimate caring service that can only be performed by a happy staff and a happy dentist.

Or else I couldn’t have survived in dentistry.

It all comes down to a business model.  When I decided not to base my practice on price, everything changed.

An insurance based practice doesn’t have the time to spend getting to know patients.  Dental insurance is nothing more than a (G)coupon for dental services.  The concept devalues the personal service so necessary in health care.

Yet so many health service businesses are using the Groupon model.  And dentists seem to be the number one perpetrators.  Examinations, cleanings, tooth whitening, Invisalign are just some of the services being devalued.  I met a girl last week who only goes to the dentist every six months by taking advantage of a Groupon deal.  This isn’t the dentistry that I grew up with.

I could say that I really feel sorry for the patients, but that would be presuming that the dentistry was just bad…I won’t do that, because I don’t know.

What I do know is that for a dentist to enjoy his work over a long period of time a certain amount of mastery and passion is necessary.  I can’t imagine working the way I used to.  So many dentists have a hard time living up to their business model and they let the wolves in the door.  And the wolves have changed the entire profession.

A business model is a statement of your philosophy…it should be sacred…and you never want to lose your religion.








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