I am an old fashioned kind of guy. I have belief systems that many would see as outdated and archaic. I never really believed that Social Media had a place when it came to healthcare, and I still don’t. Please note that I am distinguishing healthcare from health sell, the latter being a growing and dangerous trend. And I know there will be those who disagree with me. Many of you reading this will be shaking your heads and tutting at my backward ways.
Please remember that, just because I believe something, it doesn’t mean I am right.
Here’s the thing though. I was never what you would call a “big earner”, and it was rare for me to take home more than £100K a year. And yet I was able to put myself in a position where I could retire form chairside dentistry at the age of 45. But that’s not what this blog post is about.
In the practice I part-owned, we didn’t put ourselves out as “cosmetic dentists”. We didn’t do botox or fillers. We didn’t do ortho or smile makeovers. The practice I part-owned just concentrated on delivering reliable standard dentistry to families. We concentrated on getting people healthy and keeping them that way. We weren’t an amalgam factory either, never sheep dipping patients for maximum bums on seats.
I worked 4 days a week. The staff of the practice were, combined, the practice manager. They could all do each others roles, and they knew that customer care was the most important part of their job (keep the patients safe and make the customers feel like they belonged). There were no £10K treatment plans, no Ferraris in the car park, and no egos running amok. We built relationships with patients that made them feel welcome.
We just went to work to look after people. Everything else flowed from that. When I eventually sold my practice, the guys who bought it joked that all the patients were so well maintained that there was nothing for them to do. For the whole practice:
- Number of times sued = 0
- Number of GDC complaints = 0
- Number of written complaints during my 17-year ownership = 4
- Amount spent on marketing in that 17 year period = less than £2K
- No practice website and no social media profile.
There is a problem with social media. It is generally toxic, with more and more people rejecting it.
There is something definitely brewing under the surface with regards social media. This “look at me, look at me” society is breeding depression and a craving for material wealth that actually makes people poorer. Dentists/patients are forgetting that making teeth perfect and white doesn’t make you happier. More and more dentists are treating patients with unidentified body dysmorphic problems. It’s time to step back and realise that the perfect smile is not the road to the perfect life.
I’m not saying don’t do it, but you need to understand that there is a dwindling patient base for cosmetic dentistry, but there will always be a growing demand for health. I know, I know. I’m wrong and I’m talking out of my backside. Well when the EU sovereign debt crisis hits and the western economies tailspin into the long-overdue recession, don’t be surprised if the money to buy all this fancy cosmetic work disappears. You practice should be geared for health delivery and long term survival, not quick monetary gain.
Just look at 10 practices in your vicinity and see how many concentrate on delivering HEALTH. They will all answer cosmetics and sparkly things, but where is the emphasis on the important stuff.
If you are looking to build a stable and committed patient base, which will keep your business going through the long haul (through recessions and health scares like SARS etc) there are perhaps easier and cheaper ways to do it. Build trust. Build genuine rapport, not that fake sh*te that feels artificial and intrusive. Treat the patient, not the mouth. Make people know they are valued and show them how to look after their own mouths.
I have a personal philosophy of not buying things I don’t need, with money I don’t have to try and impress people I don’t even know.
You might want to be the next Newton Fahl or Jason Smithson though. You might feel to do this you have to have thousands of followers on Instagram and Twitter. But Social media is a double-edged sword. It’s a minefield where the GDC are involved. And you make one mistake on the wrong patient, and the whole world knows about it. It can even be a road to riches, but only for those who get it right. Most of those chasing this goal won’t make it. They either won’t have the skills, they won’t have the social media presence, or will self-sabotage or be blown out of the water by that one patient they should never have treated.
Delivering health is low risk, and is also what the majority of people actually want. If you do it correctly, it also allows you to keep your practice overheads down which means you can make a substantial income without sticking your head above the parapet. If you think litigation is bad now, give it 5 years when the lawyers really get their teeth into how poor most dentists are at getting consent.
That’s my flawed and biased opinion and I’m sticking to it.
If you want to know more about how I ran my practice it’s all in my book