Patient Care Over Customer Service

dentist unhappy patient

Consumerism has hit the healthcare industry, which means patients are shopping around for good deals when they look for dentists and physicians.

However, we need to be careful not to confuse patient care with customer service and, by extension, catering. As dentists and physicians, we have to remember that we’re providing care, first and foremost.

Treating Without Catering

Surveys have shown that while patient satisfaction can be a positive influence in treatment, it’s not a gauge for success.

A large part of patient satisfaction comes from feeling like they are a part of the treatment, which comes down to communication with the caregiver.

The second study by Jackson and Kroenke examined 750 patients and concluded:

“But tests and prescription medications were not the most common expectations; instead, patients were more interested in information on their diagnosis and prognosis.

In fact, failure of physicians to address diagnosis and prognosis was the most common cause of unmet patient expectations, and patients who received adequate information on diagnosis and prognosis experienced better symptom relief and functional outcomes.”

In point of fact, patients most want good communication, and they report reduced symptoms and better outcomes when they receive it.


A Moral/Ethical Question

Dentists, physicians and other caregivers must do what the patient needs, not necessarily what the patient wants.

Of course the patient will feel satisfied with treatment if they get exactly what they want. At the same time, though, they’ll be less healthy.

By treating patients like customers, as the nurse Amy Bozeman pointed out in a Scrubs magazine article, hospitals succumb to the ingrained cultural notion that the customer is always right.

“Now we are told as nurses that our patients are customers, and that we need to provide excellent service so they will maintain loyalty to our hospitals,” Bozeman wrote. “The patient is NOT always right. They just don’t have the knowledge and training.”

…More disturbing, several health systems are now using patient satisfaction scores (likely from hospitals’ individual surveys) as a factor in calculating nurses’ and physicians’ pay or annual bonuses. These health systems are ignoring the possibility that health providers, like hospitals, could have fantastic patient satisfaction scores yet higher numbers of dead patients, or the opposite.

The Atlantic

It’s really up to the individual dentist or caregiver whether they cater to their patients. At that point, it comes down to moral and ethical values.

Patient Care Over Customer Service

As consumerism hits the healthcare industry, it’s vital that caregivers including dentists and physicians stay true to their intentions of providing the best care possible.

If you follow the old adage that the customer is always right, providing great care may conflict with providing great customer service at times. But we can’t treat patients as merely customers by catering to them.


By Quinn Dufurrena, DDS