You don’t even know me.
I opened my dental practice in the Spring of 1996 when managed care was as far away in the distance as Mars…or so I thought. Eventually, it showed up.
And so it was, that over the years, more and more prospective new patients began to ask my least favorite question…”Are you in network?”
I was not much of a fan of managed care from the get-go, though selectively chose a network or two for the steady stream of new patients it certainly provided. Seemed like a good idea at the time to occupy my new associates and to expand the word of mouth referral base for my predominantly fee for service practice. But eventually, the demand for insurance network participation would trickle over to me as my associates left to start their own practices, and I was left to answer the increasing public demand for network providers. Sure, I did not appreciate the fee reduction, but perhaps more than that, I did not appreciate having to audition for this new category of patient.
In truth, most patients hate the dentist before they even get there, and a word of mouth referral tends to mitigate this hatred before a patient’s first appointment.
An insurance referral, on the other hand, is nothing more than a random list of names which choice might be based on a mixed bag of online reviews or even a face to face interview.
The word of mouth referral typically walks in with a smile on her face.
After all, their friend or family member just raved about you.
The insurance referral has yet to decide if you are worthy and may even walk into your office hostile.
It was my Met Life patient Melanie M. who told me she was anxious at the onset of her procedure and even unsure about my capability. I was in no way offended. Melanie did not know me from Adam and we were about to embark on what was no minor procedure to be sure…we were redoing a failing anterior bridge.
What I told her was this:
“Melanie. How can you trust me? You don’t even know me. I can sit here and tell you that I am a great dentist. But the truth is, I will either do a good job or I won’t. The only thing I can promise is that I will give you my best and that my best is typically successful.”
Melanie became one of my most loyal patients.
Today, I can laugh at myself, and wonder if choosing a doctor from an insurance list is any different from randomly choosing one out of the Yellow Pages, on which I relied on for a dozen new patients a week before the introduction of the internet or the in-networks.
In truth, patients will always search “somewhere” to find their doctors…and earning their trust will always be part of the job description.
Wishing you Peace and Grateful Patients.