Delegation shouldn’t mean abdication when it comes to discussing treatment costs with patients, Alun Rees says.

Some dentists hide their light away; they often fear rejection and are reluctant to tell their patients what can be done, what choices are available and, especially, how much it will cost.

They are reluctant to embrace the concept of selling, that is, the exchange of a product or service for money.

Often there is a problem of self-worth; sometimes a deep-rooted feeling that healthcare should not be associated with cash.

But the same individuals also expect a good income and to be valued by their patients.

Most grow up or learn to cope (practice ownership helps) and accept that dentistry exists in a commercial world.

Some do not, are unable to square their circle so have a less satisfactory career.

Often these dentists would say things like: ‘I just want to concentrate on my dentistry’ and would then leave the explanations to the reception team who were also expected to have the ‘money conversations’.

This can play havoc with any well thought out patient journey.

Introducing the treatment co-ordinator

The rise in the use of treatment co-ordinators (TCOs) is generally a good thing and I employed my team members similarly 30 years ago.

Used well, they encourage teamwork and improve the patient experience.

Of course, part of their role is the explanation of costs; this suits many dentists, especially those with a fear of any rejection.

Some TCOs are paid by results.

This introduces the human factor and risks them considering their own needs.

Dentists are still responsible for what is said, what the patient understands about every element of the treatment that is planned, including the risks and financial commitment.

It is important that dentists, especially young dentists, understand that delegation never means abdication and the price paid for persuasion may have to be paid in dealing with complaints further down the line.


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