Give honesty a chance

John Makin on why it’s important and ethically sound to inform your patients when their dentist uproots to another practice.

When a popular associate decides to move to pastures new, it’s only human to feel disappointed, but also a little worried.

It is not just a matter of replacing a respected member of the dental team, there is also a possibility their patients may decide to follow them to their new practice.

Concerns about a patient exodus sometimes leads practices to ask their associates not to mention they are leaving, but in the DDU’s experience, this approach can be self-defeating.

Firstly, you may be placing the associate and yourself in a difficult ethical position.

The General Dental Council expects dental professionals to treat patients fairly and put their interests before ‘any financial, personal or other gain’.

Knowingly keeping quiet in this situation might be seen as misleading, especially when patients sign off by saying they will see you next time.

Similarly, it can lead to difficulties for your reception team when booking the patient’s next appointment with an associate who will no longer be around by the time they attend.

Sacrificing goodwill

Most importantly, it does not make business sense to sacrifice the goodwill of patients who have attended in the expectation of being treated by a particular dentist by telling them on arrival that they will be treated by someone else.

Patients in this position may feel disrespected, especially if they felt the previous associate understood their treatment history and had a particularly good relationship with them.

They may decide to leave anyway or make a complaint about the lack of communication.

Or worse, they may take their frustrations out on the blameless dentist who has taken over their care.

It makes more sense from an ethical and commercial standpoint to be upfront with patients.

For example, you and the departing associate could compose a joint handover letter, announcing the news and introducing their successor.

Patients may be disappointed, but it is likely they will appreciate your honesty and be more inclined to give the new dentist a chance.

Of course, continuity of care is important, but of equal value for patients is a practice that makes an effort to consider their feelings and communicate well.

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