Recently I started going to a new dentist. If you remember, in the last month I wrote a piece called, “The mouth as the gateway to wellness” so I’m following my own advice. I like the dentist not only because she knows what she’s doing, but she’s very clear on her mission for her patients, “helping patients to keep their own teeth for the rest of their lives”. That requires preventive work and fixing problems so they don’t proceed any further. All this takes money. I’ll do another post in the coming weeks on dental insurance but it’s still too raw.
Anyhow, one of the things they use is injectable powdered antibiotics below the gum line. The original estimate had the split where I pay $11 and the insurance pays $45 per tooth. When I went last week the bill was unusually high so I called the next day for an explanation of the charges. The front office person informed me that the insurance isn’t covering any of the antibiotic so the $56 per tooth was all on me. Don’t you think it would have been nice for someone to point this out before they injected me with 6 x $56?
I can tell you that business practices are one of the reasons that I personally have changed doctors and dentists in the past. The front office/business manager is just as much a part of the medical team as the doctor, medical assistants, dental hygenists, etc. I understand that their job is to increase the revenue of the office but not in deceiving ways. I left my las dentist because I didn’t like their business practices.
As a patient, especially someone diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness we have to understand that business is part of medicine. The question is how do we keep these medical business managers in line so their practices are in line with the doctor they represent. The mission should be the same for everyone in the office. Full disclosure has to be a part of the process or we as patients begin to wonder what else the medical/dental staff is hiding or not sharing.
What’s the moral of the story? I’m now a much more informed consumer at the dentist. I ask more questions and what they think is important may be for their own bottom line, but it may not change the outcome of my care so why go into debt for something that is a fringe benefit and not a defining moment.