The Domino Effect: Declining Trust, Declining Health and How to Fix It
Have you ever watched an old movie or TV show where the local doctor made a house call? My daughters and I love watching old episodes of Little House On The Prairie, and of course, one of my favorite characters is Dr. Baker. He knows every family in town on a deeply personal level, and the trust everyone has in him is obvious. He walks into their homes, and you can tell he’s not just a doctor, but a trusted family friend.
That feeling of a trusted family friend was one of the reasons Peter and I started Deering Dental. The modern healthcare industry has become too focused on test results, profits, and insurance stipulations. Add those factors to the ever-increasing costs to provide quality care, and the picture makes a lot of sense. Doctors are being forced to spend a lot more time doing things other than caring for patients, overhead is going up, and getting reimbursed by insurance has become a never-ending battle. All this has led to what I call fast-food medicine. Serve as many people as possible, as cheaply as possible, and hope that at the end of the day, you’ve made enough to make payroll.
With most doctors being forced into this high-volume way of practicing medicine, it’s no wonder surveys have been showing a decline in trust. In the past, doctors may not have had all the fancy gizmos we have nowadays, but they also didn’t practice in a manner that’s more akin to a factory worker. That ability to spend time with you makes the difference because to genuinely care for someone, you have to know them. Test results alone can’t give you the whole picture of what’s going on, which means if your doctor can’t take the time to speak with you, they won’t be able to provide the best diagnosis and treatment options for you.
Trust in doctors is on the decline, and mounting evidence supports my hypothesis that this decline in trust is leading to declines in health.
For example, in Trust in the Health Care Professional and Health Outcome: A Meta-analysis, the authors concluded, “Patients reported more beneficial health behaviors, less symptoms and higher quality of life and to be more satisfied with treatment when they had higher trust in their health care professional.”
I’ll give you an example of what a lack of trust leads to. Recently, I got to sit down with my new guest, Andrea. As we spoke and I had the chance to listen to her story, it appears her last doctor wanted to focus on doing implants and didn’t seem interested in addressing her other concerns. His focus was on what he wanted, not Andrea’s concerns. Andrea wasn’t sold, but those seeds of distrust kept her away from the dentist for some time. After a thorough exam, I determined there are definitely urgent problems that need to be addressed; as for the implants, they may be required in the future, but they’re not necessary right now and will have no immediate effect on the health of the rest of her mouth.
My friend Dennis is another excellent example of how important trust is. After a string of bad experiences, Dennis had had enough and avoided the dentist for years. Things finally reached a point where Dennis knew he had to do something, and luckily he found us. Dennis and I had a long discussion where I got to understand his history, hygiene habits, diet, and anything else that might help in crafting an ideal treatment plan. I gave Dennis two options, and to his surprise, the ideal option would save him 5,000 dollars. When he asked me in disbelief how the ideal option was cheaper, I explained to him that by straightening his teeth with Invisalign first, I would be able to address his issues with less drilling and fewer crowns. The process would take longer, but the results would be more ideal and longer lasting. When Dennis understood that I valued his health above all else, we built enough trust that he was ready to move forward and fix the damage from years of avoiding the dentist.
So what exactly is trust, and how can doctors build more trust with their patients? According to researchers Roman Lewandowski & Anatoliy Goncharuk, Restoring patient trust in healthcare: medical information impact case study in Poland, “Interpersonal trust is characterized by intimacy and closeness, and relates directly with people we know personally, whom we recognize by name, and with whom we interact in a face-to-face manner.”
When was the last time you went to the doctor, and could describe your experience in that way?
I hope when you think about your visits with me, that’s how you feel, and if it is and you have friends that would appreciate the same level of care and attention, send them our way. I promise to take care of them in the same manner I’ve cared for you. I know we’re just one little dental practice. Still, I really believe that if we treat you and everyone else who walks through our doors with kindness and genuine caring, we may be able to change what people expect from their doctors and, that way, push more physicians to change course and focus on what really matters, You.
And if for any reason you feel that I’ve failed you, send me an email or call me so that I can understand and make it better moving forward.