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A little too 'PC' for me: What’s up with the online ratings for our dental care services?

Aug. 1, 2017
JoAnn Gurenlian, RDH, comments on the trend of consumers going online to rate dental care services.  

By JoAnn Gurenlian, RDH, PhD

Lately have you noticed that everywhere you go, you are asked to provide a rating for the services you received or to click “Like” on that company’s Facebook page? It is really starting to bother me. It seems as though there is pressure to give a five-star rating, as if the company will not survive without that positive rating. It’s almost like everyone is on a quest for the supreme rating: the grocery store, the hair salon, the gas station, the post office, retail stores, restaurants, dental offices, medical offices, specialty practices, and even the ER!

When did we go from providing excellent service to needing a high-five on Facebook? I realize that this is a marketing strategy. When a physician or dentist says she needs a better rating, however, something is wrong.

My graduate student tells me that the ER physician she works with says he cannot talk to his patients about being overweight. Apparently, the patients won’t have a happy experience and ratings will go down. Something is very wrong with that. When we have lost the ability to provide quality and effective care to our patients because online marketing has overpowered the health-care industry, it is time to take a step back and re-examine our priorities.

When I need a health-care provider, the last thing I look at is the number of smiley faces and stars after his or her name from some bogus rating scale on some website. I want to know how many surgeries the provider has conducted and their outcomes. I want to know about the provider’s knowledge base, whether the procedure will be conducted in a sterile environment, whether the anesthesiologist will take note of my allergy history, etc.

When I am searching for a dentist and dental hygienist, I want them to be highly skilled, uphold professional standards, follow OSHA guidelines, practice evidence-based dentistry, and treat others with respect. I want all of my health-care providers to listen to my concerns, and I want them to explain things to me so I understand what will occur and offer me the opportunity to participate in decision making. And I want my health-care providers to be honest with me, even if that means they have to tell me I am overweight, that I have cancer, that I have stain on my teeth, or whatever else might not make me happy.

I want to hear all the news - not just the news that will leave me happy.

How can patients participate in their health care and make decisions about what is best for them if their health-care providers are not delivering their best because they are worried about their ratings and being politically correct? I point this out as strongly as I do because I think this affects the way we practice.

We stop ourselves from talking to our patients about important health issues because we don’t want to offend them. The practice will get three or four stars instead of five. We won’t cross the line and bring up the topics of smoking cessation, weight loss, counseling, treatment for addiction, cardiac care, or whatever else seems important because we want happy patients and happy ratings.

In doing so, we cross the line into supervised neglect. We see what’s wrong and fail to say anything. We do nothing. When our patients come back to us with their attorneys (or not) and say they now have cardiac disease, they are severely depressed, or they have oral cancer or lung cancer, and we did nothing, what will our response be then? Well, at least we got five stars on Facebook! RDH

JOANN R. GURENLIAN, RDH, PhD, is president of Gurenlian & Associates, and provides consulting services and continuing education programs to health-care providers. She is a professor and dental hygiene graduate program director at Idaho State University, and past president of the International Federation of Dental Hygienists.