I recently interviewed a doctor to develop dental patient education videos for his practice. The doctor’s winning personality and professional demeanor came across very well on video. He has a very fluid and easy speaking style and he inspires confidence. This doctor asked me a great question. He wanted to know if his interview answers should contain just the positive side of dental procedures or whether he should also talk about potential complications to cover informed consent.
My answer is that we have to make a distinction between relating positive stories to patients as part of patient education and sitting down with a patient to discuss a specific treatment plan. For purposes of a patient education video, the doctor has every right to talk about success stories. As long as the information is totally factual, there is no problem. If the success rate with dental implants in his office is 98%, he can say that. If a patient told him with tears in her eyes that the treatment he provided “changed her life,” then that is a powerful human interest story that he should share.
Patients are looking for solutions to their problems, and doctors routinely solve problems and improve the quality of patients’ lives. Quoting statistics accurately and relating positive comments from patients are perfectly acceptable ways to get the word out about services provided.
When discussing a particular course of treatment recommended for a patient, the doctor should explain that every dental procedure comes with risks. The documentation of informed consent should be thorough, consistent, and systematic and done in accordance with all applicable laws. However, the need to review the possible complications of a procedure should not prevent doctors from truthfully stating that they have successfully treated many patients who are now very happy with their results.
In practice management, think of patient education as talking up dentistry to get people’s attention. The goal is to make patients aware, peak their interest, and motivate them to come to the office to learn how dental treatment can help them. Once the discussion turns to the patient’s individualized treatment plan, informed consent should be part of the process so that the patient can make a fully informed decision.