As the end of the year approaches, most people will celebrate the holidays, ring in the new year and reflect back on the year. We as dentists however will be extending office hours, double booking appointments and rushing out cases in an attempt for our patients to use the last of their insurance benefits. Also known as “Use it or Lose it.” But with this surge of patient and treatment influx, I couldn’t help but wonder if it all comes at a cost.
You often hear about how dental insurance can often influence treatment plans and patient decisions. That has never been more apparent than in the past month. My schedule has never been more full, and for that I can’t complain. But it seems like patients are finally deciding they want those last couple of crowns, and that they need them before December 31st. All of sudden, patients are now conforming to your schedule as opposed to their own, and offering to come as frequently as needed and staying as long as need. And yes, that is great too. However, the line is crossed when they begin to dictate the treatment and the timeline and when corners are cut to get that claim in before the year end. As a new graduate who is still getting up to speed on just about everything, working on such a short timeline makes me question a lot of things.
Take for example the patient that comes in at the beginning of November and decides they are ready for those four anterior crowns that you treatment planned at the beginning of the year. One of which needs endo, the other that needs crown lengthening. As you try to accommodate the time crunch, you hit a road block. You need at least 3-4 weeks for the tissue to heal after crown the lengthening and the lab needs at least 3 weeks to fabricate the crowns because they are also backed up with the end of the year rush. So then you try to cut time by letting the tissue heal for 2 weeks and still asking the lab to rush the case. This scenario is all too real to me. And the fact of the matter is, I’m not ready to be cutting those corners all for the sake of my patient cashing out their FSA account. I know it sounds foolish, and many seasoned dentists would probably scoff at this notion. But as a new grad, I’m just not ready to take those risks.
So how do we resolve these conflicts, you ask? Well it doesn’t look like insurance companies will change their ways anytime soon, meaning the end of the year will always be a hectic time in our practices. I will say that I’ve done best to work within the limitations I have set, and when explaining my approach to patients, they usually understand. Additionally, I always go back to the evidence. Incorporating evidence based dentistry can be tedious, but it results in more predictable outcomes and helps my argument when talking to those patients insisting on rushing things. As we grow as young dentists, I’m sure we will adapt and prepare ourselves for this time of year. Until then, avoiding the rush may be more valuable than cashing in at the last minute.
Are you currently having a similar experience in your practice? What’s your approach to handling these situations?