This article is the second of three articles that address the questions and concerns many patients have around private health insurance extras cover in relation to dental care. As a Gold Coast dentist who owns the longest operating dental practice in the Gold Coast region – and who has chosen not to put the private health funds before my patients – I feel qualified to address these concerns. If you would like to know more, we recommend you contact the Australian Dental Association (ADA), go to the time2switch or fairhealthcare websites.
The patient-dentist relationship: Is your health fund interfering? We hope to answer this question in here as part of the article series we’ve written about private health funds and dental extras.
All our patients know the entire Define Dental team is focused on providing personalised care for every patient we see.
It may sound clichéd and old-fashioned, however, we think the patient-dentist relationship is incredibly important, not least because quality oral health care can – and does – save lives. To clarify, when I say patient-dentist relationship, I’m referring to the important relationship a patient has with all Define Dental dentists, hygienists, chairside assistants, and front office support. This is because together they represent the whole dental practice with whom patients have a relationship, rather than any one individual. We encourage patients to think of Define Dental as their ‘dental home’, and the enduring relationships – many spanning decades – that we have with our patients is evidence this approach resonates with them.
The importance of this relationship was brought into sharp focus with the recent situation in which we all found ourselves as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
Unlike many corporate owned dental practices, Define Dental made a conscious – and informed – decision to remain open, while our counterparts were very quick to close their doors. Of course, we took this action responsibly. We strictly adhered to all government and Australian Dental Association (ADA) regulations, allowing us to offer emergency services for patients. Rather than base our decision purely on bottom line considerations, in keeping with our philosophy of ‘patients first’, this meant we could remain open. Importantly, it allowed us to continue providing service to the people who matter most to us – our patients. Although this may not have been the ideal ‘business’ decision, we knew we were doing the right thing by our people – you and your families – and the community.
What’s the value of your relationship with your dental practice?
Here’s how Define Dental approaches this important relationship. We very much regard our patients as friends, and we treat them as such. Not only do we treat them as friends, they have become friends, with numerous patients receiving treatment from us over many years. We even see generations of families, from grandparents to young children. That’s just how it is at Define Dental.
Nurturing this quality in the care relationship with your dentist doesn’t happen by accident. It takes time, care, thoughtfulness, and professionalism. Most of all though, it requires mutual trust.
Now if I asked you whether you accept that a trusted relationship takes time to develop, regardless of who that relationship is with, you’d probably say ‘yes’. And I totally agree.
As a clinician, I see the benefit of a trusted relationship with dentists, hygienists, chairside assistants, and the front office team, every day. Patients who arrive anxious, leave more confident and comfortable after we become familiar with each other over several visits. In time, they even become happy to see us, whether they are receiving complex treatment or a regular check-up. I am never surprised when I hear some of our patients are so relaxed, they even fall asleep in our treatment chairs!
We see a positive impact on a patient’s overall health too when there is a relationship of trust like the one the Define Dental team cultivates with patients.
Does your health fund care about you the way Define Dental does?
Because a person’s health is never static, we’re able to walk alongside the patient, helping them navigate the ups and downs of life, adjusting treatment based on evidence and experience accumulated over time, rather than a single moment in their history. This is very hard to do when you’ve only met a person for the first time. By contrast, a relationship with your dentist based on trust means you have a trusted partner on your health journey.
We earlier touched on the fact that in choosing your dentist you will choose a dental practice and team you know, like and trust because that’s in your best interests. If the private health fund actively markets and directs you away from one of your trusted relationships I personally see that as unethical. It obviously fits in with their business model and suits their profit margins and shareholders. However, it’s worth asking the question: Does it serve you, the person who took the policy out in the first place to allow you choice over your health and dental care providers?
Is your health fund discriminating against you?
Consider whether your private health fund discriminates against you for choosing your own dentist (or any other health provider).
I’ve already touched on the fact that building a trusted relationship – with any healthcare provider – requires an investment made by both you and your dentist and the other members of the dental practice’s team.
If your health fund dictates who you should or shouldn’t see, it can be difficult to build that important foundation of trust. This is because it forces many patients to follow the fund, rather than the dental team with whom they have a trusted relationship and who puts their needs first rather than the fund’s.
Bear in mind too that policies vary widely between health funds. There is further confusion because of the lack of consistency between items that are covered and rebates that are paid. Limits are also placed on the total amount rebated in any year. All these differences make it virtually impossible to conduct a ‘like for like’ comparison between health funds.
It’s necessary then to consider why you’ve elected to have private health cover in the first place. If you’re like most patients, it’s because you want the best health care for your family. I find that usually means choosing the health care providers you want. People you know, like and trust!
Ask yourself the question: Does your health fund direct you to a dental practice they own, or have a financial agreement with, or do they give you the freedom to choose your own dental practice without prejudice? If they do let you choose, do you have out-of-pocket expenses as a result?
I feel this is a form of discrimination. People who choose their own dental practice to care for them are rebated less compared to people who succumb to the pressure of the fund and go to the fund’s “preferred” dental practice. They are rebated more, yet they pay the same premium as those who choose their own clinicians. Essentially, you are discriminated against for choosing your own dentist. Doesn’t it make sense that all members of a fund paying identical premiums receive the same rebates? I think so.
If you’d like to learn more about the value of the relationship with your chosen dental practice and its team, you can refer to the following useful resources for more information, or just ask us when you next visit. We’d love to share our philosophy of care with you so you understand exactly why we’re the Gold Coast’s longest operating dental practice.
www.time2switch.com.au – Information on this site can assist with your decision about the suitability of your health fund. A little time invested in this research may benefit your health and your budget.
www.fairhealthcare.com.au – Fair Health Care Alliance offers a personalised comparison service.
You can also visit the Australian Dental Association for more detailed information about choosing a private health fund.
Define Dental is the longest operating Gold Coast dentist and truly values the relationship you have with your dentist and the whole team. Located in Benowa on the Gold Coast, Define Dental has a team of dentists, led by Dr Les Jabbour, all of whom are committed to helping you achieve your best oral health. With a focus on education and raising awareness about common dental questions like whether private health insurance for dental is worth it, the Define Dental team is committed to putting the health of all patients where it should be – first and foremost, over and above provider contracts with private health funds. Learn more about our approach to care for our patients when you book an appointment today on 5597 2100.