Human Value Dentistry – Our Manifesto
In early 2012, patient services manager Nils Sens did something that has made Your German-Philippine Dental Studio so popular.
Interested in online reviews, he looked at those dentists who receive mostly 5-star ratings, collecting more than 500 of such reviews. Categorizing all of the comments and feedback (which took a serious amount of coffee and cut-pasting), it became evident that the things people really love about their favorite dentists usually fall into 8 service aspects. He called the resulting concept “Human Value Dentistry”, because most of them are soft-skill-related human value categories.
Generally speaking, the two main aspects of Human Value Dentistry are the positive change in quality of life (think before-and-after) through dental treatment, and the way you’re treated or ‘valued’ throughout the entire process.
It’s not enough to ‘educate’ patients about dental procedures to ‘sell’ necessary dental work and then go ahead and ‘get the job done’ – we want to treat our guests as human beings, i.e. with care and sensibility. The below core ingredients to our own office are no company secret – we encourage dentists to learn from us and realize what patients should expect from 5-star treatment. If any dentist – local or abroad – chances upon these key principles we hope to share and inspire a new perspective.
How I developed a better way to do dental care.
I have been lucky to see both sides. Formerly a frequent dental patient, I crossed over to dental care in 2012, when I offered some informal business coaching to Dr. Mendoza, starting a successful partnership. From that moment on, I was both patient and practice at once, in that I took myself as ‘model patient’ in many treatment situations. I wanted to solve the mystery of relaxing and painless dental care and I went ahead and analysed tons of online reviews to get to the essence of 5-star excellence.
Coincidentally, my studies of linguistics started to make sense professionally, as great communication turned out to be high on the list of what patients appreciate. It really makes a difference in the medical profession. This includes listening to what people say in between-the-lines, as well as breaking down complex topics for someone who isn’t a dentist. Language psychology really matters – prior to, during and after treatment. Trust-based relationships always require that extra effort.
I started thinking a little bit outside the box and drew inspiration from fields like gastronomy and air travel. I looked at dentistry as a service and also did a good deal of introspective squeezing, remembering my favorite dentist back in Bremen, and what had made me change dentists that time. The result is a truly holistic office concept called “Human Value Dentistry” – our unique ingredient for building lasting friendships with our guests.
(Quezon City, 2015)
Safety & Quality
Empathy & CareSitting on our own dental chair...
Treat everyone like you’d want to be treated yourself!
I have always wondered how people can forget so easily where they came from. Have you noticed how so many long-time bicyclists, upon car purchase, start hating everything on two wheels? Or to give a closer-to-home example, people who have commuted for decades, end up in fat SUVs complaining about tricycles or jeepneys? When dentists undergo dental school, I figured, they have ‘metamorphosed’ in a similar way: the patient’s P.O.V. gets lost as “patients” become this somewhat irrational human obstacle between condition and treatment. The young dentist has changed over to the ‘other side’.
Just one example: dentists usually aren’t conscious about patients not knowing the purpose of all the things used in a procedure and that’s not even taken for granted – we don’t know what we don’t know. Close our eyes – the last time you saw a dentist, what were all these instruments for? Uh-huh? You were being ‘worked on’…
Empathy is the ability (or effort) to assume the perspective of someone else, imagining their feelings as if it were your own, and grant them validity. Dentistry, sadly, is a subject that attracts many acknowledgement-hungry egomaniacs and it is sad how dental schools completely miss out on empathy exams (at least to stop the psychopaths and sadists from graduating), or empathy development coachings. We don’t feel what we don’t feel.
At Your German-Philippine Dental Studio, we introduce each hand instrument, process step, and material. We always make sure to communicate with patients as a team and on eye-level.
We ask permission to do things. We make sure you are ready before going over to the next step. We make sure to incorporate your feelings, while also sharing with you on a screen everything Dr. Mendoza can see. Empathy yields better relationships.
We ask permission to do things. We make sure you are ready before doing something new.
Treating everyone as carefully as we treat children!
The second benchmark is young patients. Looking back on how both of us had experienced dental care when we were little, I took Dr. Mendoza on a time travel to see what to avoid and what to do differently. After all, we are but grown-up children, with the only difference that we can now rationalize things. Adults, too, want to feel that they can trust a dentist. If you can treat kids, you can treat everyone.
Kids are also great at detecting bullshit. They know quite well when they’re being fooled into compliance. An office that looks ‘child-friendly’ (eg. with toys in the reception) but turns out to be a cold-blooded business can’t fool a child.
All this requires seeing things like someone who is not a dentist, and being able to imagine and respect someone else’s feelings is called empathy.
Relaxation EnvironmentA zen-like dental studio with a feel-good atmosphere
Anxiety often comes from not knowing what’s going on and/or from being in an environment that makes you uncomfortable.
Information giving and listening
This core value totally overlaps with ‘communication’ and I’d like to take the points I’m making down there as a basis. The way we make efforts in explaining things or in listening to people’s concerns can make a difference in anxiety-reduction. Trust and relaxation are interdependent: we relax more in an environment where we can trust others.
But there’s the other, physical sense of zero-anxiety environment. The stranger a place feels, sounds, smells and looks, the harder it is to relax there. I’ve spent some quality time thinking about the best ways to design a dental office. I realized that the best way is to avoid the typical design of a dental office as much as possible.
- shapes (round, avoid sharp edges)
- colors (avoid red, as we subconsciously associate it with blood/warning)
- room (avoid claustrophobic places)
- light (too bright is painful, darkness isn’t good either)
- materials (soft, homey, quality, transparent – wood is good idea. Glass = modern & transparent, but it also looks fragile, can break, see-through is less ‘sheltering’. Stone = reliability, but avoid roughness. Metal (like stone & glass, con: feels cold. Fabrics are great but must smell, feel and look clean!))
Three of the many things we did on purpose:
- We created the reception bigger than in most offices (ratio between waiting area and treatment rooms): this removes the anxiety of “waiting in front of the operatory”.
- No reception front desk removes a crucial ‘authority barrier’ (no person standing behind a desk, no walking up to it and “begging for an audience with the king(queen)” kind of feeling).
- People feel more at ease when an exit is in plain view. A Fight-or-flight thing. This is why we turned the dental chairs to the door. This is, btw, why we have a soft curtain instead of a door there.
Care CommunicationShow & tell… and listen!
Like most of them, this core value overlaps with other values, especially with “empathy”, “honesty”, ”empowerment” and “quality time”. Often lacking in dental offices are ways to make everyone feel included in the process as ‘valued partners’. In general, not enough information flows from dentist to guest, and not enough ‘turn-taking’ happens in the process.
Not knowing what’s going on sucks.
We ‘introduce’ each hand instrument, procedure step, and material, one by one. We always make sure to communicate with patients as a team and on eye-level. We also ask permission to do things, however minor.
Giving step-by-step information is one crucial way of putting our guests at least near the driver’s seat. I realized that airlines – who also deal with anxiety guests – give all this extra information for a purpose (eg. the position of the aircraft as a kind of ‘progress bar’. It’s a basic anxiety-reduction tool to ease the passenger’s mind. We want to know where we are and how long we still have to wait. People prefer announcements over surprises.
Professional ‘care communication’ also needs the skill and willingness to listen to people’s concerns. This may sound trivial, but throughout the 5-star ratings’ comments I found feedback like “the dental team really took time to listen to my concerns!” It is obviously something that strikes people as special in our busy world.
These criteria are all constitutive of Human Value Dentistry. Here you have it. The concept of HVD all laid out as a ‘manifesto’. This is our guiding codex and secret recipe – which we’d actually love to share with more patients and colleagues as well!
The concept comes with a generous CC license (attribution required), so dentists may feel free to contact us, follow or modify it and enjoy the results! We offer trainings, too.