The effectiveness of Grow My Practice is being widely acknowledged by the members of the dental fraternity and is currently being used by more than 3000 dental clinics across India. However, recently, the program is facing criticism from competitors and many senior dentists. It has been severely criticized on the basis that it has led to commercialization of the dental profession. Many senior dental specialists are of the view that use of such psychological and persuasive rebiasing methods to convince the patients is entirely unethical and many have also raised concern that many clinicians are misusing this program to market, scare, manipulate and paternalistically coerce patients into accepting the dental health treatment advice and to serve their personal and financial interests. Grow My practice is not averse to criticism, however, it offers some valid justifications in its defense.
Firstly, dentists in India frequently encounter patients who make choices that contravene their long-term oral health goals. Behavioral economists have shown that irrationalities and self-thwarting tendencies pervade human decision making, and they have identified a number of specific heuristics (rules of thumb) and biases that help explain why dental patients in India most of the times make such counterproductive decisions. Lack of oral health literacy, reluctance and ignorant attitude towards the dental health exists in Indian society which is very difficult to address by traditional means of the dental patient education program. Abandoning or leaving Indian dental patients to make their own (potentially bad) decisions, merely pay lip service to the promotion of dental health services in India. Therefore using knowledge of decision-making psychology to persuade patients to engage in healthy behaviors or to make treatment decisions that foster their long-term goals is ethically justified by clinicians’ duties to promote their patients’ interests. These techniques offer a way to bring the patient to a well-rounded view of the decision at hand and the issues at stake.
Secondly, Marketers and have been using these methods for decades to get patients to engage in unhealthy behaviors. Recently, many medical specialties and policymakers are beginning to consider the use of similar approaches to influence healthy choices. It is time for dental clinicians also to make use of behavioral psychology in their interactions with patients.
The bitter truth:
The business of dentistry or any other medical profession is to market their services, facilities, and skills to a maximum number of patients possible. In our increasingly complex society, the business aspects of dentistry have become more important even for the “survival” of certain dental practice styles. In other words, the dental practice must be managed as a business in order to have the ability to provide dental services to the community. However, We emphasize that clinicians should use their wisdom, dental ethics, and values while offering the treatment and should “NOT” use knowledge of decisional psychology to serve “ONLY” their own interests—whether personal, financial or otherwise. This emphasis inevitably requires some trust that clinicians will prioritize their patients’ interests, and behave professionally and exercise their fiduciary obligations to their patients. Persuasion using methods garnered from decisional psychology is justified only to the extent that it is in the best interests of the patients.