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Maybe you haven’t noticed. Maybe it isn’t important, and yet maybe it is. There is an alarming trend afoot in our culture. It is a becoming more and more a culture of ‘using people’. Maybe it’s always been this way, but my sense is that as our culture becomes more and more technological in nature, it becomes more material and less spiritual as well.

As the I-Phone, Blackberry, and laptop computers proliferate, people spend less and less time face-to-face. Rather than talk with each other face-to-face, the e-mail takes the place of human one-on-one communication or does it? People check in and out at work via computers, and technology is literally taking the place of human interaction.

I visited a dental practice several weeks ago where patients came into the office, touched their picture on a computer screen as a way of checking into the office. The moment they checked in with the computer, it started to time their visit.

No one spoke to any of the patients that came into this office, in spite of having 3 people at the front desk. No one spoke to any of the patients that were being served in the office. In a more typical office, you simply go to the front desk and sign in, many times not even greeted by another human being.

The lack of attention, the lack of respect, the lack of recognition, the lack of human contact and concern for other human beings is alarming, if not frightening.

Truly our culture has become a culture where we: LOVE THINGS and USE PEOPLE.

It wasn’t always this way. The interesting fact is this. The more we chase money and materialism as a way of life, the more alienated we become from ourselves. I meet so many dentists who are ‘too busy to be happy’, too enthralled with production and making money that they have lost contact with the important people in their lives. They truly use the very people in which they work with little or no concern for their welfare. And of course the people who work use their employers and put in as little effort as possible to get their paychecks.

So we have developed a culture of users. This may sound like a very negative indictment, but it’s the truth.

Technology was supposed to improve our lives, help us work less and enjoy life more. The opposite has happened. People are working more, but enjoying their relationships less. Doubt this fact, then look at the statistics. Higher and higher divorce rate. More and more couples living together (in some form, maybe weekends) but unable or unwilling to make a commitment to each other; the unbelievable increase in physical crime; the rapid intake of drugs; ever increases in suicide; and we kill ourselves with silent habits such as tobacco, alcohol, and fast food.

Indeed, we are a culture on its way to extinction. Medicine has become more and more technologically driven. Physicians have become more and more removed from establishing the relationships with their patients which have actually been proven to help people cure themselves. Dentists are the same and maybe worse. As a coach, I watch dentists spend million of dollars, literally billions of dollars on new buildings, new equipment and new technology and yet will only spend money on their own personal development (and that of the team) until their business is nearly extinct.

Dentists, the people I speak with every week, are more concerned about their PRODUCTION QUOTA for the day and the number of new patients than the quality of care that they deliver every day. Americans have always been an independent group, a bit on the ‘success is for me at any price group’. But now it has become a national pastime.

I’ll use you to get what I want. How to Win Friends and Manipulate People would be a book that would describe the current movement afoot in our culture. Yes, I realize that you don’t need a relationship with a person to treat their disease. And because so many of us are ‘disease-centered’ rather than ‘health-centered’, all we need do is to herd them through like cattle and treat as many teeth, or place as many implants or crowns as we can in a day. These same providers are upset, irritable, and angry most of the time.

No wonder patients shop around for the best price on a ‘piece of something’. They do so because they must. People have come to understand that they are being used, so they must ‘use’ someone else. This has led to the great ‘commodity trap’ that we find ourselves in. People can shop for most material goods, get the lowest price and move on.

The ‘self-service’ culture has become a culture of ‘no service’. As you build your bigger and bigger office, and buy more and more technology, and take on a bigger and bigger ‘overhead’, (business and personal expenses) I can guarantee you this will happen:

You will spend less time with people: your family, team and patients. You will find yourself becoming more and more unhappy. There will be something gnawing at you and you won’t know exactly what it is, but it is a beginning form of alienation and depression:

You will become more and more dependent on technology and your patients will accept less dentistry on average as you speed them up and run them through your ‘technology mill.’
You will notice your personality changing and you will feel more restless, less at peace with yourself and the life you live.
You will begin to lose the joy in the small simple things in life.
Your life begins to become unraveled but it doesn’t seem to make sense to you.
You have trouble having fun.

You have entered the CHRONIC DISORDER (HUMAN DYSFUNCTIONAL) ZONE. Let me say again as I’ve stated many times recently: “If you don’t like the journey of living and practicing, you’ll hate the destination.”

If you are interested in arresting this disease or eliminating it, call me and we’ll talk.

Michael Schuster
Director, The Schuster Center

Views: 376


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Comment by Mary Jane RDH BS on March 10, 2010 at 6:18am
Just one of the many reasons I love this profession is the time I get to interact with my patients..I have had the privilege to stay in practices for years which allows you to really get to know your people. Technology has given us the opportunity to help them improve the health in ways we could never imagine even ten years ago..but it will never, at least for me, change the relationship I have with my patients.
Comment by Roger Brown on March 9, 2010 at 7:19pm
Well said indeed! There is an obvious trend in this country, if not the world, as described in Dr. Schuster's article. There is way too much of the attitude of "Value money and use people".And, it is far too common to see people staring at their cellular phones in public, or walking with it on their ear with that big grin on their faces. Yet people will walk right past you an not acknowledge you in passing on the street or stores, wherever. I think people have become uncomfortable with face to face, one on one interactions, even if it is just casual civility. Yes this society has become a way too isolatedgroup of individuals and just plain impersonal. People have obviously lost something that is basic and important. That is, if they ever had it to start with. This is expecially true of the younger generation who have been raised on technology from the very beginning. They do not know how to have a conversation. They obviously do not like unfamiliararty or being out of their comfort zone- that six inch space around their own heads.
Yes! We all need to admit to this allrming circumstance we are in now. Some of us need to get our heads out of the sand on this and start opening up. What is everyone so afraid of out there? Do they even know this is happening? We need to get this word out on a large scale before we end up irreversibly a society of automatons.
Comment by Meg Kaiser on February 25, 2010 at 9:52am
Wow. Well said, Dr. Schuster. Unfortunately much of this is right on target. As a patient, I've accepted the fact that I'm just a warm body to most doctors I must see. Of course there are exceptions, but they always take me by surprise. I can only imagine this will get worse as I get older.
But the pages of Dental Economics, and your voice is regularly among them, try to guide dentists to successful practices by truly caring for their patients and developing relationships with them. How many of the readers are listening? Hopefully they won't get so caught up in the latest technology that they forget it's all for their patients.
Thanks for an excellent viewpoint, Dr. Schuster. I hope you have some takers.


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