I am a lucky guy. My son does my lab work in our in-office lab. He gets to meet the patients that he is doing the work for. He’s a lucky guy. I have told him so, because most dental technicians work in a room all day totally isolated. If you visit a dental lab you will see technicians sitting at a bench working on models, wearing loupes and listening to their iPods.
Dan Pink in his new book, To Sell is Human, describes the work of radiologists who also sit in dimly lit rooms all day, reading x-rays, CT scans and MRIs. He says that this job can “dull these highly skilled doctor’s interest in their jobs. And worse, if the work begins to feel impersonal and mechanical, it can diminish their actual performance.”
An Israeli radiologist, Yeonatan Turner wanted to know more about this so he conducted some research to see if he could “add some gusto” to the job. As a resident, with the patient’s permission, he photographed about 300 patients coming in for CT scans. Then he enlisted a group of radiologists for his experiment.
Then the radiologists read the scans, but when the scans came up on their computers, so did the photograph that Turner took. After reading the scans they filled out a questionnaire. According to Pink, “All of them reported feeling more empathy to the patients after seeing the photograph, and being more meticulous in the way they examined the scan.”
What happened next was really strange. Three months later Turner took 81 of the photo-accompanied scans and let the same radiologists read them again…but this time without the photos attached. This time 80% of “incidental findings” were not reported. In other words, without the photos there seemed to be a disconnect and there was less scrutiny with the same radiographs. What Turner determined was,
“Our study emphasizes approaching the patient as a human being and not as an anonymous case study.”
So what can dentists and dental technicians take away from this study?
We must remember to make all of our services as personal as possible. The more personal we make our services the greater chance of doing a good job and we become better at motivating one another.
Maybe the key to getting better work from the dental lab is to send along a photo with every patient. Hospitals are now doing it for Pap smears, blood tests and other diagnostics.
For a more complete discussion of Turners work I highly recommend Dan Pink’s new book…To Sell is Human.