Monday, June 20, 2011

Doc, Please Don't Send Me a Birthday Card!

I remember vividly the advent of computers in dental offices - after all I had to purchase one to keep up with my competitors.  The days of my girls filling out claim forms by hand "whenever they had a minute" were gone in an instant.  Every computer system salesman adamantly claimed that their brand could save me time and money (it did neither), and - best of all - "market" my practice.  (Those of you who know my cynical nature can rightly assume that my bullshit detectors went off immediately.)  I'm not a big believer in "marketing" professional services.  Yet there was no turning back.  (At least the recall and accounting functions would help us, I reasoned.)  The monster was bought, installed, tweaked, and the data entered, corrected, and the whole thing "went live" with great fanfare.  At the time I was practising with a highly respected elder statesman dentist, a real gentleman, and it was at some social event or other that summer that one of his patients came up to me and said "you know, I got a birthday card from Dr. X the other day, except my birthday isn't for two more months.  I really like him as my dentist, but it's weird getting a birthday card from him, please ask him not to send them anymore."  (At the time, email was in its infancy so the monster generated weekly lists of patients' birthdays which resulted in - you guessed it - my girls having to fill out birthday cards "whenever they had a minute".)  Yep, just as I had suspected.  Past about ten years of age, people see through this corny marketing stuff and generally don't like it.  Medical doctors, lawyers and accountants don't send out birthday cards, so why do dentists?  The very next Monday I asked J to shut off that damn birthday card function, and we never sent another one as far as I know.  The moral of the story is that just because your office computer can do something doesn't mean you should let it.  Especially when it's reminding you you're getting older.