By Darrell Pruitt DDS
Perhaps my ideas about the Internet, and the American Dental Association [ADA], which I have mentioned before are still too ahead of their time to be easily accepted by most dentists. When dentists grow accustomed to thinking in a certain way towards the structure of leadership in our professional organization, tradition causes many of them to assume that the system must be right. This is why my arguments, when first examined, create an outcry in defense of the status quo. It will take time rather than reason to convert some loyalists from tradition to transparency.
Internet Flattens Communications
The revolutionary Internet communication which I hope will occur between leaders of the American Dental Association and member dentists is, in a way, the hope of the entire nation. And, that I am the author of messages, shared either directly or through a friend-of-a-friend, is unnecessary to the public. It is the doctrine itself that is important, not the author. It is appropriate for me to assure you that I am not in any way connected to any business other than my practice of dentistry, and I have no affiliations with any political party. My staff and my patients hold me to the influence of reason and principle every day.
The Grip on HHS
Insurers have such an unfair grip on Health and Human Services [HHS] that it is easy for a dentist to confound insurance with government, and to feel that there is little distinction between them. They are different. They have different origins. Insurance was founded as free market business based on peoples’ fears of unexpected catastrophes, while our government was founded for protection of citizens from things like avarice.
The first is a patron to a fearful public; the latter is a punisher who strategically incites fear. They make a symbiotic team to coordinate intrusion while boasting to consumers that by working together they guarantee the highest quality care from the best dentists at incredibly low prices.
The natural pressures of free-market are ideal influences for both industry and consumers in any society. Interference in patient-dentist relationships by government, even where necessary, is a tangible cost that patients have to bear.
Our patients accept increases in fees caused by our government because they trust that government regulation is in everyone’s interest and not to the advantage of any one industry over another, and is well worth the added expense to dental bills. Even though mandates are expensive, funded or not, this is the best we can hope for from their judicious use.
However, mandates founded on political favors, such as the changes that were made to the HIPAA when it was amended in 2003, are intolerable. Who will now protect healthcare providers and their patients from the avarice of insurers? When leadership of the American Dental Association defiantly favors the same position as government, our calamity is heightened by the fact that they squander professional credibility by misleading us into accepting NPI numbers which will furnish the means by which our businesses will suffer.
The light of day never exposed a more worthy cause than transparency in dentistry. Our predecessors, those who taught us our ethics and who decades ago provided the best business model available for the American Dental Association, should be respected for what they accomplished in forming the ADA.
Virtually the entire world still respects American dentistry. The struggle with transparency in a profession is not limited to dentistry. It is also not just local in its reach; nor will it be viewed by future American healthcare providers as merely a contemporary phenomenon which was a concern for a day, or a month, or a year, or an age. Internet communication in dentistry is like a growing apple tree. Any damage done to the sapling now will become an ever more consequential wound for posterity.
Note: “Common Sense” is modeled after Thomas Paine’s pamphlet.
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