A Nasty Trend in Orthodontics

I had a really nice new family in my office on Friday. Their story was a common one. They started orthodontic therapy in Houston about 4 months ago, but the flood and a job relocation has caused them to move to Dallas.  Their 15 year old young son, a star football player, was in my chair with a full set of brackets and a desire for me to continue his care. They were a “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” family; Kind, sweet and very respectful. They weren’t looking for anything more than for me to continue care for their child and they didn’t have a negative thing to say about their previous Houston orthodontist, who was fine with the transfer.
So, why am I writing about this?
When I asked how they found us, she replied that we were he 6th office they called, but the first who would accept them. I asked her what that meant. She said that the first 5 offices either said that they “didn’t accept in-state transfers” or, without having seen her, they told her that they would “need to remove all of his braces to start”. This was all based on telephone conversations.  She was so incredibly thankful that we would even see her son for an exam, and this just seemed so wrong and unnecessary.
Before everyone throws the front desk “under the bus”, I have heard those exact two aforementioned statements from the mouths of my colleagues, so I know it happens a lot. I don’t understand it. Why would anyone summarily not “accept in state transfers”? I understand if a prospective patient has a story that includes an orthodontist from down the block, but why would you summarily not accept a transfer from 300 miles away without having examined them or hearing their story? Again, I know that everyone will say that they’ve never heard of such things before, but I’ll repeat that I’ve seen it. A lot.
Remember, her first statement was that they were coming from Houston because of the recent flood. I’d think that might help override some practice policies.
I have no problem meeting any patient. Yeah, my time is valuable, but even if they are in braces from the next town over, or just started, I’ll still see them. It doesn’t obligate me to do a thing, but there are always two sides to a story and a little investigation never hurt anyone. I’ve seen some awful people try to blame a colleague for issues that were clearly their making and I’ve seen cases where a friend orthodontist told me he’d be happy for me to take over the case.
I’ve seen braces placement that made me envious of the skill of the previous orthodontist and I’ve seen brackets placed in such a way that removal and replacement was the most expeditious way to finish. But, if placed properly, are we not able to finish a case with someone else’s brackets?
I rarely take off existing brackets if they look good and I always take new patients from anywhere, if (note the “if“) I get the current orthodontist’s blessing. So, why are scheduling coordinators telling patients that they need to take off all brackets and that they won’t accept in-state transfers? It’s coming from somebody in the office. If that’s not your policy, double check to see if your front desk is saying the wrong thing to prospective patients.
I see tons of posts on social media from orthodontists claiming that they take great care of their patients and others asking how to increase new patient flow. Well, here’s your chance. Policies of inclusion rather than exclusion and a willingness to observe, investigate and help others might just be the thing you’r looking for.
There are a lot of patients out there who are looking for orthodontists for a variety of reasons. I would NEVER recommend “poaching” a patient from another practice or interfering in a relationship in which we don’t belong. However, there are many offices (I know because I’m told by colleagues) that do not accept transfers from within their states, even considering the recent catastrophe in Houston. This leaves a lot of folks (like the ones I met on Friday) in a huge bind.
Most of us love our patients. But what about other office’s patients? That’s up to you.
Wishing you an amazing day,
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If you want to come to learn more about an amazing business meeting for orthodontists, simply visit OP2018.com . We’ve got a world-class lineup of speakers, amazing food and an ambiance that will make you want to come back year after year. You can always email me at Glenn@OrthopreneursRD.com or message me on Facebook. I’m here to help.
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  1. Maybe we should have a category in the AAO directory about accepting transfers. I do not understand why one would not evaluate a patient in need. We need to hear from the Orthodontist that refused. Contact them and let us know there answer.