Over the past couple of decades, an argument can be made that the world at large has become more commoditized. Never before have so many goods been so readily available for consumption, and never before has the competition in the marketplace been so fierce. Gone are the days of small-town commerce, where demand for a given product might outpace supply to such a degree that a scarcity of that product would ensue. With the advent (and subsequent ubiquity) of the internet, anything from groceries to large electronics can be delivered to your front door with the click of a mouse.
Interestingly enough, this newfound convenience of commerce is not limited to the exchange of tangible goods. More and more commonly, services are now being delivered more efficiently and cheaply as well. Everything from lawn services and house cleaning to plumbing and roofing can be researched, vetted, priced, and initiated via electronic means with nary a second thought. No longer does the average consumer open the Yellow Pages, make an arbitrary service provider, and hope for the best. The internet has effectively commoditized many service industries.
According to Merriam-Webster, a “commodity” can be defined as: “an economic good, such as a mass-produced, unspecialized product.” This makes me wonder – is dentistry viewed with the same apathy as, say, selecting a carpet cleaner? Would you select a dentist based on how cheap he is? Would you switch dentists based on a good deal on a Groupon? I sure hope not. Would you go to the cheapest cardiovascular surgeon for your open-heart surgery? Again, I sure hope not.
It’s worrisome that many patients are starting to treat the people who render their healthcare as interchangeable parts, valuing price and other factors ahead of quality of care and relationships with their healthcare providers. While I can’t change anyone’s mind who views healthcare as being analogous to any other good or service, I can resolutely offer an alternative to those who DO value personalized service, high-quality care, and seeing the same health care provider every appointment. I, for one, answer only to my patients, not some nameless CEO in a high-rise. Corporate-owned healthcare is becoming an inevitable reality for many, but for those who want quality and consistency, there’s always a choice.