When Bob Dylan wrote The Times They Are A-Changin' in 1963, he had no idea of the changes about to unfold. No one could have predicted the scope, depth or extent of the transformations that have occurred since then and their impact on our economy, our society, our patients and our profession. Today, as dental professionals, we recognize that the time to prepare for our future is now—the success of our profession depends on it.
That foresight was behind the establishment in 2009 of the Branding Working Group (BWG), made up of representatives from the provincial and national dental associations. Working together, this team of professional marketing communications individuals was tasked with preparing a comprehensive report outlining options and recommendations for the development of a strategy that will reinforce the central role dentists play in oral health and the health of our patients.
The strength and success of that strategy lies in the work we do together. Every conversation between dentist and patient contributes to the relationship—and to patients' view of our profession. Our reputation is built one patient at a time.
On behalf of all of Canada's dentistry professionals, the BWG worked closely with 2 professional research firms on 2 parallel market research projects designed to learn more about dentists' and patients' attitudes and beliefs, specifically, what we as a profession believe is the current state of affairs and how this compares to what our patients believe. Following is an outline of the marketing research methodology.
The first phase of the BWG project was a major national public opinion survey consisting of an online questionnaire that was completed by 3497 people and 14 focus groups conducted in 10 provinces. Phase two of the project consisted of 1549 interviews with general dental practitioners and specialists to determine their perceptions on the related theme of the public research. The 2 phases were completed between September 2009 and April 2010.
In the initial analysis of the research, the BWG examined what positively and negatively influences the notions of trust and value when Canadians think about their dentist, and the implications of this thinking for our profession and our individual practices. Now, the BWG is focused on developing strategies that will benefit the dental profession and help individual dentists enhance their relationships with patients. Ultimately, this will mean a stronger profession and stronger practices.
Reshaping a changing landscape will take time, concerted effort and ongoing commitment—from each and every one of us. We have learned that to substantively change our approaches we need to focus on the relationship with our patients. In my next instalment, I will share the market research findings that illustrate what the public and the profession are saying about dentistry and oral health. The results will help us understand what patients need to hear from us in our conversations in order to enhance the dentist–patient relationship and dentistry's vital role in health care.