Often during my presentations I will refer to the people dentists serve as “clients.” And sometimes I hear from dentists who are uncomfortable with this terminology. They don't like the idea of thinking of themselves as businesspeople and of their patients as clients, because they believe that puts the focus on the transactional element rather than health care; that the term somehow tarnishes the sanctity and integrity of the doctor-patient relationship.
I believe the opposite to be true. I think if your relationship with your patient base is to be completely honest and transparent, it's part of your ethical obligation to the patient to have them really understand, as consumers with economic interests, the value of what you do so they can make the right choices.
Most modern dentistry will require an out-of-pocket expense, requiring discretionary decisions about time and money. That means the people you diagnose are clients when they make those decisions. They become patients when you perform the dentistry. The most successful dental entrepreneurs have learned to master both the patient and client relationship.
You can be the greatest clinician in the world, but it won't mean anything if you can't relate to people on a business level and promote your value effectively. To be a complete dentist you must recognize that your professional integrity extends beyond your clinical services. It's essential to broaden your mindset to the point where you feel comfortable engaging with your patients as clients too; this way you'll both get the most from the relationship.