A trip to the doctor can make many people anxious before, during and even after an appointment, but one local orthodontist has enlisted some help to put patients at ease. Our Philip O'Driscoll introduces to Hannah the therapy dog.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- For nearly a year, patients of Dr. Robert Baker's Orthodontic Group of the Finger Lakes have been greeted by the friendly face of Hannah, a therapy dog in training, in the waiting room of his Cortland and Ithaca offices. Baker met her when searching for the best way to improve the patient experience.
"Immediately after meeting Ms. Hannah, we found that she had a special talent to be with people," Baker said, "so after investigating therapy dogs and realizing that the majority of health care is delivered in private offices, we thought why not train Hannah?"
Hannah was saved from a kill shelter after two failed adoptions at only 10 months of age. She became an instant success in the waiting rooms of both offices.
Patients like Crystal Parker say her presence created immediate comfort.
"The first time I came in, I was extremely nervous and she was kind of a surprise to me. I wasn't really expecting her," Parker said, "and she came in and its just like she knew exactly what she was supposed to do. She jumped in my lap and gave me a kiss and made me feel very much at home."
Parker says she now looks forward to her orthodontist appointments.
"There's something about that that just makes you feel so much better, and it would be nice if every office would have something like that," Parker said.
Dr. Baker says four patients only schedule appointments when Hannah is in the office. He says her presence breaks with the business-as-usual relationship between doctor and patient.
"We've got to always remember that we're treating the whole patient not just a tooth. We're not just straightening teeth but we're treating the whole patient, and that involves their stress, their anxiety and when their with us and even when their not their whole personal outlook," Baker said.
With the growing use of therapy animals in the medical fields, Baker is hopeful more animals with a story like Hannah's can be placed in a better situation. He hopes the use of therapy dogs will become a growing trend among medical professional with private practices.