Adapting to These Dental Practice Trends Keeps You Current
(Download the attached PDF file for the full-color newsletter).
Each year brings with it a change in the landscape of dentistry. Looking forward, here are the Five Trends that you and your team should know and consider for their impact on and within your practice. Print this newsletter out to use during a staff meeting. Discuss each one of the trends and then answer these four questions:
• What are the Strengths we have as a practice team to deal with this upcoming change?
• What might be a Weakness that would make us vulnerable to this change?
• What Opportunity can we explore within this change?
• What Threat does this change pose for our practice this year?
Trend # 1 - Conservative Consumption of Dental Services Hits Dentistry with a Sucker Punch.
Gone as the days when a patient came in and readily accepted your treatment plan without much ado or questioning. The dental insurance industry has now reached critical mass with their PPO or reduced fee offerings. This now majority of insurance plans is creating a riff between your patient, your fees and their reimbursement. Patients allow their dental insurance carrier to be their dental health guide because of the letters they receive about downgraded service codes, higher than UCR fees and denied services. All of these lead the patient to question your treatment plan more than ever before.
Adding fuel to the fire has been the growth in many areas of "Doc-in-the-Box" corporate dental competitors. These are business minded competitors who know how to market to your patient, to be open for patient convenience and to offer to take care of ANY insurance they have. Their internal systems are set up to use economies of scale to verify, process and work with the dental insurance carriers. In fact, if the dental business is large enough, they are able to negotiate higher reimbursement than any solo dentist can.
Trend # 2 - Hispanic Population Boom
Few pockets of population are immune to the staggering growth in the Hispanic population demographics. Take a look at your practice setting to access the Hispanic growth in your city. If you are seeing growth in your area through your city or county population trends, then consider the impact on your practice if you remain a single language practice. It may be time to hire someone who can speak Spanish.
Trend # 3 - Growth of DSO's (Dental Support Organizations)
There is one issue most of my clients bring to me as a coach or consultant: "Linda, I just want to do my dentistry. I want the team to be self-managed and the business part to take care of itself." Enter the DSO to fill this need. DSO's have been growing by leaps the past few years and are moving to mainstream. There are many models of the DSO. Some provide management services only to the individual or small group practice. Some want a part-ownership depending on state laws. Some are in business to buy, then run your practice and hire you as the practitioner. Some are in the business to make profits through an eventual stock offering or buy-out as we saw with Heartland. All are not alike and some are helpful management partners for you, since the DSOs like the business and marketing end of dental practice that many dentists dislike. (PS- Let me know if this is of interest to you.) Also, check out http://theadso.org/
Trend # 4 - Caveat Emptor
Sad but truer than ever is the growth in "off shore" providers of dental laboratory products as well as dental suppliers. The formal term is GRAY dental supplies and products. In a tight dental market with reduced reimbursement and increased competition, many dentists are looking for ways to save money on both laboratory costs and supplies. The choice may or may not be what you expected. Be sure that you know the actual ingredients and components of items you get on the cheap. You do not want an inferior product that might do harm to your patients.
Trend # 5 - Technology, Technology, Technology
The technology trend is not new but is never still. About the time you have paid off a new technology, there is another waiting for your investment. This trend has been increasing in speed and breadth in dentistry as in all of our lives. For example, I have a new home with a high tech thermostat that is programmed to learn how we want our home temperature and at what times.
These are the top ones to consider if you have not already:
CAD/CAM - Time is a precious commodity to your dual working families, busy retirees and white collar professionals. If you can master the art of the CAD/CAM, you have a marketing edge equal to that of your competitor in the corporate practice on the next corner.
3D imaging is a sister to the CAD/CAM but it allows you to send a scan rather than an impression. This emerging technology is going to be a patient pleaser since it can avoid gag-producing impressions.
Online patient booking, payments and data entry - According to PEW Research Internet Project as of January 2014:
• 90% of American adults have a cell phone
• 58% of American adults have a smartphone
• 32% of American adults own an e-reader
• 42% of American adults own a tablet computer
Your patients are changing the way they would prefer to interact with you. Patients like convenience of paying a bill, making an appointment, entering their data on the fly, in between other things. Can you accommodate all three of these for your patients?
Cloud Storage and software - All of the big dental software vendors are working on a cloud version for you. The good news is that this technology allows you to receive updates WITHOUT having to buy new hardware as many of you have done in the past to accommodate the newest version of your software. All you need is a portal to the cloud, the updates are done there without shutting everything down. And, the other great news is nothing is lost with a disaster such as Katrina, fire, flood or as we have had here in Southern California, mud slides. At minimum, I believe all of you should have a cloud back-up. I have seen too many crashes where the dentist finds his/her back-up tape or mirror system is flawed.
Electronic practice - Almost paper free is the goal. The advantages far outweigh keeping your practice in the "way back machine". Since I have worked with so many clients to help them with this transition, I now go to other health care offices and consider them to be OUTdated if they have paper records. Your patients are already there. The competition, the sparkling clean new office down the road, is all electronic! All the dental schools are now electronic. :-)
Keep your head up and not in the sand wishing for simpler times. Look for the opportunities within these Five Trends.
Drevenstedt Consulting LLC