When you write an article, you are not always sure that your words adequately express your intent. In this last series of articles, I have tried to point you in the right direction when we look at the trends of our Dental Economy as well as provide a historical perspective of what came before. I received dozens of emails and texts after my last blog. In particular, one doctor summed up most of the questions asked. I would like to address those to ensure that we are all on the same page.
“You advise that we all aim to get multi-doctor practices.” Not what I intended. The take away is that a solo practice is not a destination but the inevitable passage of growth when you are truly inspiring your patients and constantly adjust your strategies to compensate for ever-changing circumstances. Most doctors seem to set their eyes on arriving at a solo practice, but once there, what does it say when you plateau in every benchmark or category and languish until you retire? There will always be solo practices. They just will not be what the public is looking for. It is that consumer demand for better hours, dentistry for the whole family, wider range of treatment options, in a practice that is in-network that we see now and will only accelerate in the future. The solo practice cannot address the concerns of an ever-changing consumer. Remaining solo would be like hitting high school and never going any further. Solo practices in the future will be a station on a journey to an ever-changing practice model.
“If we should strive to lower prices, then do we really need to price our fees in the 80th percentile of the fee analysis we get? Should we also contract with a lot of insurance companies?” Here’s a loaded question or questions. I did not mean to infer that we “strive” for lower prices. What I said is that the public will continue to seek out better services and products at a more competitive price point. We all do this. Consumers, especially educated consumers, seek out that elusive balance of what they want at a price they can afford. On the other hand, businesses follow a predictable path. What you have to sell today, will sell for less in the future. Secondly, what you sell today may not even be a sellable item in the future. Look how laser cataract surgery and Lasik costs dropped 80% in one decade. Implants have started their fall also. With the cost of the actual implant and abutment along with more and more doctors offering this service, we should see prices for implants minus the final restoration in the $600 apiece range. When it comes to insurance, about 90% of those with it will always seek out those doctors who are in-network (the educated consumer). So, keep your fee for service fees where they should be so that the insurance companies you work with discount their reimbursement from those fees. Anything less and you are shooting yourself in the foot. As far as insurance companies go, I think that we, like medical doctors, are stuck. It’s your decision as to whether or not you go in-network. With a nationwide insurance penetration of close to 70%, you have to think that someone will take them and the patient will choose that doctor to do their work.
“Is there ever a place for the solo practice?” Of course. I just feel like making that solo practice your destination is silly. If you really inspired your patients, and they actually came back and referred their family and friends, you couldn’t help but grow to the point of a capacity blockage in facility and staff. Growth is a normal result of good systems and delivery: Where our message and our methods reinforce one another. If you do this, at some point, the next step is that third hygienist, the second doctor, and those Friday and Saturday hours.
Short and sweet today. This is how you Summit: Practice management done right.
If you have questions or comments please call or email. I would love to hear from you.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. If you missed it last week, my new book is now available. The title is Marketing the Super General Dental Practice. If you want/need more new patients, this will show you how to get them. Just click here for more info and to order.