Every time I speak to an audience or have a telephone call with a doctor, one resounding question pops up: “What do I need to do to survive the next 5-10 years in Dentistry?” That’s a great question, and one that each one of us needs to be asking. It could be a fatal error to think that after making it through three recessions and seeing that you are doing a little better, that things will return to normal. If you are beginning to settle back into your routine of showing up for work and hoping things will work out, you may become a statistic sooner than you think. The economic picture in Dentistry is changing rapidly, so there needs to be a continued effort on your part to embrace this change while taking the steps to insure your continued growth and security.
Last week’s blog post was titled What We Should Have Learned From Corporations. In it, I detailed the major things that the various Corporations now owning and running dental practices across the country do really well. If national corporations are continuing a 7% per year growth while independent dentists are plateauing and actually decreasing in profitability since 2008, we need to attach some urgency to what I think is an obvious conclusion. If we don’t adapt we are destined to fail.
So what is the successful practice of tomorrow going to look like? What does the successful practice today already do?
• As the title implies, the days of the “one man show” (or one woman) solo practice are numbered. The only way that we, the independent practitioner, will survive is if we create a practice model with at least two doctors. That could be a sole owner with employee doctors or a couple of partners. Even speaking with a doctor who practices near you to form a partnership under a corporate entity or two solo practices under one roof would work. The bottom line is that it will be impossible to provide what the public is demanding without a multiple doctor offering.
• Consumerism: Giving your patients what they want, when they want it, at a price they can afford has become the standard of a Super General Dental Practice. The practice of the future will be open at least six days a week, ten or so hours per day, with specialty services available on-site.
• Facility: The solo dental practitioner spends more time out of the office than in it. This drives up the overhead and places huge demands on hourly productivity. The Monday through Thursday 8-5 dental practice has been on life support for a decade and will only be good for organ donors in the future. Combining two practices or adding additional doctors will immediately lower the cost of doing business while at the same time providing the hours and services that the public is demanding. In addition to this, it allows you the margins to afford the higher end technology that will soon become the standard of care for every office.
• Staffing: Larger group practices will preserve the independent practice of dentistry while making it easier to find staff and coverage for any consumer hours you choose. I always enjoyed the fact that we had 11 hygienists because when one went out on maternity leave the others stepped up to cover her hours. As long as you preserve the $20,000-$25,000 production per staff member per month, you can grow your staff to any number. In fact, if you are meeting the needs of your patients, you won’t be able to NOT grow your staff. Demand dictates this and a lack of demand will seal your fate.
• Purchasing Power: The successful practice of tomorrow will have aligned themselves with a group purchasing organization with the same culture and desires of preserving the independent practice of dentistry that they have. BEST (Building Everyone’s Success Together) was formed for that very reason. (www.bestfordentistry.com) It will cost you nothing to join but will insure that you can compete with corporations by having the discounts and buying power that they do.
Surviving in the new Dental Economy should be foremost in your mind. I continue to sound like Dr. Phil when I talk to doctors who have finally woken up to the reality of this new standard in Dentistry when I respond: “What were you thinking?” For most of us, not thinking, or at least not planning, will be ill advised or similar to assisted suicide. It’s time to wake up, take action, and prepare to compete on the new playing field designed and defined by the public that purchases our services. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS