We have identified what corporations do well, and how demographics of our own profession will accelerate the demise of the independent practice of Dentistry. We now need to look at what will save our profession. The only way for the 76% of dentists that work solo to survive the next 10 years is to start down the path of adding a doctor to your office. This transition will guarantee you will be able to compete tomorrow in an ever-changing dental economy, and for the foreseeable future. No single individual can deliver what the public now says they want without partnering with another doctor. Consider the following:
- Consumer hours: 6-7 days per week access to dental care. Monday through Thursday 8-5 died 15 years ago. It’s just that most dentists don’t realize that their work hours really are a “dead man walking” practice strategy.
- Insurance: The public wants to go to a great dentist that is in-network for their insurance. Keep in mind that when dentists buy medical insurance they always purchase a PPO. We are no different than our potential clients, yet we operate as if there should be a dual standard. We want what we want, but it is weird that patients want the same thing. Give me a break.
- Range of services: Patients want to take their kids and aging parents to the same doctor’s office. Gone are the days where patients will tolerate going to six locations and finally coming back to you to seat their crowns. That’s why we are seeing most specialists go into national corporate settings because few doctors are referring and there are even fewer locations where they could survive. Technology has allowed the average dentist to do what decades ago would have been limited to a specialist. Add to that the fact that when the general dentist encounters financial struggles, they stop referring things out.
- Top of the line offices and technology: While purchases of CAD CAM machines, 3D Cone Beam, the best location, and top-end facility build out just doesn’t make sense for the average dentist, the public is gravitating towards offices with just that. That’s called a conundrum.
The only way to give clients what they want with a business model that allows sufficient profit to thrive is combining offices, and adding doctors to allow us to work a comfortable numbers of hours per week while being open 6-7 days every week to meet the demand and expectations of an ever more fickle public.
It began in 1975 when we said “yes” to insurance companies and started down the long road to insurance dependency. At about that same time, marketing for the healthcare professional was deemed allowable and legal. It escalated when products and services began to be marketed to the public as we basked in the newfound popularity of dentistry. It wasn’t until about 1994 that we saw cosmetic dentistry hit our radar and we began to sell more products and services. We actually began to want the dentistry more than the public did. Somewhere along this timeline the “practice” of Dentistry became the “business” of Dentistry.
Productivity and profit increased until the big boys that funded startups were approached to participate in the national corporations that inundate us today. This description could be called the “Commoditization of Dentistry”. When something is “commoditized”, we see the public look at it as a stand-alone, everything is the same, product or service. In other words, history has created a public that now believes a cleaning is a cleaning, a crown is a crown, and by logic and extension of thought, a dentist is a dentist. Everything and everybody has brought us to a point where we need to accept the poor facts of our situation and start down the road toward giving the public what they want while at the same time differentiating ourselves from the run-of-the-mill national corporate practices.
This may sound a little self-serving, but I want you to begin the process of researching the path to a transition in which you will add a doctor to your office or combine your practice with another to stimulate growth AND meet the needs that the general public is demanding. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS – You might want to consider my book THE ROADMAP to Wealth & Security. It is a complete guide to dental transitions. Just click on the link and scroll down the page until you see the book. If you read the book and still have questions, just call me.
PSS – If you would like a small taste of the book, just click on the title below.
CHAPTER ONE — Begin at the Beginning: Ask the Right Questions