Everyone will be impacted.
These changes will touch everyone in the dental community.
There has been a lot written about the state of the dental market place and its future. After years of analysis I have concluded that the future is in our hands. There is no doubt that the business of dentistry is changing rapidly. The clinical, regulatory and administrative responsibilities of operating a healthcare facility are more demanding today than they were a few years ago. The consolidation and competitive landscape is undeniable and it is impacting distribution and the dental services industry. It’s not only affecting practices, laboratories, manufacturers and dental societies, it is impacting workers.
There is big change coming to the dental workforce. The sophistication and digital workflow of today’s progressive dental practice will alter traditional work roles. There will be significant changes in job availability, job descriptions and compensation models. For some, it will create serious challenges but for the highly motivated, well-educated and effective, there will be opportunity. Small businesses now have access to valuable data and analytics creating a work place with emphasis on performance. Owners can make business and financial decisions based on real-time data that allows them to assess operational, employee and provider performance. Everyone will be more accountable as their performance will be appraised against internal and national norms. The internet will continue to play a role as catalyst and nemesis for people who provide products and services available on the web. If a job can be replaced by a software application, machine or outsourced for less, it probably will. Everyone will be impacted.
The Burden of continuous improvement
This period of accelerated change has taken its toll on everyone. For some it’s been a wakeup call, for others it’s created an environment of uncertainty and disorientation. It’s hard to keep up with all the apps and updates and for some, the generational divide is widening. There are many dentists who are at odds with the fast pace of change and the high cost of technology. They are reluctant to invest in technology because they view the monthly lease payment as an assault on their personal income or just another expense forced on them. I empathize with this thinking but historically, practices that make these investments benefit clinically, operationally and financially. In many instances the technology will provide marketing and patient attraction opportunities!
Dentistry can be rewarding and it can be very challenging.
Here are some things that I know to be true;
- Dentistry is a great profession. We help people. Keep them healthy and take them out of pain. We change lives with cosmetic dentistry!
- Most dentists are in the top 1-5% of earners in America.
- Offices that invest in practice management training run a better shop than those that don’t.
- Dental Practices that mandate Perio charting on each hygiene patient have better hygiene and Perio activity than those that don’t.
- Offices that support and employ personnel who have certification and pursue continuing education run more efficiently and profitably.
- Dental facilities that incorporate 2D/3D imaging increase their Implant and Ortho activity.
- Offices that have digital impression scanners have more precise crown and bridge, and happier patients.
- The dental practices that provide more services under one roof do more business.
- Offices that incorporate Cad/Cam dentistry (crowns in about an hour) attract more patients, reduce their overhead and become more profitable.
- Practices that deliver uncompromised customer service, have better treatment acceptance and get more referrals!
Thinking about the New Year and your future?
As I reflect about my own roadmap for 2016 I have decided to share some concerns and suggestions for my friends and colleagues. Dental distribution is changing and young dentists have different priorities and preferences. We have the gift of the internet providing instant information and a framework for comparison shopping. We will have a shrinking number of decision makers (independent dental offices) to partner and collaborate with. Over time, the groups will expand their presence and the buying and/or billing will be done centrally. In this scenario my clinical, marketing and operational expertise, may not serve me as well.
Here are some thoughts and suggestions for my friends and business associates to consider so we can put a positive spin on the New Year.
Associates: Should focus on the business side (operations) of running a dental facility and they should learn their CDT codes. Don’t take one insurance seminar (especially one sponsored by an insurance company) and think you’ve mastered insurance utilization, reimbursement and optimization. Don’t depend on the office manager to maximize your insurance claims or teach you best practices, if they don’t receive regular training. Attend seminars by industry Gurus’ if you truly want to know how to navigate the maze of insurance submission and reimbursement. Associates should master third party financing (Citi Health and Care Credit) if they want to close more and larger cases. I believe all associates should strive towards certification in one or all of these areas; clear braces, Implant placement and Rotary Endo. This will lead to more career options and better income opportunity. Establish trusting relationships with staff members and patients. This how case acceptance happens!
Hygienists: should work towards expanded certification. Be certain to stay current and embrace technology. A strong hygienist is very focused on re-care and Perio and they are vital to any practice with a soul and a mission. No dental office can provide great care without a great hygiene department. Hygienists must be open to more responsibility, clinically and administratively. In group practices, management will evaluate the performance of all providers against the rest of the organization and they will develop compensation models to support those initiatives. Certain procedures like fluoride varnish, child and adult sealants, perio charting and local antibiotic usage for Perio treatment will be monitored.
Assistants: Who seek greater job satisfaction and more opportunity should be focused on the digital workplace. Tighten up your computer and clinical skills now. Invest in your career and become a certified dental assistant. Learn Cad/Cam design and become a certified Planscan designer. A good assistant manages the lab activity and should be proficient at “in house” lab work. Making night guards, take home whitening trays and sports guards can be very lucrative for the practice. An assistant who fabricates two whitening and two night guards a week will produce over $100K in production annually with virtually no chair timeJ. This work will make them more valuable to the practice. This transformation from worker to producer has profound effects on morale and relevance. Assistants must engage the patients and create a friendly, professional atmosphere. These activities will lead to a more satisfying career.
Administrators and office managers: Go to seminars. Learn your practice management program like an expert. Join AADOM (American Association of Dental Office Managers) and meet others in your field and learn from them. Expand your network and grow your work beyond insurance verification and reception. Be the champion who makes the ultimate customer service experience happen in your office! Be proactive about training and implementing new processes and protocols to improve patient flow and the patient experience. * I visit hundreds of offices every month and the spectrum of engagement and the value a dentist or organization puts on that front desk position speaks volumes about their operation. The person who answers the phones, greets the patients, manages the P&L, fills the schedule, handles the patient insurance and eligibility should have ongoing training. In many respects, they are the practice to your patients just like I am Henry Schein to my customers and prospective accounts!
Social Media Junkies: Talk to your employer about using your tech savviness and social media prowess for the office. See if you can get 20 minutes a day to manage the office’s posts and responses with management oversight. Who knows? You may like the work and get compensated for it.
Dealer reps and manufacturer reps: Must become customer centric. Dealers must be competitive on price. Dealer reps must demonstrate sincerity and some area of expertise. Today’s progressive dealer rep will challenge his customer to perform and stay focused on their business plan while providing valuable resources and services to help them. The better dealer and manufacturer reps will establish a high level of trust with their select clients. Dealer reps must streamline the ordering process and audit product selection and utilization. If a practice has several doctors and multiple locations, a dealer rep must look for ways to manage the unintended proliferation of inventory and supply costs. There are materials and sundry items that are cost prohibitive for certain types of practices. A good dealer rep will maximize and process free goods for his loyal customers. They will promote preventive maintenance on operatory equipment, technology and utilities to avoid costly down time. A good manufacturer rep will provide clinical expertise, staff training and continuing education credit. They will acknowledge the cost differential on me too [commodity] products, and will provide deviated pricing strategies to keep that business. Lastly, an engaged dealer or manufacturer rep will identify unique opportunities for their clients such as acquisitions and mergers. I predict a change in the mix of products provided by the dealer representative. Reps will be talking about the benefits of outsourcing certain processes to control human capital costs and yield improved performance. I also predict we will have 20% less dealer representatives selling sundries on the streets in five years from now.
As a sales professional and entrepreneur I have a great deal of windshield time. I drive approximately 160 – 200 miles every day and generally spend an hour or two on the side of the road with my hot spot on and my laptop open. There are times I manage my work with ease and there are days that I am overwhelmed. Truth be told, it’s more about my focus, ability to manage the work load (return calls, texts and e-mails) with clarity and effective time management. Being alone on the road triggers all kinds of self talk and it gives me great content for my blog. I am also a realist. The growth of the groups means tougher competition for my clients and less buyers for me to call on. I am confident that I will remain a valued resource to my clients because I have made the investment in my education and network. I hope my clients and colleagues see value in my recommendations and no one is offended by my directness.