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Everything Dental Blog – June 2015

Competitive Disadvantage

I often talk about Fads, Trends and Movements because they are great indicators of what’s happening in our world. Fads are popular but do not necessarily catch on.

Trends are noteworthy when they withstand the test of time but not all trends, even popular ones, become a movement. It’s more about duration, adoption rates and corporate investment when predicting and identifying movements. When a trend accelerates in popularity, adoption rate and geographical relevance, you are witnessing a metamorphosis to a movement.

When a movement becomes public knowledge or has been elevated to the Early Majority Stage on the adoption bell curve, the distinctive advantage and marketing opportunities diminish. It’s kind of like a hot stock tip that you hear about after the record high IPO. However, identifying a movement is much more predictable than finding a winning stock and not identifying one is when you experience a competitive disadvantage.

A typical adoption curve starts with the innovators. They are the visionaries and inventors. They create the products or have the ideas that percolate with the early adopters. The early adopters are the people who love to try new things and experiment. They like to have the newest gadgets and try the latest techniques. Being first is a blessing or curse for them because they are passionate people who accept reasonable risk. Next up are the early majority. These are the people who observe the market and pay close attention to industry leaders and the early adopters. They are the catalysts that tip the scale from a trend to a movement. They get in early enough to get the benefits with little or no risk. Following the early majority is what we call the late majority. The late majority is more conservative than the early majority but they do eventually join the movement. The last group to adopt change is the laggards. They resist change and don’t feel like they have to conform. For the laggard, change is painful, costly and all for naut.

In business, understanding your challenges and taking advantage of opportunities can significantly impact your success. Getting in on a movement before it goes main stream can have significant advantages besides the obvious marketing and revenue benefit.

A movement in dentistry is characterized by the dental community embracing change. Movements are not always obvious but they can change the landscape over time. Most movements in dentistry have to do with processes, advancements in dental materials, improvements in diagnosis/technology, compliance and regulatory mandates, standard of care philosophy and business models. Inaction may put you at a competitive disadvantage if you don’t recognize when that trend becomes an industry movement. Trends and movements require different responses and actions from dentists, consultants and distribution professionals.

Top Trends & Movements in Dentistry

I have highlighted the ones that will have the greatest impact on revenue and change over the next three years. Make no mistake; every bullet below represents change, advancement and opportunity already underway or picking up steam in our wonderful industry!

  • Growth in PPO participation
  • Group practice
  • Corporate dentistry
  • Same Day Dentistry
  • Sleep Medicine/Sleep Apnea testing
  • Advanced Cancer Screening
  • Multi-Specialty practice
  • The use of Social Media
  • Total Health (systemic link)
  • Mobile readiness – Web functionality and marketing…
  • Management companies -subcontractors for the operational, business, marketing, HR and financial aspect of the business
  • Saliva Testing
  • Emphasis on prevention
  • Zirconia substrates
  • Patient communication software – reactivates and confirms patients
  • Electric Handpieces
  • 3D Imaging
  • Hospitals with Dental surgical suites
  • Facial Fillers and Botox
  • Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) or Community Health Center (CHC) population is growing
  • Digital Impression Scanning
  • CadCam Dentistry
  • Laser dentistry
  • Expanded duties for dental auxiliaries
  • Centralizing administrative processes
  • Outsourcing insurance, verification and collections
  • Cloud computing
  • Implant Dentistry
  • Practice management consulting/coaching
  • Education via the web
  • Medical/Dental integration (already common in underserved communities)
  • Dental Dashboards
  • Business Enterprise Solutions – in depth financial, operational and HR software applications

Some say the cottage industry of dentistry is gone and the profession is no longer as lucrative or as much fun as it used to be. I understand this sentiment because owning a practice back then was easy and lucrative. The cash and the tax write–offs are all gone and simplicity has transformed into extreme complexity. What was once a profession that needed administration, reception and customer service to support its clinical services is now a business.

Today, dental offices come in all kinds of sizes and shapes. Most offices differ in focus, services provided and insurance participation but they all operate in a highly compliant and competitive environment. The upside is a huge menu of services with many profit centers not available during those earlier days. In addition, today’s technology and replacement equipment is more efficient, precise and ergonomic. This gives us better diagnostics, safer work environments and a digital platform. These advantages are big and support many of the trends and movements today.

Regardless of your position in dentistry, there are some very exciting opportunities to embrace.

If you are the owner of one or more dental offices, then you must invest in your practice and the management of it. This is the time to be part of the early majority and invest in your future. The R.O.I. will exceed your expectations and the investment can aid the solo practitioners exit strategy. As we move towards a preventive business model dentists must expand their offering beyond the current C&B focus. There are many interesting services and profit centers to explore.

If you are an employee (associate, hygienist, assistant or office manager) you can expand your skill set and contribute more. This will generally allow you to earn more and be more valuable to your employer. Join and association that provides education, support and resources specific to your career so you are well informed and inspired!

If you are a dealer or manufacturer, you possess the tools and equipment to help your dentist/customer become more efficient and more profitable. They don’t want another device or service that under performs, they are looking for ways to improve their practice and personal income. Don’t mistake their resistance for lack of interest.

If you are a consultant, you must challenge your dental client and hold them accountable. It is not enough to deliver education and systems anymore. You must deliver solutions that are predictable and easily to implement. This is the era of the consultant because dentists really need your help.

This month’s blog looks at the competitive disadvantage resulting from inaction or the inability to recognize an industry wide movement. With all the challenges we face (economy, regulation, operational complexity) failure to act decisively during a technological revolution may have the greatest impact of all.

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