Everything Dental Blog November 2017

Information Warfare

Regardless of your perspective on Fake News, there is a problem deciphering what’s real and what is not in this hostile media environment. This is a global issue and the sentiment is fueled by uncertainty in politics and economics.

In the dental community, there is a great deal of content shared with our community. In most cases the information is enlightening, informative and reliable. However, when you step out of the operatory and open a trade publication, attend a seminar or speak with a colleague, the information is no longer empirical or science based. It is subject to a myriad of external factors including intention and opinion. What is the intention of the news outlet, speaker or your colleague? How did they come to those conclusions? Do they have any biases, preferences and opinions?

Over the years I have attended hundreds of seminars and have been a member in several industry associations. I have served on many committees and have participated in dozens of focus groups. Usually, I am blown away by the brilliance and intuition of its members. In contrast, I have participated on several committees where the members are in denial, complicit and out of touch with reality. As an industry opinion leader, it is my duty and responsibility to make sense of it all. Accuracy in ideas matter!

Ideas provide us with the capacity to create and consider concepts. Opposing views challenge our opinions and force us to vigorously vet the data before we utilize it. These ideas guide us as we interpret and operate in the world around us.  Accuracy brings about precision. Data can affect the structural integrity and safety of a building, bridge, arm chair or even a thought. Accuracy is required in manufacturing and accounting. It is equally important when our media sources provide us with news. I’m sure that we all want accurate and trustworthy information when our accountants tell us what we’ve made and how much we owe.

Ideas and accuracy play a huge role in formulating consensus and our own individual beliefs. Sometimes misinformation or conflicting viewpoints emanate from a very honest and respected person or entity. Honesty and passion speak to a person’s character and reputation. However, even great leaders have been misguided by inaccurate data. Have you ever heard the expression “He drinks the corporate Kool-Aid”? Some individuals believe, unconditionally, that what they hear from their employer, co-workers or friends must be true.

Last year I attended a few industry events as a blogger not as a dealer representative. I wanted to see what others, including my competitors, were doing. The lectures I attended were given by industry notables and the organizations sponsoring those events were equally as familiar. I wanted to expose myself to different people with various viewpoints. I learned a lot and made some great friends and contacts along the way. The content was excellent and the lectures were as good as any other I’ve attended. However, there were two speakers who made some conflicting assertions about Fee for Service dentistry. This may have been based on a regional influence but it was difficult for me to swallow. Both speakers suggested FFS dentistry was on the rise and insurance participation was a fatal trap.

I believe in the Fee for Service business model on many levels. I have many successful clients that are FFS and a few of them have impressive credentials (Pankee, Dawson, LVI, or some other post grad cosmetic or surgical certification). Those clients have a good argument for being FFS. They believe their education and certification justifies higher fees and more notoriety. Some of my FFS clients are struggling to maintain their FFS status and are investing 10-20% of their revenue on marketing. They are witnessing happy patients leave the practice for a neighboring office that accepts their insurance unconditionally. In addition, these clients are concerned because of very soft new patient numbers. The majority of my FFS clients, over the past decade, have started taking the better PPO’s so I see no evidence of FFS growing.

Analytics, practicality and real-world experience tells me that the FFS model is here to stay. It is, however, dependent on a myriad of circumstance such as; clinical excellence, access to care, showmanship, geography and several other social and economic demographics. It is much easier to acquire a FFS model and maintain it, than to do it as a start up. And a FFS start up will grow at a much slower pace than a de novo practice that accepts insurance. Furthermore, most dental groups and national dental models participate in insurance. This will only accelerate the insurance model and its ominous reach. Ironically, it will provide insulation, and a safe haven for many FFS practices nestled in small communities and rural areas (off the beaten path).

Dental companies use data and analytics to better serve their clients, vendor partners and constituents. Data is used to create programs and policy and it is used to forecast and predict the future with a reasonable degree of certainty. While data mining and industry research isn’t anywhere near 100% accurate, it is the best information these companies have. Good data should be accurate and supported by facts. It should be evidence based when applicable. Remember, data alone is not enough. The organization must take on acceptable risk and they must execute!

Below are some trustworthy facts and observations that accurately describe the marketplace. There are always exceptions but my writings reflect the norms, trends and movements I see around the country.

  • Fee for Service is no longer the goal for most startup practices today – It’s a PPO practice
  • Progressive dental offices are immersed in Implant dentistry and are transitioning to a digital workflow whether intentional or not
  • Most dental offices get a failing grade for servicing their patient population with periodontal disease. *According to the American Academy of Periodontology, nearly 50% of American adults, have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis. In adults 65 and older, it’s slightly over 70%. My experience is that most offices only treat a small fraction of their adult patients who have moderate to severe periodontal disease.
  • There are about 150,000 dental facilities in the United States and approximately two thirds of them are still independently owned and operated
  • There are approximately 196,000 licensed dentists still practicing in the U.S.A. today
  • Most practices underutilize their vacuum form machine and fail to experience the revenue generated from in office tray fabrications (night/sport guards, whitening trays and other appliances)
  • World class customer service will enhance and positively impact every business
  • The average age of dentists in the U.S.A. is about 50 years old
  • Women represent slightly over 50% of all students enrolled in dental schools today
  • Most dental practices in America accept PPO’s and other insurance products
  • Approximately 80% of all dental facilities in the U.S.A. have converted to digital radiography
  • Most dentists want electric handpieces once they’ve used them
  • The #1 piece of equipment/technology that every general dentist wants is a digital impression scanner
  • Less than 15% of dental offices have a Cloud based practice management suite today. I believe this number will more than double over the next three years.
  • Dentists with 2D/3D imaging do more implants, ortho and endo and they do it better!
  • Most offices are still not sterilizing their slow speed handpieces
  • Millennials are king and they are our best “new” customers
  • Same day dentistry is a major movement in dentistry that begins with the dentist’s mindset
  • Offices that utilize their intra-oral camera on every hygiene appointment do considerably more cosmetic and restorative dentistry
  • Offices that make training a center piece of their corporate culture will learn together, perform better and have a more harmonious work environment
  • Offices that provide a profit sharing or 401k program have less staff turnover
  • Offices that offer medical benefits have less staff turnover and attract better talent
  • Dentists who work closely with their dealer representative are exposed to unique and lucrative business opportunities from their vast network of dentists and service providers
  • Practices that invest 4-8% of their collections on marketing have twice as many new patients and do more elective dentistry than those that don’t
  • Most senior dentists do not know their exit strategy options and fail to plan accordingly
  • Fee for Service electives are instrumental to grow the practice and dentist’s revenue!

I would like to thank my clients for their continued support and business –
Happy Thanksgiving!