5 Trends That Threaten Your Dental Practice
Everything should happen the way you plan it, without any unpleasant surprises…
Yet for over 99.8% of dentists, practicing the art of dentistry will soon become dramatically harder.
Happily, for a few dentists — those who take corrective action immediately — these 5 inescapable mega-trends also offer incredible opportunity…
“A mega-trend has the potential to change dentistry forever… Dentists have a life-or-death obligation to understand and be responsive to mega-trends, because if the dentist has not identified a mega-trend early on and adapted the practice to it, the results could be disastrous.”
Dr. Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA (CEO and Founder of The Levin Group)
The Internet has radically transformed the way prospects seek out information, including how they choose their health-care providers… particularly when it comes to dentists.
Many dental patients view a visit to their dentist as at least somewhat stressful… and thus place considerable importance on doing everything they can to minimize any stress and anxiety. Part of this — when choosing a new dentist — involves researching prospective dentists as thoroughly as possible.
“The Internet-tsunami is about to hit the world of dentistry… The Internet is an instrument of tremendous potential in the hands of a healthcare professional… (and) can often become a battlefield for potential customers.”
Dr. Nikos Mattheos, Associate Professor, Faculty of Odontology, Malmö University, Sweden
There are 4 primary ways how dental prospects find a new dentist (in approximate order of relevance):
- Referral from a friend or relative.
- Internet search.
- Yellow Pages (but steadily decreasing in importance).
- Other media (newspaper, flyers, TV, etc.).
Newspaper readership has fallen like a stone since 1993. In 1993, 58% of Americans said that they had read a newspaper “yesterday.” In 2002, this percentage was down to 41%. They’re increasingly getting their news online.
TV viewership statistics are even more grim, as people spend more and more time “surfing” the ‘Net.
Consumers are also abandoning the clunky, heavy Yellow Pages directories in droves, in favor of the speed and convenience of the Internet.
And even when prospects do get a referral from an acquaintance, the Yellow Pages, or ads… they will increasingly still insist to check out the dentist’s website, to get a better sense of whether they feel “comfortable” with that dentist.
No question, those dentists who effectively harness the incredible power of the Internet will continue to enjoy a huge advantage over their counterparts.
The problem for most dentists is, their dental websites fail miserably for only 2 reasons… They simply fail to:
- attract dental prospects to the website in the first place; and
- persuade website visitors to call their office for that first appointment (over all the other dentists whose websites they’ve also checked out).
Yet dentists who successfully get both of these 2 ingredients working in their websites — like Dr. John Burch of Mountain View CA, who credits his website for growing his dental practice by over $180,000 per year — clearly prove that the Internet has become a formidable force to be reckoned with… as long as it can be harnessed effectively.
Dental Practice Staffing
According to Dr. Roger P. Levin, Founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc., a leading dental practice management consulting firm, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit well-trained and knowledgeable dental staff. Dr. Levin reports about a rural dental client who has been advertising a hygienist position for nine months… resulting in lost productivity and increased stress.
In order to succeed — and provide overall quality of customer service and patient care — a dental practice must have a strong, well-trained staff.
Research by the Levin Group predicts that 70% of dental staff members will have a 3-year turnover rate, over the coming years.
When you add up all the costs associated with staff members who leave…
- productivity lost from the position being vacated, plus
- the costs of filling a vacant position, plus
- productivity lost while a new hire is being trained
…accelerated staff-turnover could easily cost a dentist $500,000 to $1 million in direct hiring costs and productivity losses during their career.
Dentists can significantly reduce these costs by, paradoxically, offering their staff more competitive pay. While it may appear to cost more, at least initially, the overall savings can be substantial in the long term.
Obviously, this can be particularly difficult for dentists who are struggling to attract enough dental patients.
Other strategies to lower staff-turnover costs include:
- implementing documented business systems which cover every operating system of the practice; and
- cross-training team members to decrease overall training times.
Even though dental insurance has been affecting dental practices for some years, a new trend has been developing… Levin Group projects that in the next few years, an additional 10% of Americans will be covered by dental insurance.
This trend was birthed during the recessionary period of 2000-2001, when employees started to request increased benefits from their employers who were unable to offer raises. And one of the most popular benefits preferred by employees is dental insurance.
Most important for dental practices is that these newly-insured patients will look for dentists who participate in their plans. Patients will use insurance coverage as a key factor in selecting a practice, regardless of the dentist’s clinical skills or the ability of staff to provide a positive patient experience.
“There are two things that are likely to affect the future of dental benefits , advances in dentistry and information technology… It’s likely that this combination of new technology and advances in dentistry will lead to a new kind of dentistry in the 21st century , one that will drive an entirely new generation of dental benefit programs.”
Comprehensive Diagnosis & Treatment
The materials and technologies presently available to dentists to perform high-quality clinical care are unparalleled in the history of dentistry. In theory, this should result in more comprehensive care being performed within a practice, which would lead to greater productivity per patient.
However, statistics show that 81% of appointments are still for single-tooth treatments, a decrease of only 6% from 25 years ago. The solution to transforming these numbers is to embrace the trend of comprehensive diagnosis and treatment.
If only 19% of all appointments feature comprehensive diagnosis and treatment, practices are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to be more productive and more profitable.
Levin Group data reveals that approximately $750 worth of treatment can be identified for each new patient through comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. Even if a practice takes a year to respond to this trend by reducing its single-tooth appointment percentage to 65%, that additional 16% of comprehensive diagnosis and treatment can potentially yield hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for the practice.
Most important, comprehensive diagnosis and treatment are also in the best interests of patients.
With options for aesthetic dentistry, implant dentistry, and occlusal dentistry, along with services such as whitening, there are comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plans that can easily be identified for each patient. A practice with a varied and significant service mix is better positioned to take advantage of this trend and to become more profitable in a shorter period of time.
Biomedical Advances & Dentistry
Dentistry has evolved far beyond simply “drilling and filling” and seeking to attain the desired restorative outcomes.
According to the Levin Group, dentistry will soon become at least 30% dependent on diagnostic testing and pharmaceutical solutions to yield the optimum patient results. These pharmaceutical solutions could include oral cancer testing, periodontal antibiotics, chemical treatment of periodontal disease, and even forms of aesthetic dentistry. The biomedical options for healthcare are growing rapidly, and dentists need to keep pace.
If dentists fail to capitalize on this trend, they will miss out on a terrific opportunity to boost both productivity and profitability.
Dentists should embrace biomedical developments and explore new and improved services to add to their dental practices.
Some of these new services will not be covered by insurance, but they will be services that will have a positive impact on the overall oral health of their patients. Eventually, dental practices will have no choice but to adopt some percentage of these services if they are to remain optimally productive, while also offering the most advanced, state-of-the-art care for their patient base.
Profiting From These Trends…
Without Getting Overwhelmed!
First of all, it’s pretty hard to implement all of the strategies that capitalize on each of these trends, at least all at once.
And while Trends #2-#5 could conceivably boost your practice’s profits by 10%-30%… Trend #1 (The Internet) could easily increase profitability by a remarkable 100% or more. (As clearly evidenced by Dr. John Burch’s results.)
Dr. Roger Levin’s warning, “…if the dentist has not identified a mega-trend early on and adapted the practice to it, the results could be disastrous,” is specifically true in the case of the Internet… because many of the traditional methods that dentists have used to generate dental clients (Yellow Pages, ads, etc.) are rapidly decreasing in effectiveness.
And, as Dr. Nikos Mattheos so fittingly described it, the Internet is quickly becoming “a battlefield for potential customers.”
The bleak reality for the overwhelming majority of dentists is that the Internet will inevitably make it dramatically harder for them to attract new dental patients… and perhaps it may even slowly erode their existing client base.
Yet for a small handful of dentists who take decisive action immediately, they can learn (in plain talk) from Dr. Burch’s striking success, and then duplicate his remarkable results — without any surprises or complications, and without distracting you from practicing your art.