Practice management: Why is it so complicated?

It’s no secret that managing the business side of a dental practice has become more complex. And for many dentists, complex is a nice way of saying challenging. Changes in the dental marketplace make it seem like the complications of running a practice are coming at a faster pace and with higher stakes.

Small-business owners across professions have seen competition become fiercer and consumers exercise more discretion. When I started practicing dentistry in 1979, our office took out a small ad on the back of the Pennysaver. No special offer or promotion, just a few lines about how we provided great dental care. That bit of newsprint drove 65 new patients a month to our Orange, California, office. Of course, that tactic couldn’t yield the same results today. So, what’s changed?

The marketplace is home to more practice models, from small private practices to DSOs with more than 400 locations. The economies of scale and back-office efficiencies of larger multi-location practices allow them to streamline business operations in a way few private owners could realize on their own. While most offices aren’t in the position to have full-time practice management specialists on staff, that doesn’t mean they can’t tap into that kind of specialized expertise. The good news is that there are resources out there to support every dentist’s business acumen and operational efficiency.

Consumer choices
In those Pennysaver days, new patients were most likely to hear about our office through word-of-mouth referrals. Today, dental and health care sites and online reviews are a bigger driver in dentist selection. Consumers can much more easily search for and compare services, practice differentiators and patient reviews or experiences. And the economies of scale mean that larger operations have a robust web presence and access to more marketing tools. The truth is that very few of us are amazing clinicians and web gurus! By tapping into other experts to inform your efforts, you’ll be more successful at attracting and retaining patients and will gain more time to focus on what you do best.

The days of dental indemnity plans are long gone as well, and the gap between UCR rates and reimbursements has grown wider. Deciding whether to contract with dental benefit plans is one that practice owners must decide for themselves. But fewer dollars coming in per patient combined with more dollars going out for advanced clinical technology creates increased expense-related pressure. This is why it’s more important than ever that practices find ways to economize that don’t impede quality of care. Seeking productivity improvements and supply savings is an ongoing effort that is essential to offsetting other rising costs.

While patients often come in with a troublesome symptom, it’s the skilled clinician who has the knowledge and experience to diagnose and treat the underlying issue — and improve the patient’s quality of life. The same goes with practice owners who identify a business symptom. Specialists in practice advising, human resources and marketing can discover, diagnose and set up a results-oriented treatment plan to support the total practice.

The landscape of dentistry will continue to be dynamic and complex. Dentists of every practice size deserve tools to compete and, more importantly, to focus on their vision of success. Don’t hesitate to pursue right-sized support from outside your own doors. A good first step is leveraging your association membership. Through CDA Practice Support, members benefit from hundreds of time-saving online resources, plus advice from a team of analysts on individual business issues. When more comprehensive support is needed, members also have access to customized advising solutions from The Dentists Service Company.

This article was authored by Michael Perry, DDS, TDSC strategic counselor.

The Dentists Service Company specializes in group purchasing and practice management services, helping dentists practice on their own terms through supply savings and comprehensive advising solutions.

 Learn more at tdsc.com.

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In today’s dental market, patients have more choices than ever before. High expectations and an influx of information means competition is fierce, leading to a marked shift in how practice owners attract and retain patients. Long gone are the days when patients chose their dentist based on static provider directories, word-of-mouth or the Yellow Pages. Today, consumers are highly connected and able to research online reviews, ratings and guides prior to making a dental or health care choice.