Not more than 15 or 20 years ago, small private healthcare practices (optometrists, pharmacists, MDs, dentists, etc.) could be found just about everywhere you looked. Now, it seems the tide is turning in favor of corporatization in the healthcare industry. Private medical practitioners who don’t work for a corporate entity are increasingly few and far between.
For example, optometry has been largely corporatized by Visionworks, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Target Optical and the like; independent pharmacy clinics have been all but replaced by CVS, Walgreens, and prominent supermarket chains.
This raises the question:
In a recent survey we did on a cross section of the dental industry, over 50% of the dentists who responded were extremely concerned that private practice would be dead (or dying) within the next ten to twenty years. In other words, half of the surveyed dentists were concerned that they (or the future generation of practitioners) would have to work for some corporation and hope they get paid enough to cover the bills and fund a retirement.
I’ve never worked for corporate dental. I have, however, spoken to many dentists who have. Summing up what I’ve been told in these conversations, it seems the majority of corporate dental offices follow a similar pattern:
1. Heavy reliance on HMO and PPO plans for new patients, as well the overall patient base.
2. High patient volume is maintained to counteract the small profit margins.
3. With such high volume, it becomes difficult to perform comprehensive treatment. I’ve heard many times from these doctors that the idea was to get patients in and out as fast as possible, thereby making time for everyone who comes in.
4. All of this can result in (as one doctor put it) “roller skating” from room to room, stressed and overwhelmed by everything that still has to get done.
An MGE client who used to work for corporate dental (and now has a private office) told me he wasn’t allowed to sit down to do his clinical procedures. Why? Well, he was told that, “…it took too long for the chair to go down and for him to get situated in his seat!” He had to ice his knees at night—just like an athlete would after a heavy-duty work out. I can’t imagine practicing dentistry like that.
Now, you might be worried that a corporate dental office is opening near you. And while the trend for it may be growing, is it really the beginning of the end of dental private practices as we know it?
The truth is:
It is possible to co-exist with corporate dentistry and stay highly successful and profitable in private practice!
Let me back up and explain.
When a brand-new Wal-Mart or Applebee’s opens in town, they probably will impact some mom-and-pop operations and restaurants locally. But if you take a closer look at that same community, you will inevitably find local stores and restaurants that are still flourishing. Perhaps what keeps local residents from leaving a particular store is its atmosphere and personalized service, or a unique item on the menu that a big restaurant chain doesn’t have.
The key here is to offer something people want that makes your practice different from a larger business.
In my opinion, the future will be a challenge for the dentist who doesn’t know how to think like a business owner. As far as the average Joe is concerned, “a crown is a crown,” and one dentist is the same as every other dentist. Within our profession, we know that isn’t true, but our patients don’t know that. I predict corporate dentistry will expand in the next 10 to 20 years, but I also think this will be a prime opportunity for you to carve out a niche in dentistry that will keep you profitable and happy.
Take the example of restaurants or coffee shops. The two restaurants are going after different customers and are actually not competing with each other. They know it and are fantastic at what they do. Some people value the taste of a coffee more than its cost. They think it’s worth it so they spend their hard-earned dollars going to a local coffee shop (even though it’s more expensive than a fast-food counterpart). Others just want it cheap, so they go to McDonalds.
By the same token, there are patients who have their oral health as a priority over the cost. They don’t care how much it costs as long as they keep their teeth. They want the best. Then there are others who just want it cheap and really don’t care about the type of service they get. Welcome to the USA!
Here’s the bottom line – you need to know how to attract quality new patients.
Dentists everywhere can thrive in private practice in spite of corporate dentistry because they are going after different publics (types of customers). However, only the private practitioner who knows how to attract quality new patients (people who want to keep their teeth and willing to pay for it) to their practice will make it. For that matter, I can’t count how many times I’ve had clients tell me about patients who left their office (due to a change in plans), end up in a corporate office…and then come back as a case patient! Why? The service and the quality!
To go back for a moment on our discussion of corporatization in optometry and other healthcare fields, I want to mention that one of our longtime MGE clients referred her husband for MGE training, who happens to be an optometrist. At MGE, we specialize in dental practice management training, but it is widely applicable to any medical office or business. He just started with us and his office is already booming—right in the face of corporate-owned opticals everywhere! If he can thrive in the corporate-dominated optometry industry, then you can definitely succeed in dental private practice.
On the MGE New Patient Workshop, we’ll train you on precisely what you need to do to get more quality new patients (the ones that keep their appointments, show up on time, value their teeth over money and pay for comprehensive treatment). And we’re not talking about just putting up a website or sending out a postcard. The New Patient Workshop shows you how to optimize your entire practice so it generates new patients on its own—without you having to worry about it or waste tens of thousands of dollars on ineffective marketing.
I think future is bright for the dentist who can also think like an executive. At MGE we specialize in teaching a dentist how to do just that. Start your executive training by doing the New Patient Workshop. It has a money-back guarantee for six months after you do the course. What have you got to lose? Call now!