As businesses have been innovating and evolving around us, why has dentistry remained the same for so long?
Dentists are hesitant to adapt new business strategies to attract new patients. But why the reluctance to change? There are likely quite a few reasons for this. Healthcare practitioners – dentists included – tend to be conservative, for one. Advertising in dentistry was illegal until the 1980s, and even today is sometimes considered either borderline unethical or a method of last resort by some of the older generation of dentists still in practice.
As dentists, we tend to do things the way they’ve traditionally been done, even to our own detriment. Even as the world changes around us.
We’re Dentists, Not Marketers
We’re also in an industry driven by highly skilled and educated professionals who obtained their degrees in dental surgery rather than business. The best in our field are great doctors, but are they great businessmen? Entrepreneurs and innovators are more often built than born, so it’s very possible that an industry resting on the shoulders of men and women whose education focused more on drilling than selling may be at a disadvantage when it comes to business innovation.
Dental Insurance – A Losing Proposition?
However, perhaps the biggest hindrance is that dental practices heavily rely on a system that depends on us being willing to lose money: insurance. The fact is, innovations that bring more fee- for-service patients through your door simply don’t benefit the insurance companies.
In fact, any innovation that might result in a large-scale increase in the number of fee-for-service dental patients nationwide would likely be actively opposed by the insurance companies. They realize that we don’t like serving as providers – we tolerate it. They realize that if there was a way to successfully grow our practices without the need for insurance companies, we would leap at it.
Our entire profession is under the yoke of another industry with interests and needs that are fundamentally at odds with ours. Up until now, we’ve needed them, and in the eyes of many dentists out there, we still do.
Meeting Patient Needs Through Innovation
Regardless of why our industry has been slow to innovate, there’s no arguing that we need to get comfortable with the idea of change, especially if we want to stay in business as private practitioners. In fact, change is already starting to take place.
Large group practices are becoming more common and can often charge fees considerably lower than single-dentist practices. Obviously, the insurance companies love this, but so do the cost-conscious fee-for-service patients.
Some dentists are expanding the scope of their practices, treating conditions like snoring and sleep apnea as well as more traditional conditions. Others are adopting CAD/CAM and cone beam technology, which give them an advantage over their more traditional competitors, at least in the eyes of the patients.
And that’s really what it comes down to. It doesn’t matter how you feel about things like this. All that matters is how your patients feel. As dentists, we need to start looking at our business through the eyes of our patients.