Best of 2015: Attack on DSOs

It is no secret that there is an attack on DSOs.  Take a look at dental message boards, watch what some state dental boards are doing, and look at some of the dental companies that now provide “solutions” to help dentists compete against “corporate” dentistry. 

Why the attacks?

Solo dentists are watching groups come into their towns, and these solo dentists are having to change the way they run and market their practices.  In many cases DSOs are offering lower prices, extended hours, emergency care, and can market these services more efficiently.  Most people do not embrace change and these solo dentists are no different.  Solo practitioners are seeing their 30-35 hour work weeks disappear.  They are seeing their marketing costs go up and they are having to compete for patients.  Solo practitioners also do not have the buying power that DSOs have when it comes to purchasing supplies or services.

Other reasons for the attacks

You hear the argument that DSOs and groups do not provide the level of patient care that these solo practitioners do.  In some cases that may be a true statement.  In other cases, we see DSOs opening offices in underserved communities, donating free dental services and helping out the local communities through various fund raising events. 

We certainly have seen the various news stories that feature Medicare/Medicaid fraud, infection control breaches and legal battles with dental group practices.  These stories tend to rise to the top of the news feeds because they feature large “corporate” entities.  I would argue there are just as many, if not more cases in which solo practices are also guilty of the above violations.

A rising tide lifts all boats

Solo practitioners can learn from DSOs.  Take a look at why DSOs are successful.  It is not just about lower prices and a higher volume of patients.  DSOs also know how to market their services while providing convenience that today’s patients demand.  Not every solo practice will be acquired by a DSO or group, but every dentist can learn a couple of things by watching how DSOs market and what they offer their patients.

Some of these attacks on groups are justified, while other attacks are driven by fear of change.  Solo practitioners should pay close attention to DSOs and take some of their best business practices and apply them to their own practices. 

Written by Camille Fay, freelance dental contributor