Written by: J.W. Oliver Managing Partner at SupportDDS
Labor costs have been and are ON THE RISE. The three years from 2020 to 2022, have seen an average increase of near 7% annually. Since 2005, wages have risen across all industries by 45.8%. A recent study shows the average hourly rates from private industry across all sectors to be at $27.44 per hour plus $11.47 in benefits for a total realized hourly rate of $39.01 per hour. That can be shocking to many when we think of comparative minimum wages across the USA. As a business owner, dentist, CEO or manager, we must look for effective and efficient methods to mitigate these increases to remain profitable, but also leverage resources to grow.
According to the ADA, the percentage of revenue that a dental office should spend on labor will vary depending on several factors, such as the size of the practice, the type of services offered, and the location of the practice. However, as a rule of thumb, dental practices should target to keep labor costs at or below 30% of their total revenue.
It’s important to note that labor costs should include not only employee wages and benefits but also expenses related to recruiting, training, and managing staff. In addition, labor costs may be affected by factors such as the practice’s productivity, staff turnover rate, and the use of technology and automation. While it’s important to manage labor costs, dental practices should not compromise on the quality of care or patient experience. Therefore, it’s essential to strike a balance between labor costs and the delivery of high-quality dental services to patients.
Several factors have contributed to the recent spike in labor costs for dental offices, including:
- Labor Shortages: There is a shortage of skilled workers in the healthcare industry, including dental offices. This shortage has resulted in increased competition for qualified dental staff, driving up wages and benefits.
- Minimum Wage Increases: Many states and local jurisdictions have increased their minimum wage laws, resulting in higher wages not only for entry-level employees, but for the next tier up of hourly and management wages.
- Healthcare Costs: The cost of providing healthcare benefits to employees has risen significantly in recent years. This has resulted in increased labor costs for dental offices as they seek to provide competitive benefits packages to attract and retain talent.
- Increased Demand: The demand for dental services has increased in recent years due to a growing and ageing population. As a result, dental offices are hiring more staff to meet this demand, driving up labor costs.
Managing and mitigating these increases, and even new ways of reducing these costs and improving the bottom line can be found in two key areas:
- Implementation and utilization of AI (artificial intelligence)
- Leveraging remote/virtual teams with dental-trained outsourced personnel
AI has the potential to revolutionize dental offices by automating routine tasks, improving diagnosis and treatment planning, and enhancing the patient experience. However, it will still require labor and manpower support in several ways. Here are a few examples:
- Data Preparation: AI systems in dental offices will require large amounts of data to learn and improve their performance. However, this data must be prepared and labeled by humans to be useful. Dental virtual/remote teams can be leveraged through inputting and labelling data, ensuring accuracy and completeness.
- Model Development and Maintenance: AI systems in dental offices will require skilled professionals to develop and maintain the models. These professionals will work on developing algorithms, selecting features, and fine-tuning parameters to ensure that the AI models perform as expected.
- Quality Control: AI systems in dental offices will require quality control processes to ensure that the models are working correctly. Dental teams will be needed to monitor the results and flag any errors or inconsistencies, and provide feedback for improvement.
- Decision-Making: AI systems in dental offices can help automate decision-making processes, but they will still require human oversight and intervention. Dental office teams will need to review and interpret the results, make decisions based on those results, and ensure that the decisions made align with the patient’s needs and preferences.
- Patient Care: While AI systems in dental offices can help improve the patient experience, they cannot replace human interaction and empathy. Dental office teams are necessary to provide personalized care, address patient concerns, and provide emotional support.
AI can and will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of dental offices. It will still require labor and manpower support in several key areas.
There are a number of roles that can be successfully outsourced with remote/virtual teams. SupportDDS currently supports over 1,700 Dental Offices in the following areas:
- Director of First Impression (new patient calls)
- Scheduling/Phone Support
- Revenue Cycle Management
- Re-care and Reactivation programs
- Insurance Verification
- Lead Management/Social Media Support
- Personal Assistant
These roles can be implemented in as few as five business days. Outsourcing has proven to save as much as 70% versus onshore or in-office alternatives. These roles not only save you time and money, but they help elevate your in-office team to focus on the patient and produce an even higher ROI for your business. Below is a testimonial that relates sentiment:
“Hiring a team through SupportDDS has allowed Independence Dental Services to reduce its overhead costs without compromising on quality of service delivery with competent and literate staff working alongside our team in North America.” -Curtis Smith, CFO, Independence Dental Services
Case studies have proven to be quite effective with small emerging DSOs and to the larger organizations. Recently we implemented an RCM team of 40+ team members for a group with over 70+ dental practices. This resulted in over 60% in actual savings over the in-office teams, not to mention the efficiency and improvement in collections.
The real key to success is integration of your remote teams into your culture and current team. Joining weekly huddles by ZOOM, celebrating Birthdays, or sending company swag has proven to be the single most effective tool for long-term retention and team member productivity and job satisfaction.
Remote/Virtual teams coupled with relevant and effective AI can not only reduce your labor cost but assist you with business growth and elevate your team to move BEEyond Outsourcing!