I’ve spent the better part of the last seven years immersed in the dental group practice and DSO space. Living in the center of the ever-growing bubble, I was under the impression that dentists and the industry as a whole had begun, albeit reluctantly, to accept the dental support organization model. Some DSOs stumbled, met with ridicule and faced opposition, but over time the model proved itself. I believed what was once taboo was actually becoming an accepted business model in dentistry. What I recently found out was that I couldn’t be more mistaken.
On December 20th, 2018 Group Dentistry Now (GDN) published an article, Aspen Dental Opens its First Office in a Walgreens. The article was well received by our audience, which is what we have grown to expect. The very popular article addressed the concept of increasing oral health access by providing dental services in a retail pharmacy setting. The goal of many DSOs, and certainly Aspen Dental, is to do just that: provide convenient access to care. While this move was being hailed as impressive and groundbreaking within the DSO and emerging group circles, many solo practitioners had massively different views.
The next day, Howard Farran of DentalTown shared our article with his vast social media audience, mostly made up of solo dentists, and the article went viral. The response from that audience couldn’t have been more different than the response from the DSO industry. In addition to the people in one of the photos begin called ‘idiots,’ the comments and reactions, and there were many, were almost exclusively negative, including:
“How low can dentistry and dentists go?”
“Drive thru dentistry is next.”
“I hate coupon dentistry.”
“Dentists have sold out our profession.”
“Dentists are shooting themselves in the foot all the time, from offering free stuff, massive discounts, selling their offices to corporate dentistry and now working with Walgreens.”
“Corporate dentistry is horrible. And the ones who pay are the patients. Dentists are horrible, customer service is a joke. Just horrible!“
Working day in and day out immersed in the world of DSOs and emerging dental groups, I witness the enormously positive difference DSOs and dental group practices are making in the dental industry. The dentists I typically speak with are interested in the DSO model and either understand how it works or want to understand. I had lost touch with how many anti-DSO dentists still exist and how hostile and vocal they can be.
Just to give this negativity towards the dental support model some perspective, the Dental Sales Academy recently shared a history of results from a survey they conducted nationwide with 500 dentists who had been practicing 18+ years.
The question: “What is your general impressions of DSOs / dental group practices?”:
- 4% responded favorably, 7% neutral or no opinion, and 89% negatively (2010)
- 6% responded favorably, 12% neutral or no opinion, and 82% negatively (2014)
- 9% responded favorably, 23% neutral or no opinion, and 68% negatively (2018)
The good news is that favorability towards the DSO model is increasing. The bad news is that the favorability is still heavily outweighed by negativity and the shift from unfavorable to favorable is moving at a snail’s pace. As an industry we still have a long way to go to convince dentists that the model is a great option for those who may not want to deal with the business side of dentistry.
Some solo practitioners just don’t want the competition that a DSO may bring to their neighborhood. Some believe that patient care is less than stellar in a DSO setting and others don’t seem to know why they dislike the model, but they just do. And I don’t expect organized dentistry to completely embrace the model anytime soon.
Indisputably, numerous ideas that we accept as a way of life today were once unorthodox. After all, personal computers were once thought to be unnecessary. We got our news from printed newspapers and magazines, shopped in stores, and thought the internet was a fad. But where are you reading this?
While there are more and more dentists embracing the DSO model, by the reaction and viral activity of our article, it is clear that we still have a long way to go to earn the respect of the majority of the dental industry and of the clinical providers. I am evermore determined to enlighten naysayers of the benefits of the DSO model and advocate to increase acceptance of this proven concept in the broader dental landscape. It is also up to DSOs and emerging dental groups to provide solutions and services to dentists, educate the larger industry about who they are and what they do, and above all provide the absolute best patient care and customer service.
At Group Dentistry Now we continue to reach into the mainstream dental industry to educate them and share our message. I recently sat down with Abe Kasbo, CEO of Verasoni, a PR and marketing firm that works with many solo practitioners, dental practices, dental distributors and dental manufacturers. Abe and I talked about the basics of what a DSO is, the rise of the DSO model, the impact on the industry, as well as the benefits from a dentist and patient perspective.
As we forge ahead in 2019, we should all keep in mind how the DSO model is being perceived by young dentists, organized dentistry, solo practitioners, but above all, how your DSO model is helping to provide increasingly better patient care and outcomes.
CEO, Group Dentistry Now
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