Trends To Watch

Monday, October 3, 2011

Trends: Matt, Shelly, Robyn and myself make over 600 onsite visits per year. Here is an informal list of trends that we are observing:

1) Multiple location group practices (e.g., Midwest,Heartland). See our previous newsletters on this. (They are online at under “Dental News.”)

2) More GP’s doing ortho. For example, about 22% of offices now offer Invisalign.

I remember my travels to Outstate MN over 20 years ago when lots of GPs did ortho but that faded. It’s coming back now with the new technology and approaches.

3) Technology in the Operatories: Over 60% of Dentists have digital x-rays and in-operatory computer monitors. Add to that Laser Caries Detection (45%), Intra-Oral Cameras (65%), Patient Education Technology and Lasers.

This technology can easily run $14,000+ per operatory and that’s in addition to your clinical delivery equipment (chairs, dental units, etc.). So, you have to get “Result Control.” See the article on this at

4) More Delta Participation: In 2004, provider Delta Premier participation was down to about 81%. Nowadays, 87% of area practices are with Delta Premier. With Delta continuing it’s domination of the dental market, it can be quite challenging for Doctors to be outside the network.

Another 31% of Dentists are with a “Delta within a Delta” (Delta PPO). In our opinion, many practices with Delta PPO do not need to be with Delta PPO… and it costs them thousands. Essentially, their Delta write-offs are almost doubled and there isn’t enough gain (in our opinion) to make up for the write-offs. Likewise for Met Life.

Other PPOs such as the Premier Group, Health Partners, etc., pay fees more akin to regular Delta Premier and, if an office is running efficiently, the bottom line can be fine.

5) The Internet as a Source of New Patients: I’ve seen several instances this year where the Internet had overtaken the Yellow Pages and other sources (e.g., Direct Mail) in the number of new patients brought into offices. This is not universal. In some places Yellow Pages are still pulling. Visibility (signage) remains a very major factor. Of course, so are patient referrals which still account for 50+% of most office’s new patients.

6) Treatment Coordinators: A treatment coordinator is usually a hygienist or an assistant who presents treatment all the way from the x-rays through to the financial arrangements. The most ready model for this is orthodontic offices who have had treatment coordinators for years. The Doctor looks at the treatment plan, the treatment coordinator goes through it with the patients, holds their hands and works out the financial arrangements.

It’s easy to hire a hygienist and plug them into your operations. Developing a treatment coordinator is a little more tricky. It is a less defined job description. It takes a unique set of skills (a good dental background with good communication skills) and can be hard to work into your routine if you are not used to it. However, when we see offices with treatment coordinators, they do well.

This is by no means a comprehensive list but the trends mentioned are worth your attention.

Posted by Bill Rossi at 9:29 AM 0 comments
Labels: Advanced Practice Management, Bill Rossi, Delta Dental, dental office profitability, Economic news for midwest dentists, Group Practices, technology