We are just getting out of the COVID-19 pandemic and, just like other medical fields, dentistry has seen a number of changes in the last few years. Adjusting to the “new normal” brings new challenges that require a dedication to good practices to overcome.
In this blog post, we are looking at a few trends in dental practices as reported by Roger P. Levin (DDS), American Dental Association, as well as NexHealth. If you are in the industry and need assistance with your billing processes, reach out to EZ Dental Billing to schedule a consultation today.
Summary of content
- Year of the Patient
- Overcoming the Staffing Crisis
- Decline of Solo Dental Practices
- A Continuous Transition to a Tech-Based Customer Experience
- Emotional Dentistry
1 THE YEAR OF THE PATIENT
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients who postponed visits to dental practitioners are eager to return to their regular consultations and make up for their delayed treatments. Because of this, we can look at 2022 as the year that has been bringing patients back to dental practices. There is also a rising demand for professionals, a trend that seems to be continuing over the next few years.
According to a NexHealth report titled “State of Dental,” 94% of dental practices reported that they expect to have similar or greater patient volume when compared to pre-pandemic levels. This has led dental professionals to believe customer satisfaction should be their top priority. The idea is that focusing on their patients’ experience will improve their client retention rates, increase their payment collection, and help them recover from the crisis on a sustainable basis.
You can read the report here.
For this reason, 2022 — “The Year of the Patient” — and the next few years will bring a variety of challenges related to this increased rate of returning clients.
2 OVERCOMING THE STAFFING CRISIS
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the already-existing staffing shortage became an industry-wide crisis. There was an increase in the number of practices that left the industry, retired, or had their health affected so that they could not continue in the dental field. This poses an obvious operational problem, as an influx of returning patients means that you need more qualified staff members.
According to Roger P. Levin’s article for Compendium’s January issue in 2022, there are six identifiable stages of rebuilding professional capacity. These include:
- Hiring and Compensation
- Retraining of Current Staff
It is important to consider “anti-burnout” as the last stage. More than ever, satisfaction and a healthy work-life balance are important for workers in the dental field. Levin presents strategies such as taking care of the environment, surprise lunches and dinners, bonuses, and other methods of keeping workers happy. He stated that, “as difficult and challenging as that may be, it is better than losing the team member permanently.”
Click here to read the author’s full article and other topics related to the Compendium website.
3 THE DECLINE OF SOLO PRACTICES
With the increased numbers of returning dental patients and a staffing crisis that is difficult to overcome, many dentists are considering quitting their solo practice. This is only exacerbated by the doubled average cost for schooling, student debt, increased costs of maintaining their business, and growing education costs.
We can observe this trend from an American Dental Association report that shows there was a recent decrease in the number of solo practices, dropping from 67% to 50%. There is also a rise in group practices and participation in DSOs and DMSOs. If you consider dentists under 35, only 25% have a solo practice.
You can read an article on the consolidation of group practices here.
Associated with the previous topic on the staffing crisis, we see a trend of many dentists looking into joining DSOs, DMSOs, and group practices, at the same time that many of these practices are looking for skilled professionals that can tackle their increasing demand.
However, the trends for 2022 are not all bad news. The changing landscape offers an opportunity for your practice to bring in patients by getting on board with a tech revolution that is helping many offices grow exponentially amid the crisis.
4 A CONTINUOUS TRANSITION TO A MORE TECH-BASED CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
An excellent team, modern equipment, and comfortable spaces are essentials for a good patient experience and their treatment. With the challenges previously discussed, many practices are transitioning to a more tech-based approach to their management, improving patient care and impacting customer loyalty.
In order to become a more efficient dental practice, dental offices are adhering to these and other technology-based tools:
- Online Scheduling
- Branches for Customer Service
- Cloud Services for Preserving Patient Information
- Electronic Medical Records
- Automated Asset Control
- Billing and Insurance-Related Softwares
Keep an eye out for an upcoming article with tips for using each of these solutions in your practice!
5 THE OUTCOME? FOCUS ON EMOTIONAL DENTISTRY
The culmination of all of these trends is, once again, the customer experience. Dental practices should strive to make patients comfortable enough to:
- Schedule an Initial Consultation
- Trust You, Your Office Staff, and Your Treatment
- Return on a Regular Basis
Emotional dentistry practices include all of these, and also a little bit more.
Interesting innovations include much more than sedation dentistry for patients afraid of pain from treatments. Creating mockups that will demonstrate the results of their treatment through 3D-printing techniques reduces uncertainty and worries. Even basic solutions like having Netflix plugged into a television while performing their procedure can help your patient feel more at ease. The goal of emotional dentistry is ensuring that your clients are comfortable and that they feel cared-for.
THE BOTTOM LINE: CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
We’ve said this multiple times, but we will repeat it once again: it all comes to customer satisfaction.
Dealing with the uncertainties within the dental field may drive you away from making changes to your practice, but, trying to improve your patients’ overall experience and providing them with comfortable, efficient, and effective treatment will encourage them to return on a consistent basis.
All of these current issues may seem challenging, but they come with potential solutions that have proven to be effective for a number of dental practices all over the country. So, why not take recent trends and use them to continuously improve your business?
If you are looking for assistance with managing your billing, tracking receivables, and maintaining financial efficiency, contact the team at EZ Dental Billing now and see how we can help you.