The healthcare field is everchanging these days, and dentistry is no exception. It’s necessary for dentists to stay on top of industry trends to maximize their patient generation and retention to remain one step ahead of competitors.
Changes such as nationwide policies affecting dental insurance will impact dentists no matter what. Other changes, like technological trends, will require action sooner rather than later to keep your dental practice competitive. To help you stay ahead of the curve, we’ve outlined seven major trends influencing today’s dental industry:
1. Un- and underinsured patients
Although most health insurance plans sponsored by the Affordable Care Act do not include dental insurance, the health insurance plans offered to children must include dental coverage. Because of this healthcare reform, demand for pediatric services have increased. Since President Trump has already begun signing executive orders to roll back aspects of the ACA, this trend may be heading in the other direction. Children’s dental insurance hasn’t been impacted yet, but it likely will. Politics aside, the number of people seeking dental treatment without insurance has been high for years.
Dentists can adapt to this industry change by making things as easy as possible for parents to take care of their child’s dental needs. You can do this by advertising a variety of payment options for people who don’t have full insurance coverage, such as a credit program or incremental payments. You can also offer a special discount for patients who pay in advance. Send out notices in your newsletters and include these special offers as many parents are unaware that there are options available. If your practice has a website, be sure to make it clear which forms of insurance and payment your practice will accept.
2. Dental patients are pickier consumers
No matter what industry you look at, today’s consumers are highly discerning. Patients have similar expectations for their dental care as they have for other areas of their life. Additionally, the result of the recession has made consumers more cautious about their spending, which unfortunately has led the decline in dental visits among adults.
With the internet available at their fingertips, patients can independently research their symptoms and treatment options, and evaluate the reputation of your practice and your competitors’. One way to maximize patient retention and generation is to actively manage your online reputation.
3. Adults need convincing
According to the Health Policy Institute of the American Dental Association, a little more than 35% of adults feel the need to visit the dentist annually. Not only is this bad for the overall oral health for people in the U.S., it is also bad for business. The biggest factor for adults is cost. Implementing payment plans and advertising specials are great ways to attract first time
patients. Dentists are encouraged to ask adults to schedule regular cleanings, keep appointments, and accept treatment when problems arise.
The second most common reason adults avoid the dentist is that they think do not need dental care. Having a formalized treatment presentation, explaining the potential health risks of not receiving treatment, pointing out that the treatment could become costlier if they wait, and following up on patients with unscheduled treatment are great way to encourage patient acceptance for proposed treatments.
4. The rise of group practices
The rise of the group practices has been and will continue to be a major change in the industry. Rising costs, the growing influence of PPOs and third parties, and student loan debt are some of the reasons for the trend. According to The Dental Geek, 42% of all graduating dentists say student loan debt influences their practice choice, making them more likely to join a group practice than establish a solo practice.
5. The great gender shift
Another major trend in dentist demographics is the once male-dominated industry is becoming more female-dominated. This doesn’t necessarily affect your practice, but it will likely impact the overall trend of group practice vs. solo practices. According to The Dental Geek, the majority of practicing dentists will be women by the year 2020. Some experts speculate that the impact of this trend will likely be more group practices, as female dentists generally work fewer hours than male dentists, and being part of a group practice allows dentists greater flexibility.
6. Increasing digitization of dentistry
From dental x-rays to electronic health records, technology is one dental trend you cannot ignore. Dentists must embrace new technologies to stay competitive as advances are helping to reduce failures, provide better diagnostic measures, and much more. Be sure to advertise that your practice uses the most advance dental technologies and outline the specific high-tech processes you utilize.
7. The need for niche dentistry
The final trend to look at is how to set yourself apart from the crowd by finding a “niche” and incorporating it into your marketing plan. What can you do to beat out the competition and make sure potential patients go to you? Show potential patients you’re the best option for pediatric dentistry, senior dentistry, luxury service, or another area.
Whether you’re struggling with patient retention, or trying to get more first-time patients through the door, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the trends shaping the dental industry. Those who are willing to adapt to these changes are the ones who see the most success in attracting and retaining patients.