As we embrace the start of another year (and the inevitable few months of crossing out incorrectly written dates—we can’t be the only ones?) there’s no better time to share some trends that will play a large part in our industry in 2019. Understanding where the dental world is going is imperative to maintaining a successful practice that stays on the cutting edge of industry news and technology.
However, better than simply knowing predicted industry trends is knowing how to use them to your advantage to improve patient experience, acquire new patients, increase profits, and more.
- Trend #1: Increase in Group Practices and DSOs
While this trend isn’t particularly new, it’s becoming more prevalent than ever. With new dentists leaving school with an average of over $260,000 in student loan debt, they’re finding it much more financially responsible to share practice ownership. This model allows them to pay off debt more quickly, lower the risk of losing their practice, and in the case of those joining an existing group practice already have a steady patient base. That coupled with the ability to have a better work-life balance by not being the sole dentist in a practice means we’ll most likely only see the number of group practices increase.. Additional benefits such as having more leverage to negotiate with insurance companies and product suppliers also factor into the many perceived benefits of working in a group practice.
- Trend #2: Online Competition & Digital Marketing Strategy
In today’s dental industry having an online presence is the standard, which means making an impact on current and potential customers online requires more strategy than ever before. Between your practice website, social media pages, and online reviews taking the time to strategize, test and analyze results is necessary for achieving the results you want from your digital presence.
For example, after Facebook greatly altered their algorithm last year, it became much more difficult to get engagement with a simple post on your Facebook page. Instead, paid posts are almost necessary to reach a desired level of connection with followers. To ensure you’re making the most of your financial investment you should be regularly analyzing results of posts to find what and when to share for the best response. Due diligence in the digital world will be essential to getting noticed online and growing your practice. If you aren’t sure how to manage this all, talk to other business owners to see how they do it—they may have a line on local talent that can help you.
- Trend #3: 3D Printing
As 3D printing becomes more available we’ll see more general dental practices offering this service, and it’s something for most to consider. While there are upfront costs and a learning curve, the ability to print customized dental appliances in-house in a day or two (or even same-day) instead of waiting weeks or months for a lab can be invaluable. Patient experience and treatment acceptance can be greatly improved by offering this for patient. Doing some research on 3D printing options and weighing costs versus benefits could prove valuable for your practice this year.
- Trend #4: Increased Use of Digital Resources
The digital world will affect dental practices in more than just their marketing strategies in 2019. There are also an ever-increasing number of ways to digitize and modernize dental practices to the benefits of patients and clinicians alike. Digital options like online booking and payment software make it easy for patients to interact with dental practices on their terms, increasing the likelihood of positive interactions like booking first time appointments and making payments in a timely matter.
In addition, more practices will continue to move to paperless or semi-paperless practices as software becomes more secure, reducing the fear of a HIPAA infraction for lost, stolen or misused patient information. Cloud storage is gaining popularity for its relatively low-cost and increased ability to ensure security of information. Plus, the ease of access for authorized individuals helps increase practice efficiency and coordination.
- Trend #5: Providing Financing Options
To create the best patient experience possible more dental practices are opting to provide multiple payment and financing options for patients. Not only does doing this increase chances of treatment acceptance (by reducing the “sticker shock” of a large upfront cost) it also demonstrates that a practice is willing to work with their patients to give them the best care possible.
From monthly payment plans, third-party medical or dental credit cards, online bill pay, and discount services there are a number of ways to help patients find ways to prioritize and afford dental care. And when patients can afford dental care consistently you’ll have more consistent visits, on-time payments, and a positive reputation as understanding and easy to work with. A win-win-win if we’ve ever seen one.
One last tip so you don’t get overwhelmed: tackle one idea at a time and set a goal to research and consider the implementation of 2 or 3 new ideas a year. After all excellent patient care and a financially sound practice still remain the keys to success.
Did we capture the hot dental trends of 2019 or do you think there are more we should explore? Let us know in the comments!
Happy 2019, everyone!