Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Times, They are A-Changin'

Hey, hey, hey.

Did you guys miss me? I was on vacation last week. Me and the fam went to the mountains of North Carolina. I will show you my pictures on Friday. We had a great time and made some great memories.

Great weather all in all, but it was unseasonably warm, just as the rest of the country. On our way up, we stopped for lunch at a rest area off the highway in Charlotte. It was 107 degrees outside; we got out of the car and jumped right back in. It was so hot.

It was warm in the mountains, too. The only problem with that, because it is never hot there, so they don't have air conditioning in the house. The temps were 62-84. The nights tolerable, but we made it a point to be out of the house when it got to in the 80s. Anyway, more funny stories (I mean memories) on Friday.

Did anyone watch the NASCAR race on Saturday night? I didn't, but I was channel surfing and caught the very end. The part where they were interviewing the winners and losers. NASCAR is funny because it is so sponsor-driven. All the interviews start by the driver taking a drink of a Coke or a Pepsi or Gatorade, then they say something like, "I will tell you Bob, this Aaron’s Rent-All Ford was awesome today."

Well, I was on the NASCAR race for about 3 minutes before they interviewed Ryan Newman. I heard him say, "This Aspen Dental Ford blah blah blah…" I didn't even hear what he said because I was so shocked. He had the Aspen Dental logo on the collar of his driver’s suit. Then I looked at his car and there was the Aspen Dental on the side and hood of the car. Here is the article I found:

I think the sponsorship for a NASCAR car is $2,000,000. Wow. My advertising budget is a tad less than that. Then I went to the Apple store in the mall on Monday and I saw this:

This one is not as over the top, but still. I know this one must be a corporate deal. If I was opening an office and I had a sign outside the office to announce it was coming, it would be say, “Altamonte Mall Dental coming soon featuring John Gammichia, DMD, FAGD,” or something like that. I mean, if I was putting up all the cash to build in a mall, I would be sure to have my name on the dang sign.

In the Orlando area, I see more and more billboards for things like corporate orthodontics. Is this happening in your town too? Are dentists in other countries seeing this happen?

I read the latest AGD Impact and the cover story is, “The Future of the Dental Practice; Is the solo Practitioner Headed for Extinction?” It talks first of the amount of debt that new graduates are graduating with. Then about the new technology available to dentists (digital x-rays, digital patient records and digital impressions, etc.), which can cost an office about $100,000. Then there are other technologies like CAD/CAM; they even mention cone beam technology.

There are quotes from some higher-up at a "dental service organization" about all the benefits to going corporate: they have jobs for young dentists, they have capital, they are perfect for people ready to retire. But then Dr. Levin talks about how the best thing to drive patients to a dentist’s office is the relationship that dentist has with their patients.

The article goes on to say that the patient wants to come to an office that they think is cutting-edge, and the dental service organizations have the means to for that, along with having multiple practitioners and multiple specialists under one roof. That is what they have going for them. But what they can't seem to figure out (and this is me talking) is how to have the relationship. See, if you incentivize someone to produce more so they can make more money, the thing that is going to suffer is the relationship. But the solo guy who has the relationship doesn't have $200,000 for all the bells and whistles.

Here are my thoughts The solo guy wins. Once the patient has a taste for a dentist spending time with them and feels like money is secondary to their care, they will never be able to go to another type of dentist. No fancy equipment is going to overcome that. No big office, no waterfalls at the door, no big TVs or monitors on the ceiling, no fancy crown machine is ever going to replace the "I care about you and I like the people here" relationship that we have with our patients.

So, rest easy. General dentistry/solo practice is alive and well, maybe not as alive and well as it used to be, but alive and well nonetheless. Let me know your thoughts.


P.S. I am not bashing corporate dentistry/dental service organizations. They are here and they will always be here.


Dr. Andy said...

A dental office in the Mall? No biggie. The other day I was at Wal-Mart. As soon as I turned from the cashier I saw IT. Yes, a new dental office INSIDE Wal-Mart. Ponder that for a while.

Every dental office I've seen inside a Mall here in CA has gone under. Why? At least $20,000 a month on rent.

For us "older" dentists there are memories of dental offices inside Sears. How did that turn out?

Yes, I read that article in the AGD Impact. My first thought was, "Someone needs to put their crack pipe down." DENTISTS care about CAD/CAM, cone beam, digital impressions, etc. Patients care about NONE of those things. I have none of those toys in my office and am doing quite well. Patients care about the things John mentioned. That is why he is doing well.

How does the saying go? What is old is new again?


gatordmd said...

Great comments Andy.

Thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

At first corporate businesses seem to have advantages, as you have noted. However, on closer inspection, they really do fall down. I find that virtually all the services I use, especially those which have a high level of skill, I never go the corporate direction. An example is car repairs-I like volvo's but will never set foot in a dealership. I will always find a good independent mechanic who is passionate about the car.I don't care about the fancy trappings of the office, but how much does the person care about his field!!

Anonymous said...

I have worked as a dentist for a dental corporation. They spend big on advertising . They also get the newest dentists right out of school, or the strange ones.. They also send labwork out of country (by way of an US) lab. My advice to patients: RUN!

Anonymous said...

I am a dentist in a dental group. My patients like me. I am passionate about dentistry and perform quality dentistry. I am probably underpaid in comparison to you solo guys. But, I get to focus on dentistry all day. Sure, I have to "produce" more to take home the same amount that you do. That does not mean that I overtreat and diagnose. It means that if I want, I can spend more time doing dentistry than worrying about all of the endless responsibilities and headaches of running an office/business.

At the other poster, I would be willing to bet that more than 75% of any goods that you own were made in another country. A good bit of my lab work goes to another country. All of the lab work must go through the FDA and the quality of the materials used is second to none. Labor is cheap in other countries. So, I can afford to do restorations that require lab work even for my patients with poor insurance coverage.

I monitor the hell out of my lab work. I scrutinize every margin, I take a bitewing of every seat. I make sure that I am delivering a quality product. So, to you solo guys...don't judge all group practices or docs the same.



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