Latest fee survey shows more dentists advertising

Advertising is becoming a more acceptable tool to promote a practice and the fees of advertising dentists are higher for the most part, according to results of Dental Economics` 1996 Fee Survey. The study examined fees for 46 services in 1995.

The majority of respondents say they advertise their practices, primarily through the Yellow Pages.

Penny Elliott Anderson, Senior Editor

Advertising is becoming a more acceptable tool to promote a practice and the fees of advertising dentists are higher for the most part, according to results of Dental Economics` 1996 Fee Survey. The study examined fees for 46 services in 1995.

For the second, consecutive year, the majority of survey respondents (52 percent) told us they do advertise their practices. Of those that do advertise, 43 percent advertise in the Yellow Pages, 6 percent use direct mail and 3 percent advertise in the newspaper.

Examining regional differences, we found the percentage of advertising dentists was highest in the West North Central states (66 percent), followed by Pacific Region dentists (57 percent).

Some 57 percent of rural dentists told us they utilized some form of advertising for their practices, compared to 52 percent of suburban dentists and 48 percent of urban dentists

And although this survey again showed a higher percent of women advertising (63 percent) their practices than men (at 51 percent), the gap was not as wide as last year, when 70 percent of our female respondents said they advertise, compared to only 51 percent of male respondents.

Comparing fees of dentists who advertise with those who don`t advertise, we found advertising dentists had higher fees for 29 of the 46 services in our 1996 survey, with nonadvertising dentists having higher fees for only nine services.

Computer Usage Up

Computer usage was high among our surveyed dentists: 75 percent told us they used a computer in their practice, up from 68 percent the previous year. Group practices had the highest computer usage in their practices (98 percent), followed by 90 percent of those in the employee/contractor associate category, 83 percent of those in partnership practices, 72 percent in solo practices and 65 percent in space-sharing solo practices.

But when asked if they used an electronic claims-processing service, only 26 percent of total survey respondents answered yes. The majority, 58 percent, said no and 15 percent said they were considering it.

The percentage of survey respondents planning to make hardware and/or software purchases in the next year increased from 33 percent in our 1995 survey to 36 percent in this year`s survey.

By type of practice, 48 percent of partnerships, 40 percent of space-sharing solos, 38 percent of groups, 36 percent of solos and 29 percent of employee-contractor/associates told us they would be making a computer hardware and/or software purchase in 1996.

Our latest survey also showed that women dentists are using computers more, with 84 percent of this year`s female respondents indicating their practices are computerized compared to only 64 percent the previous year. Computer usage among male dentists rose from 69 percent in our 1995 survey to 75 percent in this year`s survey.

A higher percentage of women than men said they would be making computer hardware and/or software purchases this year. A majority of the women (52 percent) answered yes to this question, compared to 35 percent of the men.

Commenting About Fees

Once again, managed care dominated the comments from our 1996 Fee Survey respondents. Some examples:

Connecticut: "Managed-care dentistry is making a big move in Connecticut because the state-subsidized program has been given over to these companies for Title 19 patients. It will result in compromised care."

New Jersey: "Economy in Northern New Jersey is slow. Too many patients losing insurance and/or changing to lesser plans. Working harder for the same or less income. Immedi-ate future looks grim. After 20 years, I cannot wait to be able to retire."

South Dakota: "The only PPO we participate in is Delta; no plans to ever join any others or participate in a cap plan. Don`t plan to participate in any managed-care programs."

West Virginia: "Unless suppliers to profession are limited in their rate increases...health-care problem is unsolvable."

Arkansas: "The only PPO-type programs in which we participate are Delta Dental and Blue Cross. We have no intention of signing on with any of the capitation plans that are spreading like cancer, but will leave those to practitioners who want the hassle of cost-oriented (vs. quality-oriented) patients.

Texas: "I gave up one capitation plan and one DMO plan about a year ago and am doing much better. An ethical dentist cannot succeed with these plans, period!"

Oregon: "The only capitation program we participate in is state welfare."

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