Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA
Many dentists concerned about changes in managed care are searching for a way to ensure their long-term success. In answer, I have been promoting the concept of the "boutique practice" in my national seminars for some time now. This is a practice that moves toward want services and away from need services. Dentists who have accepted the boutique philosophy have experienced incredible growth. I firmly believe this is the best way for our clients to be successful now and in the future.
Although dentistry was simpler 15 or 20 years ago, there are definitely tremendous opportunities available today. As proof, there are many practices across the country exploding with growth. What`s their secret? These practices are not trying to compete with low-cost providers; instead, they are adopting the boutique approach-high-level, high-fee care which patients appreciate. Operating the practice as a business enables you to identify growth areas that can create a more successful dental practice than in the past.
Look for Trends
As you begin to convert to a boutique practice, be aware of current trends in the country. One sure way is to notice how people are spending their money. People, today, spend large amounts of money on entertainment and cosmetics. While Americans still spend more of their income on entertainment, cosmetic purchases are increasing every day.
You want to capitalize on both of these trends. Although it is important to make your practice as entertaining as possible (by having multi-media, CD players and so forth), you are limited to what you can do regarding entertainment. However, your opportunity to take advantage of cosmetic trends is enormous. People spend roughly $3,000 to $4,000 every few years on their physical appearance, excluding clothing. We need to tap this source of potential dentistry.
The simplest and least-expensive form of cosmetic dentistry is bleaching. Nearly everyone wants to have whiter teeth, so you would think that bleaching would be the most common dental procedure performed. Why isn`t it? The problem is that our practices are geared to fulfilling needs. In other words, if a tooth is broken or decayed, we are more than willing to work hard to motivate the patient to accept treatment. However, if the case is cosmetic (want services), we are not as motivated to promote the service. Bleaching should be a basic service, continually promoted, in every dental practice. However, since nothing is broken or decayed, we do not educate and motivate patients properly with the same enthusiasm.
Remember, the boutique dental practice takes advantage of trends in America. Cosmetics is a trend; therefore, the boutique practice should emphasize the patient`s desires as well as their needs. To properly motivate patients, the dentist needs to believe in the importance and benefits of cosmetic procedures first. After all, if the dentist does not feel the patient should have bleaching done, why would the patient feel that way?
Instead, we should be eager to offer patients something they want. According to Dr. William Dorfman, one of the founders of NiteWhite®, "Most patients are thrilled with the results of bleaching and are pleasantly surprised at how simple the process was."
This reaction is very different from what we normally see from patients who have had fillings, crowns or other need services. Patients are more satisfied and are more appreciative. They have willingly received treatment and, as a result, are more glad to pay your fees.
Choose Your Own Dentist
Moving toward elective services is not the only thing you can do to deal with managed care. Even if you participate in a managed-care program, you still need to capitalize on fee-for-service opportunities. The best way to accomplish this is to educate patients about their freedom of choice, while expanding your services to include elective procedures. When patients make a decision to remain in a fee-for-service practice instead of switching to a managed-care plan, they usually weigh the value of the current practice`s services. You must give your patients a reason to value your services.
I recently created a brochure, Choose Your Own Dentist, that dentists can send to their patients, explaining that they may not have the choice of coming to that practice if they join a managed-care plan. While a brochure of this nature can be very helpful, it is even more powerful when the practice is known for offering high-level customer service and want services (such as bleaching) in addition to need services.
Showing patients that they will not only have access to high-quality need services, but also a wide selection of elective procedures, will help keep them in your practice. If we are going to ask people to choose their own dentist, why not ask them to choose beautiful teeth at the same time? After all, if that`s what patients want, shouldn`t we give it to them?
Dr. Roger Levin is founder and president of The Levin Group, a national, dental-management and marketing-consulting firm. He can be reached at 410-486-1089.