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    How changing patient expectations will impact your practice

    Viewing patients as consumers can help your dental practice succeed.


    Consumer-centric industry

    Putting power in the hands of the consumer is occurring in every industry on the planet, including health care segments. Physicians and hospitals are now being rated by various agreed-upon standards of quality and value. Reinfection rates, readmission rates, length of stay, success of procedures, patient satisfaction and cost of care are all being computed and made available on various websites.

    Then there is the gossip occurring on Facebook, via e-mails and the like. Your market is talking to each other. People will compare notes.

    People will want information about physicians, hospitals and procedures. People will have access to others with similar medical situations. Patient-to- patient communication will grow exponentially—it’s inevitable.  

    The same will soon hold true for optical, physical therapy, veterinary, pharma, audiology, etc. Dentistry cannot avoid this trend and in fact, because of the nature of dentistry, it is an ideal candidate for consumer-centric dentistry.

    This trend can now be seen as emerging in dentistry. At the same time, it is generating new opportunities for entrepreneurs as confirmed by this video.

    With technology putting the power in the consumer’s hands, channeling the consumer’s intention and standing for the consumer’s outcomes, the power will shift from the provider (dentist) to the consumer (patient).

    How will organized dentistry react to this shift in power? What impact will it have on dental practices small and large? How will insurance companies react to a consumer-driven dentistry? 

    More from the author: Why a non-dentist might make sense as a CEO

    Just like Uber impacted transportation or Amazon disrupted retail shopping, in consumer-centric dentistry, patients will better be able to self-assess their dental condition. What will that do to dental practice? It will empower new kinds of companies to position themselves to disintermediate the dominant power brokers, dentists and insurance companies. We’ll have companies that champion patients, which will change everything. And, like Trivago does hotels, there will be companies that do dentists. Loads of data about dentistry and dentists will be available.

    Dentistry is no longer undergoing evolutionary change, which is simply an extension of the past. Evolutionary change is gradual and incremental. Instead, dentistry is undergoing revolutionary change, change that is rapid, occurring all at once and fundamentally altering the very nature of the system.

    Consumer-centric dentistry will cause a revolutionary change in dentistry.

    Reimbursement in a consumer-centric world

    Previously, the dentist was the primary driver in the equation and the patient/insurance companies were the decision makers. They were the ones who wrote the checks. But as the patient becomes more consumer-like, and they have to write more of their own checks and are armed with greater and greater information, this equation will shift, putting more of the driving force into the hands of the patient/consumer.

    In addition, employers and therefore their dental insurers will be pushing for this shift to the patsumer. If we look at medical insurance as the forerunner, what we are seeing is that the satisfaction gap is narrowing between employees with traditional health insurance plans and those with consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs). CDHPs consist of high-deductible coverage plus a health savings account (HSA) or health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) from their companies.

    CDHPs are intended to encourage employees to make more cost-conscious decisions when selecting health care providers for nonemergency care, since unspent funds in an HSA or HRA can be used in lieu of out-of-pocket spending for future health care needs.

    A recent study reported that 61 percent of traditional plan enrollees said they were extremely or very satisfied with their overall health plans in 2014 (down from 67 percent in 2006), while 46 percent of CDHP enrollees were extremely or very satisfied with their plans (up from 39 percent in 2006).

    The trend is shifting to consumer-driven plans.  ​As the ability of the patients to become more and more knowledgeable and empowered about their dental needs and their oral health status increases and​ as dental benefits move more and more toward consumer-driven plans, the impact on dental practice will be significant. ​

    Here is the address to a company that understand the patient becoming a patsumer and has developed a dental business around this concept.

    Up next: Forming a different relationship with patients...

    Dr. Marc Cooper
    Dr. Cooper's professional career includes private periodontist, academician, researcher, teacher, practice management consultant, ...


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