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    The next big thing in dentistry is already here

    What will dentistry look like, and how will it operate, when it is integrated with primary care?


    Vertically integrated systems

    As the healthcare system changes, one trend that is muscularly emerging is the vertically integrated system. These systems include dentists. A vertically integrated system is an arrangement in which the supply chain of a company (in this case a hospital or insurance company) is owned by that company. Usually each member of the supply chain produces a different product or market-specific service, and the products combine to satisfy a common requirement.

    An example of an integrated system is your local hospital, which is owned by a large hospital system that owns and operates multiple hospitals and outpatient clinics. They own the medical-dental office buildings just off campus. They own the land on which the buildings sit. They own the physician practices—primary, secondary and tertiary specialists—that occupy their buildings. And they also own a ‘chain’ of ancillary services such as hospice, pharmacy and in-home nursing services.

    The hospital system wants to own as much of the downstream and upstream entities of their supply chain because vertical integration yields results. Less time. Less money. Less people to deal with. Less hassle. Less aggravation. Far more cost control.

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    Hospitals such as Kaiser and insurance companies like Guardian are currently in committed action for vertical integration. Just as consolidation, which is basically horizontal integration, caught fire, so will vertical integration.

    It is inevitable, as the healthcare system pushes for better results at reduced costs, that dentistry will be required to restructure itself to integrate with the other system players.

    Solo practices will not be able to adapt to this system. Some managed group practices will be able to redesign themselves to successfully partner with the other stakeholders and be players within an integrated system.

    Entrepreneurs who see the future as a juncture of horizontal and vertical integration, those who know how to truly partner with the other players in the supply chain, will have the opportunity to create something that can make a real and lasting difference to healthcare as well as be handsomely rewarded.

    Get ready—vertical integration is the next big thing.

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


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