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    Is the solo practice dead?

    The rise of DSOs has many solo practitioners nervous — but what does the future really hold?


    Different doctors

    There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to where doctors want to work. It depends on personal preference, individual finances, and where one is in his or her career. For instance, Dr. Cooper observes that millennials seem well-suited for DSOs.

    “They are digital natives,” Dr. Cooper says. “For them, it’s a doorknob; for me, it’s a safe. I don’t even know the combination to a half of these things, but they do. So, they’ll embrace it. The other part of that is millennials know how to be a team, better than Generation X, better than Boomers.”

    On the other hand, Dr. Burt observes that DSOs may not have young dentists’ best interests at heart.

    “They overwork them,” Dr. Burt says. “They may promise the world to them: $160,000 a year, so the kids with the big debts, they’ve got to roll to that right away. They’ve got to find out that they’re going to work their asses off. And that’s what they do. The corporate take side cuts and shortcuts that ought not be.”

    As an example, he talks about one dentist who left a DSO because the organization was using non-certified personnel to perform X-ray procedures.

    “He said, ‘Well, if someone comes down and we get in trouble, it’s my license that’s on the line, not you guys. You’ll go back to work tomorrow and find somebody else. I’m on the line,’” Dr. Burt recounts. “And he’s right. He wanted to do it the right way.”

    Trending article: 6 things you need to know to survive the DSO revolution

    Patient preference

    Just like the doctors, patients have a preference, and they can vote with their wallets.

    “For the most part, there are patients who want the private practice and want the attention and customer service,” Dr. Levin says. “And there are patients who want the expanded hours, open six days a week, DSO for access in emergencies. But I would say the majority of patients aren’t really noticing. Because DSO marketing is excellent, and private practice is still the majority of dentists and has a very strong niche. And also, dentistry is a very personal relationship for many people. That might change in 30 to 40 years, but right now many people want to go to ‘their dentist’. There are people who are happy to go to a DSO and have any dentist, so we are seeing a shift, but the majority still like going to their dentist.”

    For Dr. Burt, the personal touch really makes a difference to his patients.

    “My dentist is my dentist, and some people are just fussy,” Dr. Burt adds. “They really care about what goes on with them. And they want somebody to talk to them. They want to know the proper options. They don’t want to see another guy three years from now, because there’s this huge turnover in corporate.

    “The empathy factor is fairly large,” he continues. “They need somebody that wants to care about them. And I think that, with the turnover of DSOs, you just don’t get that. People just have so much fear and anxiety about going to the dentist, that when they finally connect with somebody, they want to know that they’re cared about, and I think there’re a whole lot of practitioners out there – like myself – who care about what happens to their patients. The empathy that we are able to generate for these people it’s what keeps them coming back, rather than going somewhere where they’re just a number.”

    Trending article: The question dentists need to ask about DSOs


    Next: How can solo practitioners stay in the game?

    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...


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