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    What's next for the solo practice?

    Why group management practice is the future of of dentistry.

    When you study the business literature about successful companies, these companies all saw into the future. There was nothing mystical or mysterious about their foreknowledge. They had the same information as everyone else. But what made them a successful company was their ability to predict the future, and then the willingness to take actions that allowed them to succeed in that future.

    A great example of this is Apple. Apple saw that personal computing was the future, and made their choices based on that future. Although computing at the time was dominated by large main-frame computers (IBM), Apple anticipated personal computing as the future. Was the future of personal computing a guaranteed future? No. But it was a future they believed was possible and would most likely occur.

    This success story has repeated itself many times: Intel, Southwest, Amazon, Starbucks, Zappos, Facebook, Twitter. And it is also apparent in dentistry, with Heartland, Pacific, American Dental Partners and Aspen as examples.

    Dentistry is clearly moving into a different future than the past might have predicted. Based on the evidence and trends, my view is that many dentists in solo private practice, whose models and cultures are based on the past, will find themselves in the same predicament as pay phones. You can make the best pay phone ever made, but pay phones don’t fit the future of telecommunications. You can also have the best solo practice on the planet, but if doesn’t fit the future, it won’t matter.

    The future of dentistry

    The future is, by definition, unclear, and making decisions based on an unclear outcome is risky. But if you closely study trends and patterns, you have some ability to forecast what might occur in the future.

    The trend in dentistry is a steady and continuous decrease in the number of solo practices, and this trend is predicted to continue. Practice values are falling, so the negotiable value of solo practices is falling as well. Corporate competitors, fewer and fewer qualified buyers, government mandates and laws, the burdensome debt of young graduates, increasing restrictions on financing by banks, fewer dentists wanting to be owners—these are just some of the pressures driving this decreasing value of solo practice.

    Read more: Debt advice for young dentists

    Up next: What the future of dentistry means for you

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

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