Running a dental practice can be tough. Dentists need to constantly balance delivering care to patients with the demands of running a business. They also have to keep their technology and equipment up to date while making sure they’re in compliance with all relevant rules and regulations. Combined with student loan and business debt, it can be difficult for a practice to break even, let alone make a profit.
Fortunately, there is an alternative that is gaining in popularity: Dental Support Organizations (DSOs). As firms that provide non-clinical, business support to dental practices, DSOs are uniquely positioned to help dentists meet the challenges of running a practice while allowing them to focus on what they do best: caring for patients.
Here are just a few reasons why dentistry is being transformed by DSOs:
- DSOs enable dentists to focus on patients first. DSOs enable dentists to better prioritize patients over paperwork. There are enormous technical, legal, and financial challenges that come with running a dental practice. Everything from billing and claims processing to marketing and compliance is expensive, time consuming, and takes time away from patient care. By affiliating with a DSO, dental practitioners can free themselves of the burden of administrative work and give their full attention to patients. This can also lead to greater work-life balance and overall satisfaction.
- DSOs offer cutting-edge technology. DSO-affiliated dentists have all the latest technology at their fingertips, allowing them to offer patients a wide range of advanced services that might not be available in traditional dental offices. Because their business model is built around streamlining the administrative processes of running a practice, DSOs present the perfect environment to experiment with innovative technology solutions. Computerized, cloud-based management platforms allow clinical staff access to patient records in real-time, making it easier to track and adhere to quality standards. Furthermore, centralized systems reduce administrative redundancy and allows practices of varying sizes to all benefit from shared technology.
- DSOs help dentists change lives for the better. DSO-affiliated dentists are leaders when it comes to providing quality, affordable care – especially for the undeserved. According to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in 2012, more than 52 percent of children on Medicaid did not go to the dentist – largely because so few practices accept Medicaid. By streamlining the claims process, achieve lower equipment and supply costs, and leveraging information technology, DSO-affiliated dental practices are able to absorb Medicaid’s low reimbursement rates, see more Medicaid patients, and expand access to care for patients who might otherwise go without preventive dental healthcare. In fact, there’s evidence out there to show that this is working: A 2016 analysis by Dobson Davanzo & Associates found that DSO-affiliated dentists performed fewer procedures than other Medicaid dental providers in their area, in part because their patients had regular access to preventive dental care and experienced improved overall dental health over time.
When you consider all the benefits of DSO-supported dentistry, it’s no wonder that DSOs are growing in popularity. Nearly 7 percent of dentists in the U.S. are now affiliated with a DSO, according to the latest data from the ADA Health Policy Institute, and that percentage almost doubles for dentists under the age of 35.
Over the next few years, we can expect to see the DSO industry grow faster, as dentists realize how much they can benefit from sharing administrative resources, harnessing the latest technologies, and delivering quality care to patients.