DSOs in the Next Five Years: The Key to Win in New Business Lines and Markets

February 4, 2022

Dental service organizations (DSOs) are becoming increasingly popular for new dentists. In 2020, 16.3 percent of 21- to 35-year-olds chose to join a DSO rather than open a solo practice. The benefits are clear—with DSOs, dentists can focus on what they do best and leave the business operations to the experts. Currently, over 4,000 DSOs are operating in the US, and they are constantly motivated to explore new and emerging dental technologies. In the early days, however, this was not the case. Almost all DSO models focused exclusively on general dentistry and followed the traditional norms of providing specialty procedures.

Over time, however, the drive for increased productivity and margins led to the accelerated integration of more adjunctive and specialty procedures. With these advancements, the new model focused on retaining top dental talent and providing their patients with the most up-to-date care without worrying about the management and operations.

DSOs are on the rise, and the landscape of dentistry is rapidly changing. Let’s discuss the next five years and how DSOs can win new business lines and markets.

Talent Acquisition

First things first, the priority in any market should be talent acquisition. This is different from recruiting. According to Balance Point, “Recruiting happens when an employer wants to fill open positions. The talent level of the candidates and seamlessly integrating them into your company are not top priorities. On the other hand, talent acquisition involves looking for the ‘right’ people to fit into your organization. Simply put, finding the best person for the job.”

In dentistry, this means finding the best employees you can, training the heck out of them, and never letting them go. The COVID-19 pandemic put this process to the test. Many employees in healthcare and beyond went home during the lockdown and never returned. Why? These individuals found new ways to make money while spending more time with their families and friends. While the idea of remote work and not having a centralized place to work each day is preferred by many, we need to incentivize returning to the workplace. So, our challenge is how to bring stellar employees back into the office.

We know it starts with, and will always be about, the people. And Inc.com actually sees this as an opportunity to benefit, “to reevaluate your company’s core values, collaborate with leadership to set better examples for employees, and brainstorm about ways to encourage more bonding and camaraderie.” How employers treat their employees in good times and bad is absolutely essential. Those in leadership positions can choose to match them or face potential understaffing with increased demand for flexibility. In dentistry, we can accomplish this by increasing the number of days allotted each year for paid time off (PTO), sick leave, and maternity and paternity leave. We can also incentivize employees by increasing their pay for overtime or unused time off. While some individuals will still prioritize working at home, others will appreciate the in-person interaction and additional revenue.

Another thing to note when acquiring new talent is that it’s common for the best employees to continue looking to their next steps. The key here is finding these individuals who are hungry for growth and creating a work environment that is conducive to this and is frankly too good to pass up. It’s always better to be patient in hiring. Don’t make bad hiring decisions out of fear or pressure. When you find the right people, augment benefits and schedules and build a positive and rewarding working environment. Develop a career path for your employees and show them what they can do to get there. Show them they have opportunities to advance financially and in their careers. Also, develop a better onboarding experience for those joining now. Don’t let them down and create something they want to be a part of for a long time.

New Markets and Growth

Another key to success in the future is to tap into new markets and continue to grow. This is accomplished by continuously implementing new services in your practices. Examples include Invisalign, implant-based treatments, arch procedures, sleep and airway treatments, etc. Pay attention to the services your patients want and identify ways to give your teams and dentists the training and ongoing education they need to implement these new treatments in their models.

Another key to fuel traffic into your practices is to consider your location. Dental Town shares this, “it is important for all dentists to understand that in order to stay competitive, they need to start paying attention—now—to data. Location isn’t just whether your office is on a busy street. That’s a very dangerous generality. It’s much more. The choices you make about location will determine everything: your family legacy, your practice value, eventual estate and more.”

Begin by finding an area that isn’t too dense or congested with dental practices. The southern states do very well in dentistry. However, it’s also essential to consider locations with a dental school that isn’t too congested with DSO footprints. This allows you to provide excellent opportunities for new graduates and access them through onsite recruitment.

In addition to less congested areas, consider more innovative solutions. Growth is accomplished not just through affiliation but also through AI and other modern digital solutions. The Medical Futurist explains that “A.I. algorithms . . . enable clinicians to find the best modalities for their patients. With A.I. tools having access to such information, they can instantly offer the best treatment options and probabilities of success to the clinicians.”

The healthcare landscape is rapidly changing, and a catalyst is forming for bringing medicine and dentistry together, leveraging technology to bridge the gap between general practitioners and dentists. Remember, it’s all about convenience for the patient, so try to find ways to become invaluable, easy, and transparent. Patients want to improve their smiles and their overall health and well-being. The new frontier of dentistry concerning an individual’s development and orofacial structure is catching wildfire and suitable for expansion and making a real difference in people’s lives.

Stand Out from Your Competitors

We also need to prepare for roadblocks when considering the next five years and how DSOs can win new business lines and markets. This will ultimately help us stand out from competitors as we are better equipped to handle challenges—one of which includes a lack of innovation from dentists themselves. We’re currently seeing a push from those on the business side of DSOs. The scarcity mindset from dental professionals puts this innovation at risk, as they are hesitant to change their practices so long as patients are coming in. While change can be scary and take significant time, resources, and capital, it’s vital to the future. So, how can we overcome this? Education.

We must educate our doctors on modern technology that helps us to reduce patient friction and improve their experience. Cloud 9 Software shares, “Efficiency and effectiveness go hand-in-hand, but while word of mouth marketing is still the best way to attract new patients, you need to be proactive. No longer can dental practice growth rely solely on building it and hoping clients will come. An online dental strategy is a blueprint for creating a successful community dental office.” This includes social media marketing, implementing apps that enhance communication, offering digital scheduling, and advertising to patients on platforms where they spend their personal time. While the learning curve is steep, this improvement benefits the patient, provider, and their team in the long run.

On the other hand, education can also apply to our actual knowledge, as discoveries and breakthroughs are constantly happening. Keep focusing on our support pillars and invest in our doctors and their teams. After all, it’s always about the people. In some industries, businesses and corporations have adopted the harmful idea that employees are expendable and replaceable. However, nothing could be less accurate in the dental industry. You could have a great team and a bad dentist and not be successful or a great dentist and a bad team and not be successful. Each person matters, and it’s essential to lead teams with empathy-fueled actions.

DSOs are on the rise, and the landscape of dentistry is rapidly changing. By considering the above suggestions and developing a strategy, you can ensure your DSO continues to win new business lines and markets in the next five years.