Is Corporate Dentistry a Real Threat to the Solo Practice- Part 1

Is Corporate Dentistry a Real Threat to the Solo Practice- Part 1

James Anderson, DMD, CEO and Founder of eAssist Dental Solutions

I was asked recently if I thought the solo dental practice was becoming obsolete.  Due to my goal of supporting the solo and small group practices with my dental billing business, I have had several conversations with colleagues about this and so far have not considered corporate dentistry as a threat to the solo practice just another way to conduct dental business.  Upon doing some networking and research I find that the consensus is that corporate dentistry is growing and more dentists are looking at working in a corporate setting because of the difficulties in running a solo practice profitably especially with student loan debt and enormous start-up costs.  This is a perception that is shared by many but may not be founded on true analytics.

In the Academy of General Dentistry’s Practice Models Task Force Study of 2013 (http://www.agd.org/media/171772/corporatedentistrystudy.pdf)  a lengthy investigation process was conducted to define corporate dental business models and identify the impact on the practice of dentistry that corporate or DSO (Dental Service Organizations) has now and is expected to have in the future.

According to this report from the AGD:

“The findings vary regarding corporate dentistry’s growth rate. While some

economists expect continued growth of large group practices, including

models of corporate dentistry, others predict that the market share of

corporate models have reached a plateau or will reach a plateau at or about

20 to 25 percent of all practice modalities.”

I included in my research the comments of the insurance billing agents at eAssist Dental Billing/Solutions, as we are now the largest national dental billing company in America, for their insight and experience with both solo and corporate models of dental practice.  Requesting simple feedback resulted in a “fire storm” of emotion and passion for the diminishing solo practice.  Here are some of the comments I  received:

  •         I myself was pushed out by Corporate buying my single doctor practice and after 35 years of practice. When he retired, they only had two other practices; they bought us, and now have grown to 5….. Anonymous
  •         I am a member of some community Facebook groups. People are constantly looking for recommendations on there for things such as dentists, oral surgeons and pediatric dentists. Many people are happy to recommend their favorite practices, and none of those are the corporate offices. I think if one is limited to a corporate practice because they have Medicaid or an HMO, they will go to those corporate practices. But if a patient has indemnity insurance or is paying cash, they go to a private office. Anonymous
  •         I can see the pros and cons each way. So many dentists are NOT business people, so working in a corporate environment allows the dentist to practice without the hassles of being an owner. If a business model is present in a solo practice, that practice will flourish, as well.  Mary Ann Cook Krause
  •         I think their reputations precede them. The private practice I worked for didn’t have another practice around him for 3 or more miles. Two big corporate practices opened up, one directly, across the street, the other one right down the street. There’s only one parking lot full all the time and I’ll let you guess which one! Anonymous
  •         The cost to start a new office is so high that it depends on the individual doctor and if they can invest in their own practice. I think most doctors want to have their own practice but have to turn to corporate if the financial means are not there. .  Anonymous
  •         I do believe solo practices are dying. I’m sure I’m not the only one   Anonymous
  •         I don’t care for the corporate dental offices; I think there is a great deal lost to the patient here since it is not patient-centered it is Money-centered. I don’t think they are going away at all and putting a lot of solo practitioners out of business….Anonymous
  •         If they are good producers in the corporate practice they will get a nice paycheck but will burn out sooner, Anonymous
  •         This is my purpose in eAssist….to keep private practices viable. My sister and many of her colleagues, Dr Anderson and his, I count as friends need us in order to maintain their solo/small businesses. Anonymous
  •         I prefer a small private practice. However, if it was a Sunday and my GP wasn’t available, I’d have no problems going to a corp office for an emergency. It is very similar with how I chose my medical providers. We go to a small private practice office, but I’ve had to go to a large corp clinic on days he isn’t in. Anonymous

Read part 2 here!

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