I was recently asked by a dentist to look into my crystal ball and tell them what I see for the future of dentistry.
We know that when one is trying to predict the future, one must be prepared to be wrong more often than they are right! Still, it is always fun to play a bit of a guessing game, so I gave it my best shot.
Regardless of which of my predictions may come to pass or not, the one aspect I am quite confident in is that dentistry will reward those who are creative. From the world of digital dentistry to the growth of AI, dentistry is facing so many changes – as is the case the world over! Incorporating these changes in technology into your practice will take some thought and some clever imagination.
However, those who find the solution will be rewarded. Dentists who are trained not only on the clinical aspects of new technology, but on how to communicate to patients what the technology is “seeing,” will likely have a higher trust factor with their patients. That could mean a higher level of case acceptance. So don’t ignore the communication skills that can enhance your technical skills with these tech toys!
If you are in private practice and are looking to compete with DSO’s, what will you do to become more cost effective? I am not talking about spending less money on cheaper quality products! I am talking about working with other dentists in private practice to join forces and work together to reduce your costs.
How will you market your practice? While past generations simply relied on the Yellow Pages and word of mouth, the modern dentist has to take a more engaged approach to marketing.
Word of mouth is still going to be the most important marketing tool most dentists will rely on. The question is will you passively hope your patients speak highly of you at some cocktail party where the subject of finding a good dentist might come up? Or will you find creative, pro-active ways to lead and encourage your patients to spread the good word about you?
Then how will you supplement that word of mouth? Does your digital footprint back up what your patients are saying about you? Will potential new patients find a social media presence and website that tells them they have found their dental home?
How will you lead your team through all of these new concerns? Yes, that is right. I said lead! Your team will look to you to take on a leadership role, so how you encourage and foster their growth and development is vital. If you take care of them, they will take care of you!
And being the right kind of leader is that much more critical in a world where employees are not always here to stay. You will have to be just as creative in addressing the HR concerns that matter to your team so you can make sure you have the practice nobody wants to leave.
On top of that, we now have word that the Canadian government will be developing a national dental care plan for low-income Canadians. On a moral standpoint, we really cannot object to the idea. It is a sad reality that there are people in our society who are forced to go without quality oral health care because they simply cannot afford it.
The question is, will our government be able to introduce a program that achieves the goal of providing quality healthcare while ensuring dentists receive fair compensation? Essentially, we are asking whether there will be sufficient funding to ensure a meaningful plan that benefits both patients and dentists.
We simply don’t know the answer to that question at this time because, as they say, the devil is in the details. Right now, we have no idea what this dental plan is going to look like. We do know, however, that there is a good chance it will vary from province to province!
After all, dentistry is part of the healthcare world and that makes it a provincial responsibility under our system of federal government. How dentists in Alberta take advantage of this “national plan” may differ from what Ontario dentists will have to do.
So, pay attention, do not assume you can copy what is done in other jurisdictions and, as I have said before, be creative!
Some may find these thoughts overwhelming. Others find them incredibly exciting. The key is to know you do not have to come up with all of the solutions on your own. From buying groups to marketing experts to HR companies, there are people out there with the experience, knowledge, and solutions to help you navigate the landscape of dentistry as it evolves into the future.
The key is maintaining your own open mind and sense of creativity. And to approach it with a sense of fun!