Competition rises as no one falls – DentalOne Chief Marketing & Development Officer explains appeals of DSOs

Jim Mizouni is the chief marketing and development officer at DentalOne. In a recent interview with Becker's Dental + DSO Review, Mr. Mizouni shared insight into industry trends, challenges and opportunities.

Question: How has consolidation affected the dental industry? Do you foresee greater consolidation in the future?

Jim Mizouni: The consolidation in this industry is in its infancy and has barely begun. Even with the rapid growth of dental service organizations over the last decade, the dental industry is still heavily fragmented.

One of the issues specifically within the DSO space is the amount of new practices that have opened over the last five years as each DSO has tried to carve out their own market share. Combined with the trends of independent dentists to delay retirement and practice longer, in many markets there are higher dentists per capita than ever before.

In that highly competitive market, it is up to each DSO to be able to clearly articulate why the prospective patient should come to them for dental services, rather than the dozens of equally convenient DSO and independent practices nearby that accept the same insurance plans and offer comparable dental services.

There is a well-worn path to consolidation we can learn from across many industries, from the more obvious comparables such as pharmacy and optical to less obvious like search engines or discount retailers. At the end of that consolidation process, there are always only a handful of successful companies, and those survivors tend to be the ones that not only had access to capital to fuel their growth, but that also developed the strongest value proposition for their customers and employees.

Greater consolidation is inevitable within the DSO industry, because it is extremely inefficient for dozens of competing companies to all independently thrive- competition just doesn’t work that way. Meanwhile, for the independent dental office, industry consolidation is not a threat as long as they offer an outstanding, individualized clinical experience for their patients.

Q: What strategies can developing DSOs implement to attract dentists?

JM: The great thing for dentists looking for opportunities is that there are more options available than ever before, which puts them in control of matching their personal preferences and needs with the right position.

The trend among dentists for a growing desire for a healthy work-life balance, combined with the significant increases in women in dentistry and the rising level of student debt, has helped make DSOs more competitive than ever in recruiting. DSOs can offer all the benefits of practicing dentistry- access to the latest technology, continuing clinical training and advancement, healthy patient flow, high levels of compensation- without any of the financial obligations or additional workload of owning their own practice.

Accordingly, transparency in compensation, support in paying off student debt, variable work schedules, access to time off, ongoing education, modernized facilities and high clinical standards will be some of the prerequisites that DSOs will need to meet to create and maintain a healthy, productive culture.

It is not enough to simply offer compensation to today’s dentists. The dentist must also feel challenged, valued and respected, and with transparency at an all-time high through sites like LinkedIn, Glass Door, Google reviews, etc., it will be difficult to compete for those DSOs whose actual work experience does not match their recruitment pitch.

Q: What challenges are you and the dental industry preparing to overcome in the coming years?

JM: In an industry that has seen dental spending among patients [flatten] to low single digit growth for a number of years, all of us will need to accept that what worked in the past may not be sufficient to succeed in the future.

New advancements in areas like implants and orthodontia will provide significant growth opportunities, but only if those advancements are matched in treatment plan presentation, understanding and utilizing technology in the presentation to provide the patient the information they need to make an informed decision.

We are also seeing a demographic shift, with older patients representing a larger percentage of dental spending than ever before. Rather than a universal approach for all patients, being attractive to an older patient will require some modifications to fit their needs, including in communication and marketing, appointment setting, and accommodating them in the practice- comfort, access, presentation of treatment and payment plans, etc.

Finally, in a competitive marketplace, the industry will have to assess whether we have made the dental experience as patient-centric as possible. This may mean challenging a lot of long-standing practices and policies- everything from expanded operating hours, to minimizing waiting room time, to allowing the patient to use apps and websites to control the appointment time and process rather than the front desk staff. In addition, the industry will need to take a leap of faith and invest in improving technology and comfort in the operatories that may not immediately seem to pay for itself, but will have benefits in long-term ROI in patient retention and treatment plan acceptance.

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