The challenges with reimbursement, DSO competition explained by Village Family Dental COO

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Virginia Jones, PhD, has served as the COO of Fayetteville, N.C.-based Village Family Dental for more than nine years.

An experienced leader, Dr. Jones is competing with dental service organizations that are beginning to open practices in nearby areas. To challenge DSOs, Dr. Jones stresses focusing on unique services and showing differentiation.

Below, Dr. Jones details key trends in the dental market as well as how private practices can work to attract patients.

Editor's note: Responses are lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: Is reimbursement getting tougher or easier for dentists?
Dr. Virginia Jones: Reimbursement continues to get more difficult. We remain out of network for most carriers, but with the carriers with whom we are in contract, we find that the rates are less than ideal, and continue to fall when there is a major change in the agreement. This is particularly true within the military community we serve. Reimbursement for the military dependents remains often below cost to serve these patients.

Q: How has the introduction of private equity changed dentistry?
VJ: We are a large group practice, owned by dentists. The introduction of private equity has both positive and negatives. From the negative point of view, they create risk of reducing the interest in patient care and more focus on profits at the expense of the patient. From the positive point of view, they provide ownership opportunities to dentists that may not have had an opportunity for ownership based on their debt load when the graduate from dental school. In addition, they bring economies of scale and buying power.

Q: How do you get patients into your doors? And how do you keep them coming back?
VJ: We measure the source of our new patients very closely. Regardless of the amount of marketing we do, our number one resource for new patients remains word of mouth. We have also found that our information sessions and health fairs in schools remains a close second. In order to keep these patients coming back, we give them a great experience with exceptional care, we provide all specialties in one location to make it convenient for them, and we have a strong recall system to keep them engaged.

Q: Who/what is your biggest competitor?
VJ: Our biggest competitor right now would be the large DSO that is starting to locate within our geographical area. These large DSOs come with a lot of buying power, and advertise extremely high compensation packages, well over market, attracting our talent away. They also bring high dollars of marketing into the space to attract new patients. To combat this, we continue to differentiate ourselves as a family practice, focusing on children and our unique services.

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