Dentists and dental service organization (DSO) leaders across the country were right on target when they predicted that the performance of the U.S. economy, maintaining patient volumes, and maintaining production would be among the top challenges in 2023.
In December, we asked DSO leaders to share their thoughts on the following:
- What was a top patient trend of 2023?
- What’s a patient trend you predict for 2024?
- How are you preparing for that trend?
Some of their answers below have been lightly edited for clarity.
Mick Janness, CEO of Oakpoint (44 locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Washington, DC)
"In 2023, we experienced year-over-year patient growth with our clinical teams quickly identifying the need to increase appointment availability as a strategic initiative. For our general dental facilities, our clinical teams treated approximately 190,000 patients in 2022, and in 2023, for the same cohort, our general dental facilities treated more than 200,000 patients. We achieved this year-over-year patient growth by optimizing the schedule per the standards of our clinical teams. Our marketing team collaborated closely with our clinical teams and flexed spend to match capacity across our schedules.
"Because we are in some of the fastest-growing MSAs (metropolitan statistical areas) in the country, we expect patient growth to track at or above the 2023 trendline. We are experiencing a greater than normal backlog inside our oral surgery facilities and our general dental patient volume remains strong across the footprint.
"We continue to make investments in expanding our operatory capacity when possible. Where our clinical schedules are booked out beyond the norm, we are equipping operatories and staffing appropriately to accommodate the anticipated patient growth."
Dr. Larry Moray, founder and CEO of MyOrthodontist North Carolina/Key Dental Management Solutions (14 locations in North Carolina)
"The higher inflation numbers and rising prices we have all endured in 2023 resulted in many folks being reticent to initiate orthodontic treatment. We addressed this by acknowledging their concerns and offering more creative and patient-friendly financing options to decrease or remove cost as a barrier to initiating treatment.
"As inflation and unemployment have decreased, the Fed is poised to lower interest rates, and we anticipate more patients feeling more comfortable with pursuing dental and orthodontic care. We are expanding facilities, teams, and schedules to accommodate greater demand and more patients."
Dr. Kalpesh Patel, founder and CEO of Active Dental (four locations in Texas)
"As interest rates went up in 2023, people were being careful about where they spent their money. We saw this everywhere in society.
"We know people want to have a healthy smile, and we focused more attention on patient education to help them understand the importance of moving ahead with the dental treatment they need. Gone are the days where you can say 'You need a crown,' and the patient just says 'OK.' Now we can show patients where there is decay through technology such as Pearl AI and iTero scanners. It helps them co-diagnose and helps us earn our patients’ trust.
"We anticipate technology will make the patient journey even better in 2024. Already, most practices have adopted online scheduling and digital forms, and many are adding patient education tools such as AI for x-ray analysis and 3D imaging to help their patients better understand the condition of their mouths. Even billing will be easier for the patients, with options such as automated text-to-pay reminders and customized payment plans."
Beth Gaddis is the editor in chief at Planet DDS, a dental technology company specializing in cloud-based practice management systems, digital imaging, and dental marketing services. Previously, Gaddis was the marketing director for two large dental service organizations. Prior to entering the dental industry, Gaddis was a journalist for 16 years in a variety of roles, including as a TV news producer at the CBS affiliate in Boston. You can connect with Gaddis on LinkedIn.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.