Dr. Wolnik offers some insight into a current dental trend – corporate dentistry and dental franchises.
What is Corporate Dentistry?
Students today graduate dental school with unprecedented debt levels, which ultimately makes it more difficult for them to buy their own practices. In order for recent graduates to manage their debt, they need to generate income quickly. Many graduates join an existing group practice or franchise-type clinic for economic reasons.
On another note, more dentists are retiring than there are students graduating. This devalues existing practices because the buyer’s market is small. Corporate dentistry can provide economic security for an older doctor who didn’t plan well for retirement and can’t find a suitable buyer for his or her practice.
The costs to outfit an office with technology will eventually price the solo practitioner out of the market. Computers, cone beam CT scanners, CEREC, new chair packages, electric hand pieces, etc., are not cheap! In other words, it costs too much to purchase all that equipment and not have it in use full-time.
A Shift towards Corporate Dentistry
There is currently a paradigm shift towards group practices and corporate dentistry. Speculation suggests that less than 10 percent of practices will be single-doctor operations by 2020. In 2000, approximately 93 percent of practices were owned by a single-doctor and currently, that number is less than 65 percent. There appears to be a natural progression towards both group and corporate-type practices.
Pros of Corporate Dentistry
- Increased access to care – group offices tend to have longer hours. Most general solo practices operate around 32-35 hours per week
- Ability to spread the fixed and variable costs over a larger operation
- Affords the owners more flexibility to achieve a work-life balance such as more vacation time without a drop in production
- Reduces the workforce needed to run an office
- Can allow for a more timely and efficient delivery of care
- If the central focus remains on helping people get healthy, then a group practice is good
Cons of Corporate Dentistry
- As the government gets more involved with healthcare in general, we will most likely see a trickle-down effect in price-fixing and mandated treatments
- If production incentives are the driving force for the doctors to get paid, that’s not so good
- If the corporate practice “forces” their doctors to do procedures they are not properly trained for, that is bad (although that can happen in single-doc private practices as well)
- The corporate office is only as good as the values that its owners subscribe to. If the owners concern themselves with their patients’ well-being, then the corporate office will deliver proper care. If the owners concern themselves only with profit-driven care, quality will always suffer
This trend is not unique to dentistry. In fact, it is already happening on a large scale with medicine. Many doctors were gobbled up by the Cleveland Clinic or University Hospitals Health System in the area because of increasing costs of running a single-doctor practice.
About Dr. Wolnik
Kenneth J. Wolnik, DDS owns and operates his own dental practice in Parma Heights, Ohio. In 2002, he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. Today, Dr. Wolnik strives to teach his patients about the importance of maintaining a healthy smile and providing comprehensive dental care in all areas. Contact Dr. Wolnik today to set up an appointment!