Editorial Board: Advise and Consent

Efficiency in Group Practice announces members of its Editorial Advisory Board

The Efficiency in Group Practice staff relies on the expertise of group practice professionals and experts in the field to keep us on track. Our editorial advisory board is our primary way of doing so. Meet three members of the Efficiency in Group Practice board. We’ll be announcing more in future issues.

Jack Allen, national purchasing director, Great Expressions Dental Centers, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Raised in Royal Oak, Mich., Jack Allen had plenty of experience on the sales side of the dental industry before taking a chair on the other side of the desk nearly nine years ago, as national purchasing director for Great Expressions.

In high school and college, he worked summers in Patterson Dental’s warehouse in Clawson, Mich., unloading trucks and pallets, sweeping the floor, picking orders, invoicing and shipping. After graduation, he went to work full-time at the facility, first as a customer service rep and then, eight months later, as a dental supply and equipment field representative.

Allen served as a dental supply and equipment rep for Patterson Dental for several years; then Denta-Plex, a local distributor in Farmington Hills; and finally, Becker-Parkin Dental, a national distributor, which was acquired by Henry Schein in 2005.

He was initially asked by Great Expressions to do an asset evaluation of all its practices. When that assignment ended, he became the organization’s first national purchasing director. “Sweeping floors and hauling dental stones and gloves off a truck, going through every facet of the dental business, carrying a travel bag, visiting doctors day in and day out, working with manufacturer reps, and finally, being on the other side of the coin, in purchasing – gives you a whole new perspective” of the industry, he says.

Challenges facing independent dentists
Great Expressions has more than 200 affiliated dental practices in nine states. Once the DSO’s clinical committee have agreed to standardize on a particular product, Allen uses that potential volume as leverage with suppliers. Independent practices lack that same kind of leverage, he says. In fact, the independent dentist, while providing great patient care and maintaining strong patient relationships, lacks the back-office support in purchasing, payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, etc., that the DSO can offer its dentists. Of independent practices, Allen says, “Having to provide everything on their own from a financial standpoint is stressful.”

Andrew M. Goldsmith, DDS, DICOI, FIALD, chief dental officer, vice president vendor relations, Smile Source®
Born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and raised in Carson City, Nev., Goldsmith is a graduate of the Marquette University School of Dentistry. He completed a General Practice Residency program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. For 10 years, he was a partner at Esthetic Family Dentistry, a practice in Colorado Springs. He joined Smile Source in 2011.

Headquartered in Kingwood, Texas, Smile Source is an alliance of more than 150 locations in a number of Western and Southern states.

Key challenges facing dental practices
“Dentists are feeling the lagging economy, with no major foreseeable increases in dental spending over the next year,” says Goldsmith. “The cost of supplies is increasing, fewer patients are going to the dentist, expenses are increasing, reimbursement from insurance companies is decreasing. Debt loads for new dentists are at an all-time high.”

The opportunity for dental service organizations
“Large group practices are able to out-market, out-produce, out-manage solo dentists,” he says. Many solo practitioners are wrapped up in what they consider to be “ideal dentistry.” The corporate dental setting, however, is focused on providing good healthcare as efficiently as possible. Corporate groups are unfairly vilified for that approach, but patients are better served by it, says Goldsmith. Example: The private practitioner might work on just a couple of teeth at a sitting, then schedule follow-up appointments for the remainder. The corporate group, however, might prefer to get the entire side of the mouth worked on in one sitting.

Challenges facing dental service organizations
“Dental service organizations are in a tough position,” says Goldsmith. They are vilified by the doctors and perceived as stealing margin from the manufacturers, and state dental organizations are trying to block their expansion plans. “But I tell general dentists, ‘As long as you’re not willing to be open on Saturdays or evenings, or you’re not open to accepting Medicaid patients, corporations will win.’”
What’s more, dental service organizations “offer an alternative to new graduates that has become highly appealing,” he says. “DSOs will continue to battle for a few more years until they hit critical mass, which will be in the next five to 10 years.”

Some private-practice dentists believe the DSO proposition is too good to be true, and hence shy away from it, says Goldsmith. Others are unaware they need help from a business perspective. But many do need such help.

Dentistry can be so profitable, that doctors are prone to disregard good business practices, he says. But that’s not a sustainable strategy. Among the general population, it is estimated that only 2 percent who retire at age 65 are financially independent. Among dentists, that percentage is only slightly higher – 4 percent. Once doctors look at that, “we will start seeing behavior changes.” And those changes will occur sooner rather than later.

Lorie Streeter, FAADOM, CTC, chief operating officer, American Association of Dental Office Managers
A native of Madera, Calif., Streeter served 12 years as a practice manager and four years as a marketing manager for one of the nation’s largest corporate dental groups, based in Southern California. Later, she worked as a marketing manager for Patterson Dental. It was as a practice manager that she came to understand that suppliers would be well-served by marketing their products and services to office managers, a segment they often overlooked. “That’s why I sought out AADOM,” she says.

The American Association of Dental Office Managers is an organization of professional office managers, practice administrators, patient coordinators, insurance and financial coordinators, and treatment coordinators of general and specialized dental practices. As its chief operating officer, Streeter is charged with building programs and awareness of the AADOM mission and benefits to its members.

Challenges facing group practices
One of the things Streeter saw while working in a group practice setting – and something she still sees – is the difficulty group practices have hiring and retaining outstanding office managers, that is, people who take ownership of the locations in which they work. “In any successful business, the regional manager has to be able to trust that the office manager in each location will take ownership when you’re not there,” she says. “Finding managers with that mindset is almost a needle in a haystack, but they’re out there.”

Nurturing strong office managers through continuing education and empowerment will alleviate stress for the practice owner, she continues. “If you empower your office managers through education and career development, they will take more ownership in the practice.” That, in turn, will free up the dentists to focus on providing excellent patient care.

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