At one time, most dentists were in private practice, or perhaps a very small group practice with a partner or two. Today, though, dental service organizations (DSOs) have become all the rage. These large corporate chains of dental practices may serve one area, one state, or even multiple states, but either way, the dentists are contracted to provide services rather than owning the practice at which they work. Here is what you should know about the future of DSOs.
According to a recent report by global investment banking and asset management company William Blair, DSOs are undergoing extraordinarily rapid growth. The firm estimates that the largest DSOs are growing their number of practices by roughly 13 to 14 percent per year. DSOs currently control roughly 16 percent of all dental practices in the United States, and they are on track to reach 30 percent by 2021. Meanwhile, the Health Resources Institute of the American Dental Association (ADA) notes that the number of single-owner private dental practices is shrinking by around 7 percent per year. Clearly, DSOs are not just a fad, but are the wave of the future.
What This Means for Dentists
Although the writing is on the wall, many dentists continue to fight against dental service organizations. They prefer the private practice model, and they are uninterested in developing their practices according to the DSO model. However, dentists who turn their attention to figuring out how to work within the DSO system are realizing major benefits in regard to economy of scale, professional management, soaring asset values, and enhanced negotiating power.
Whether you are newly out of dental school or you have been in private practice for years, now is the time to start educating yourself on DSOs and having a serious conversation about how a DSO might work for you. In many cases, it is simply a matter of finding the DSO that fits your values, theories of dentistry, and focus.
A DSO frees you up from the pressures of running your own business. You have the opportunity to give dentistry your full attention, rather than constantly having to worry about staffing, marketing, equipment failures, and other details. You can often set your own salary and hours, and since you do not need to be constantly sidelined by other tasks, you might even be able to make your desired income working part time. If you want to relocate, you can simply move to a different branch of your DSO or to a different DSO, rather than worrying about building a new practice from scratch.
However, it is vital to ensure that the DSO you choose matches the dentistry you want to practice. There is often some level of corporate control over everything from materials to techniques, and each DSO has its own areas of focus. Choosing a DSO that truly fits you as a dentist can be the difference between thriving and chafing at the perceived restrictions.
No one has to join a DSO. Private practices are shrinking, but they are far from dying out. If private practice truly suits you, there is no reason not to pursue that path. For many dentists, though, it is worth giving serious consideration to a DSO. They are strong, stable, well-financed, and unlikely to disappear anytime soon. As a serious force in dentistry, they are well worth consideration.
Ready to Get Started?
If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.