Disrupting Dental Disruption

I am both saddened and intrigued by the number of colleagues who suffer through situations which cause them extreme stress and frustration. The sources from which vary greatly, but all boil down to one simple word: Disruption.

Disruption has become an entrepreneurial buzzword and has found its way into the likes of ridesharing, crowd funding and customer relation’s management products. But as I put the words to the screen, I reference both uses of the word; it’s new entrepreneurial use as in Andy Rachleff’s “What Disrupt Really Means” Crunch Network, Feb 16 2013, and its Webster’s definition: To throw into confusion or disorder.

In Rachleff’s article, Clay Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, defined “disruption” in The Innovator’s Dilemma“In short, a disruptive product addresses a market that previously couldn’t be served — a new-market disruption or it offers a simpler, cheaper or more convenient alternative to an existing product — a low-end disruption”. He also states, business models, not products, are disruptive.

So why then is there so much ado about corporate competition and why are so many dental practices struggling to compete? After all, a low-end disrupter is designed to attend to the unserved. And what services are being provided in the corporate setting that differs from private practice? Are the unserved searching for affordability? Great service? Convenience?

For those who fear this behemoth, might we be too quick to dismiss the micro-level disruptions in our private practices? Or our short-sighted view of our unprofitable, insurance-driven patients? If we were to hone our communication skills to a level that could reach the part of our patient that made their treatment recommendations resonate as mandatory? Might we build sustained success for our dental business and actually become the competition?

Let’s look at the basic definition of disruption: To throw into confusion or disorder. The corporate model has simply brought to light an industry of which a large swathe have been resting on their laurels. And to throw into confusion and disorder is exactly what this entrepreneurial movement, or disruption, has done.

So then how do those of us who believe in the private practice business model, maintain solid footing and sustainable growth? We must disrupt our own disruptions! With this I bring you back to the first paragraph. Why are so many of us willing to live with stress and frustration in our practices? Why are we willing to struggle with disruptive schedules, systems, employees and patients? The answers are simple: We don’t know how to fix it. And moving outside of our comfort zone is well…uncomfortable.

And when I hear comments like, “I’ve told my patients every six months that they need to floss. It’s not my fault they have perio” or “She is just a difficult and disruptive patient. I am going to dismiss her” or “He hasn’t been in for three years…I deactivated him” or “I only get 40 minutes for a hygiene appointment” it becomes crystal clear why we need to embrace greater accountability for our roles as healthcare providers if we don’t want to be left sitting on the tracks.

The new, successful dental environment requires focus, continued education and coaching. It requires business and new technology savvy, proper hiring and insisting the team understands and maintains high emotional intellectand cohesiveness to provide your patients with the level of care they deserve. This successful dental environment is excited to implement efficiencies and requires more clinical and communication skills from their team in an effort to provide the highest level of care and experience for the patient. These practices havehighly trained hygienists who drive practice profits with today’s new hygiene model and these teams understand the importance of quality telephone skills. They know what it means to provide a Five Star customer experience.

This new model requires us to step outside of our comfort zone and provide an experience, which creates value in the minds of our patients. And the cherry on top is a dental practice with sustainable profits. That’s right. The above investments are not only a professional obligation, but they pay delicious dividends in the form of dedicated patients who desire quality care and overall health. Patients want service, they want what they value and it is up to us as dental professionals to give our patients reason to find value in the services we provide..

Let’s not let our disruptions allow the a real disrupters leave us  on the dusty trail. Remember the words of Will Rogers, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

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