With so much change and disruption happening in the dental industry over the last couple of years, practitioners have had to face numerous challenges—from the pandemic and its hurdles to keeping up with technological advancements. As the new year approaches, it’s a great time for dental professionals to take a step back and assess the current state of their practice.
Whether it’s providing top-notch patient care or updating your technology and equipment, you likely have plans to improve your operations in some capacity. But to truly stay competitive and grow your practice, you first need to understand how the dental industry is transforming.
A Changing Landscape for the Dental Industry
The last few years have seen unprecedented changes across every industry—and that includes dentistry. From dealing with the health and safety risks of COVID-19 to the ensuing business impacts, it’s fair to say that dentists have had a lot on their plate. As we look back on 2022, we see four clear trends that have shaped the way practices operate:
1. Pandemic Impacts
Nearly three years out from the start of the pandemic, the dental industry is still feeling the impacts. In addition to complying with new health and safety regulations, practices have had to deal with significant reductions in patient flow as more people became apprehensive about going to public places. As a result, dental offices suffered financial losses of over 70% during the height of the pandemic, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
2. Staffing Shortages
From the Great Resignation to Quiet Quitting, the labor market has never been more difficult to navigate–in part, caused by the pandemic. As patients come back to the offices, dentists are now facing growing demand and dire staffing shortages. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), 9 in 10 practices indicate that it’s been “extremely” difficult to recruit dental assistants. Overcoming these hiring challenges will be critical to not only grow your practice, but deliver high-quality care going forward.
3. Technological Innovations
Not all dental industry trends have been negative, however. Technological innovations in 3D printing, cloud computing and artificial intelligence have been transforming practices into healthcare facilities of the future. As these advancements become more affordable, we’re seeing an increasing number of dental practices adopt them to optimize their workflows and enhance the patient experience. Moving forward into the new year, it’s likely that these tools will become far more prevalent if not standard for practices to have.
4. Practice Management Automation
Another positive trend in the dental industry has been the rise of practice management automation. These software solutions have allowed dental professionals to streamline their workflows and maximize productivity by automating simple, repetitive tasks like sending out appointment reminders. Cloud-based practice management software takes this a step further with capabilities like online appointment scheduling and seamless data transfers.
5 Tips to Optimize Your Practice in 2023
Now that we’ve seen how the dental industry is evolving, it’s time to consider how you’ll adapt. To help you plan and strategize for 2023, here are five tips that can help improve your practice operations:
1. Pull Practice Data and Identify Trends
Before you make any major decisions or changes, it’s important to have a solid understanding of the current state of your dental office. Review your practice data to see what trends you can find. This might include looking at patient demographics, treatment patterns and financial statements. By analyzing this information, you can gain both business intelligence and valuable insights into processes and the patient experience. For instance, examining patient schedule patterns might reveal days when demand is high. This allows you to adjust staff schedules to ensure efficient resource utilization.
2. Create a Patient Survey to Understand What They Want
Any changes you make will likely have an impact on your patients, so anticipating how they will react is key. One of the best ways to know what your patients are thinking is to simply ask them. Create a patient survey to gather feedback on various aspects of your practice, from wait times to quality of care. You can even ask questions about future changes to gauge their reaction. Not only does this provide you with valuable information, but it also shows your patients that you value their perspective.
3. Replace Outdated Equipment and Technology
Staying current with the latest technology is critical for any business, especially those in healthcare. According to a study from Rectangle Health, 35% of Millennial and Gen Z patients are willing to switch dental providers for more advanced technology. Upgrading outdated equipment can be a major investment, but it pays off in the long run, attracting more patients and improving your practice’s efficiency and capabilities.
4. Consider Upgrading Your Software
Beyond physical hardware, dental professionals also have to think about how their current software serves them.
- Does it lack the necessary capabilities or security features that other solutions have?
- Are you losing files during data transfers or cloud migration?
- Is the user interface just inefficient and difficult to use?
Any one of these reasons is enough to consider upgrading your software to modern standards.
5. Move Your Practice Data to the Cloud
As the world undergoes a massive digital transformation, businesses have increasingly moved toward cloud computing tools. In fact, the global market size for cloud-based dental practice management software is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2030. These solutions enable seamless and secure data transfers while streamlining practice operations to boost efficiency and productivity.
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