Future Challenges in Dentistry

We explore the main challenges facing dentists today so that you can understand what these challenges are, and (more importantly) how to combat them for success.

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Because dentistry is a service that is centered on patients’ personal care and private personal information, there are unique challenges that dental offices have to face. While there are many challenges facing dental practices and DSOs, there are also novel and groundbreaking technologies being introduced regularly. These systems help dentists, practice managers, and staff manage practices more effectively by addressing dental practices' most prominent challenges. We cover the most important challenges to consider.

  1. Patient safety challenges
  2. Adopting (and adapting to) an online booking system
  3. Keeping up with rapid changes in dental industry technology
  4. Finding new patients and increasing patient volume
  5. Enabling and managing direct patient communication
  6. Providing high-quality patient care
  7. Increased availability of oral health information
  8. Time management and consistent client care
  9. Effectively managing your practice operations
  10. Outperforming your competition

As an industry, dentistry experiences a constant cycle of challenges and improvements. To help you set yourself apart from competitors and excel, we’ll look at the details of the biggest challenges currently facing dentists.

Top 10 future issues in dentistry

Patients have become more comfortable with online and text services and expect it at their dental office. Due to the nature of the dental industry, patients have been reluctant to make this shift - but advancements in technology are leading to change.

As security measures like HIPAA enable ePHI to be properly protected online, patients can feel confident and comfortable submitting digital forms, scheduling appointments online and via text messages, and making other quality-of-life improvements to the patient experience. Ultimately, practices that are willing to meet the challenge will be able to offer the best service in the near future.

If we look into the challenges faced by dentistry in the future, the main issues would be increasing patient volume, improving the patient journey, and adapting to new technologies while competing with other players in the industry. 

Let's see what these challenges are and how they can affect your dental practice.

1. Patient safety challenges

COVID-19 has changed how practices approach patient safety. 

Infection control and prevention will remain a top concern, requiring more protective gear and procedures designed to protect staff and patients, such as disinfecting surfaces, PPE, patient screening, and enhanced hygiene. 

2. Adopting (and adapting to) an online booking system

Selecting and adapting to an online booking system can be challenging, as it requires the dental office to choose the best possible option out of a saturated market. According to our State of Dental report, only 26% of practices use an online booking system, despite it being one of the most impactful methods for growth.

The fact remains that many patients expect the same level of customer service that they receive as a customer at other businesses, including the ability to book online. Plain and simple, patients expect a fast, efficient, and seamless booking system so that they can manage their care on their time, when most convenient for them.

Even more pressing, over 40% of dental practices said they spend 3 or more hours working on their schedule each day. This is time that staff could be using elsewhere, including managing patient care and improving the patient experience for patients.

Offering online booking makes it fast and easy for patients to book, making their experience with your dental practice a great one. NexHealth offers 1-Click Booking in its EHR-integrated patient booking platform, enabling practices to digitize the process and make it instant and frictionless.

3. Keeping up with rapid changes and integrating systems

Another challenge for dental offices is integrating the proper systems into their practice and adapting new technologies to remain competitive and attractive to potential clients. With so many options available and competition fierce, it matters more than ever to facilitate your practice’s  access to technology for patients while being mindful of the cost.

In the dental industry, advancement in technology is enabling general dentists to do more procedures, faster and with a higher accuracy in-office. For instance, intraoral cameras and digital radiography allow dentists to involve patients  in the diagnostic process and facilitate strong case acceptance. 

Furthermore, patients expect every part of their experience to be painless. That goes beyond the procedure itself though, every moment of the patient experience—from their first experience booking with your practice to the follow-ups after their procedure—plays a role in their perception of the experience. 

To stay ahead of the competition and offer patients best-in-class service, you’ll need to keep up with rapidly changing technology in the clinical space and patient experience to ensure you offer the best solutions to your patients.

4. Finding new patients and increasing patient volume

Finding new patients is still a significant challenge. That has led dentists to involve marketing agencies to solidify their brands to reach people in their communities. However, outsourcing marketing can create additional costs and place strain on your bottom line.

Although everyone needs dental services, attracting patients and maintaining a steady client base is challenging. Dentists often rely on word of mouth (sometimes literally) to attract new patients, so practices that do not manage their reputation or patient experience may struggle. However, beyond providing exceptional service, leaders in dental offices should understand that technology can attract patients in different ways to achieve optimum results.

Considering the pandemic, 94% of practices said they'll have equal to or greater patient volume than pre-pandemic levels according to the State of Dental report. Thus, dental practices should be ready to meet the challenge if more of their patients return.

5. Enabling and managing patient communication

Typically, dental offices have stuck to a traditional communication method - relying on patients to call in and book appointments, discuss their issues, and more, all over the phone. However, this adds friction to the process for patients who are more comfortable using text messages or email. These patients are often more accessible via their preferred method of communication, since it allows them to communicate asynchronously and even outside of working hours. 

In the State of Dental report, utilizing modern communication tools was one of the leading reasons for improved patient experiences. By offering patients two-way communication via email or text messaging, you make it far more convenient for patients to get - and keep - in touch with your practice. Your office staff saves time on the phone, and patients feel they get a better experience with your practice. With messages coming in via patients’ preferred method of communication, you’ll also see higher (and faster) response rates from patients, and save yourself the hassle of back-and-forth calls that get missed and go to voicemail.

6. Providing high-quality patient care

Another major challenge is patient care and the ability to provide the staff with information and skills to satisfy client demands with practical and informed solutions. Excellent customer service is a combination of understanding client needs and professionally filling them.

One solution can be improving approachability so patients feel they can openly discuss any situation or problem. Each staff member must be committed to providing solutions and customer service that exceed the patients' expectations.

In the State of Dental report, most dental practices aim to prioritize patient satisfaction. Dental offices can achieve that through excellent customer service. Finding the right balance between offering exceptional service levels and being able to maintain profitability is an obstacle. However, having reported performance can help through analysis so the dental practice can focus services on core strengths and goals.

7. Increased availability of oral health information

One challenge dentistry faces is the increased availability of oral health information to the general public. While it is beneficial for patients to have access to helpful information about dental procedures online, they need to be careful about where they get this information.

Dentists and hygienists should be aware that modern patients do cursory research into the potential issues they are facing and will need to be ready to adequately explain the issues that patients are truly facing. This will include addressing the patient's actual issue and explaining other concerns that the patient brought forth but do not apply to their case.

Ultimately, this will come back to providing great customer service and care and ensuring that you put the patient first. Walk them through the work that will be done and ensure you explain the issue they are facing.

8. Time management and consistent client care

Effectively managing your time and efficiency are important for increasing your productivity, allowing you to grow your practice and better serve your existing patients. While this will always be a challenge, there are solutions that help you manage your workflows and save time on repetitive, tedious tasks.

As dental offices look for areas to improve operationally, proper management needs to be in place within the office and via the software dental clinics use. Meeting increased patient expectations in the future will not be easy. Using proper practice management and patient experience solutions will free up time for office staff, allowing them to more effectively manage the practice. These solutions can even save time for the dentist themselves, allowing you to process more patients per day. Common tasks you can automate today are patient scheduling, intake forms, recall, review management, and payment collections. This frees up more staff time to focus on managing day-to-day office operations and coordinating patient treatment plans.

9. Effectively managing your practice operations

Another challenge for dental offices is using the right practice management software and patient experience platform at the most economical cost, which can assist in productivity and profitability. With a strong, integrated system, you can access the right tools to track, evaluate, and analyze business practices. Therefore, dental offices should invest in secure and reliable technology that is easy to implement with existing integrations.

This way, you can ensure your EHR is synced with other systems so you can automate repetitive tasks and increase the overall productivity of your practice.

Digitization has become the norm in many aspects of life, including dentistry. However, according to the State of Dental report, only 50% of practices use patient experience software. Practices that move quickly to adopt the correct patient experience software stand to win a share of new patients since patients strongly prefer convenience.

10. Outperforming your competition

You’ll face a consistent challenge: standing up to and outperforming your competition. To stay ahead of the curve, you’ll need to offer best-in-class service, improve the customer experience, and adapt to modern dental technology.

Ideally, this means looking inward at your own practice and constantly working to improve the quality care and customer service you provide, but this also means offering better technology to address the entire customer experience as a whole. 

You’ll want to analyze how your business performs and compare it to how competing practices perform as well. You’ll also want to see what types of technology your competitors are adopting to make sure you can properly compete with them.

Stay ahead of challenges in the dentistry industry with NexHealth

There has been more change in dentistry in the last decade than ever before due to changes in technology and patient habits. The industry will adapt to meet these challenges by continuing to advance new product technologies and techniques, increasing patient satisfaction, and enabling them to have more control in the process. NexHealth provides an attractive solution guaranteed to draw in new patients to your dental service.

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