When asked to write the editorial for the January issue of Oral Health Office, I wondered what direction to take. There’s so much going on in dentistry, so many changes one could talk about, so many challenges, and yet, opportunity. Whether it’s growth in the services provided, the efficiency in the provision of those services, the impact of new technology in the office, or just focusing on core deliverables and getting the “basics” right, there is a lot to discuss. As well, how we get there is not always the same. The provision of dental care is highly varied by design, by ability to execute, and by the resources available. As well, dentistry in Canada is still largely organized and delivered in single office settings. So, understanding the common experiences, challenges, and differentiators of a cottage industry is critical to any discussion of dentistry in this country. These raise the following questions: What experiences do we hold in common? What are our challenges in any given day? How do we manage them? How do we compare? What do we learn, and where do we act?
If we look at the challenges for any given business, there are a number of common themes. Bernard Marr outlines these in an article he did for the Hiscox Small Business Knowledge Centre’s Online. The article is titled “The ten biggest challenges business face today (and need consultants for).” His top ten lists include the following:
1. Uncertainty about the future – predicting customer trends, market trends, etc.
2. Financial management – cash flow, profit margins, reducing costs, financing, etc.
3. Monitoring performance – using performance indicators, developing KPIs, communicating metrics, etc.
4. Regulation and compliance – understanding the rules and regulations impacting business
5. Competencies and recruiting the right talent – finding the right people and developing the right skills and competencies
6. Technology – when to innovate and what to invest in
7. Exploding data – keeping safe and extracting insights from the ever-increasing amount of data
8. Customer service – managing customers’ expectations
9. Maintaining reputation – monitoring and maintaining your professional and business reputation
10. Knowing when to embrace change – when to embrace change and when to stay the course
Mr. Marr’s article is a convenient reference for any business, and I would argue no less applicable to the delivery of care, in the business of dentistry. There are definitely other areas one could explore, but overall, this is a nice summary.
Dentistry, like all business, is facing change. Change is a constant, and we are currently facing some rapid changes. Within these challenges we find opportunity and the evolution of our profession. It amazes me where and how dentists find their solutions to all these challenges. Some learn it on the fly as a part of the job, in our businesses, out of necessity. We may find solutions from our colleagues and business associates in or outside of dentistry. Or we may find learning opportunities in formal educational programs, or in the accessible online platforms available.
In navigating this changing world, my hope is that Oral Health Office becomes a shining resource in facilitating the different conversations we need to have regarding practice management, and the business of dentistry.