Millennial dentists are changing the face of the profession. While the industry is still dominated by boomers, it's the millennials who are shaping the future and setting new trends.
There’s a generational hand-off happening in the dental industry, and the impact is changing expectations around patient care, work-life balance, practice management, and technology. This transition is the passing of the dental industry mantle from boomers to millennials, and the change is profound.
Where the industry is today
The dental industry is dominated by boomers as 42% of current dentists are 55 and older. These boomers served as the early adopters of dental service organizations (DSOs). But, as is so often the case with generational transition, boomers who ushered in this practice model will hand the industry to the millennials, who will take it to the next level. Born between 1980 and 2000, millennials are now the largest population in the US, with 92 million millennials versus 77 million boomers and 61 million generation Xers.
Macro trends drive millennials to DSOs
Unlike the boomers, millennials are predisposed to enter a DSO for a number of reasons. The first is economic reality. Entering the market with a huge student loan debt burden, millennial practitioners generally find the DSO model attractive because joining a DSO doesn’t require the huge capital investment involved in starting a private practice. Secondly, the DSO model offers an attractive flexibility as opposed to the single-office practice, and promises greater potential for revenue growth through practice expansion.
Just as significantly, millennials were born into a digital world. It permeates every aspect of life and they have high expectations for what their tech delivers. They expect effortless efficiency and a wired work experience, and DSOs deliver this in a way traditional practices often cannot.
In addition, they use technology as a connector and relationship builder for friends and family as well as their patients. Millennial dentists want to be socially in touch with their patients and build their businesses around the social and community aspects of their lives. They post pictures of themselves in their scrubs or in their beach gear, freely interacting personally and professionally on channels boomers and even gen Xers would have seen as verboten.
It’s that tech focus of the millennial generation that’s pushing the DSO model into the next level of digital innovation—the complete cloud.
The digital DSO and its future
In order to operate efficiently, modern dental offices and dental groups have by now gone digital. Whether that means a couple of software applications to help with appointment booking, billing, and scheduling, or a full enterprise suite that includes digital imaging and cloud access to patient and other records, digital technology is a necessity. As DSOs look to expand— opening new locations and absorbing existing practices—the need for optimal digital communications, data storage, and accessibility is even greater.
Millennials expect full and instant access, both on the professional and the patient side of the equation. As practices grow, especially if they grow through acquisition, tying together the disparate pieces of digital technology can become increasingly problematic and pricey, and be a complex compliance challenge.
Cloud adoption: Merging the millennial mindset
Here’s where the differences between boomers and millennials come into stark contrast—the willingness to take the leap into a complete cloud. A traditional office IT setup involves a dental practice purchasing expensive hardware and software that it then must integrate, update, and maintain. There’s a lot of staff training involved, and there’s a lot of down time due to the inevitable glitches that arise when different systems are patched together.
When there are multiple office locations, there are also multiple IT systems. You can imagine the capital expenditure cost ramifications, the lack of systems integration, and the lack of visibility into operational and customer experience for the management team.
Millennials and the trend toward DSOs have come together to create the perfect storm for the right professionals using the right technology at the right time. That storm is the complete cloud, a model that provides HIPAA compliance in a secure and fully-managed environment, allows the group practice to continue using the processes they’re accustomed to while giving them access to data from any online devices at any time from one location, and with full integration and seamless reporting across all locations.
Efficiency, relationships, technology, and cost-reduction. Millennial dentists may be more casual medical practitioners than their predecessors, but the performance and impact they’re bringing to the dental profession is something to smile about.