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For dental service organizations, the silo mentality is the enemy

Jan. 15, 2020
Dr. Chris Salierno has noticed that multipractice owners and managers of dental service organizations (DSOs) can find themselves surrounded by a whole new set of silos. It's important to merge your practices and get rid of the silos.

The silo mentality has been defined as “the reluctance to share information with employees of different divisions of the same company.” Does the marketing department have little interaction with the sales force? Are product development teams competing with each other? These are examples of silos in traditional companies, and they’re rarely cited as a best business practice.

Multipractice owners and managers of dental service organizations (DSOs) can find themselves surrounded by a whole new set of silos. Sure, the usual segregation between departments can exist in any company. For example, the marketing department builds a campaign for attracting sleep apnea patients, but the sales force (dentists, hygienists, and key front desk personnel) are not on the same page about how to screen, treat, and bill for sleep appliances. One hand doesn’t really know what the other is doing and the campaign isn’t as successful as it could be.

But there is a more fundamental silo situation that affects groups of dental practices: the fact that they are groups of dental practices. Unless you’ve built only de novo offices, you’ve had the challenge of acquiring independent small businesses and merging them into the existing collective. No doubt some (if not all) of the equipment, hardware, and software were different from the rest of the offices. Failure to completely replace the practice management and imaging software leads to the inadvertent creation of silos. Your practices will not be able to share information effectively and efficiently, and you’ll have a hard time pouring over data that is in different formats. While practice management and imaging software are the obvious concerns, what else needs to be changed?

Here’s an exercise to help you uncover your hidden silos. Would you be able to take an employee from one practice and drop the person into another practice for one day, and do so seamlessly? Could a dentist, assistant, or a finance coordinator do his or her job in another of your locations without breaking stride? I believe there are other technologies and systems in a dental practice that, if left unassimilated, may cause unnecessary friction.

DSOs and group practice management will clearly benefit from overseeing multiple practices that are able to freely share information in the same format. Indeed, those practices will be able to work together more cooperatively if they speak the same language. Now, go and find your silos (both obvious and hidden) and bust them down to the ground.

Chris Salierno, DDS, is the chief editor of Dental Economics and the editorial director of the Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter. He is also a contributing author for DentistryIQ and Perio-Implant Advisory. He lectures and writes about practice management and clinical dentistry. Additional content is available on his blog for dentists at thecuriousdentist.com. Dr. Salierno maintains a private general practice in Melville, New York. You may contact him by e-mail at [email protected].