The delivery of orthodontic treatment has remained the same for many decades. With the digital influence in orthodontics, and the changes from patient expectations in care, our specialty is undergoing perhaps one of the largest culture shifts ever.
The primary shift in culture is the change from a doctor centric practice, to a patient centered culture. Ultimately, as the consumer’s values have changed, those who succeed will learn to adapt. This is where adapting the orthodontic journey becomes so important.
With the influence of new technologies comes increasing costs to deliver orthodontic care. This has made the entry into private practice much more difficult to achieve, and has contributed to the corporatization of orthodontics. With higher costs, the challenges of a single doctor practice increase. The growth of group practices and corporate service organizations will continue to shift the model of the orthodontic care.
Technology is also democratizing the access to care, and new delivery methods have opened the opportunity to deliver orthodontic products direct to the consumer. Sure, doctors are contracted to oversee the treatment, but the model now shifts to a business model called Mechanical Turk. Where the excess supply of orthodontic and dental practitioners accept legal responsibility and low reimbursement to deliver volume outcomes for corporate goals. When there is no direct link between the practitioner and the patient, the culture of care changes. As more outlets for this model are developed, the commoditization of straight teeth develops.
Direct to consumer delivery of care will continue to grow. Doctor delivery will also evolve and we should accept the fact that patients have different priorities and expectations of orthodontic care. Many will continue to expect the traditional delivery of care with better experience and convenience. While others value a lower cost and self driven solution.
The shift in culture out there is many ways out of our control. What is not out of our control is what we do about it. Improving your team culture and the practice culture will help us attract those who are interested in what we offer. Offering a unique and patient centered experience will drive continued growth. Some developments in culture and technology are inevitable, but we should continue to focus on the areas we can improve and control.