I wrote about Walmart Dentistry a few years ago. In the previous iteration of “Walmart Dentistry,” it was my understanding that it was a DSO renting space in a Walmart retail location.
This time it’s different. Walmart opened a new health clinic in Georgia. It has a medical and a dental side. Run BY Walmart. They also published their fee schedule, with costs that are notably lower than the “average” out there in the real world.
So… is it time to panic? I submit that this could be GOOD for our industry. Well… good for PART of our industry. Mind you, I am a solo fee-for-service private care practice. I am “out of network” for all insurance plans and don’t generally even accept assignment. The vast majority of my patients are self-pay (cash). I won’t get into the merits vs challenges of such a practice. But, I’ll simply say, “It ain’t easy! But, I’m the captain of my own ship.” 🙂
Race to the bottom!
Should private care practitioners (even those participating “in-network”) be worried about competing with Walmart? I say NO. Not a bit. Who should worry? Corporate Dentistry, that’s who. Click the link to see evidence of that. The DSO industry (aka McDental) has taken notice! I’ll admit to looking forward to indulging in some sweet schadenfreude while Walmart and the other McDental chains (Corporate Dentistry) race to the bottom! The only problem for DSO McDental: Walmart is already at the finish line.
Both McDental and WallyDental are targeting the same audience: Bargain shoppers. Of course most of us know that there are no real “bargains” in dentistry or healthcare as a broader category. But, the reality is that MANY people have been convinced that dentistry is a commodity, and the “lowest price” wins. It IS reality, and the only way any individual person (who values “low price”) will be convinced otherwise is through his or her own negative experience.
Don’t be a loser!
If you try to compete with WallyDental, you WILL lose. I mean, come on. $25 prophies? That wouldn’t even cover the hourly wage of most of the hygienists we employ, right? So, how will Walmart do it? Who will they hire? Who would work for them? How much time are they spending with patients (to perform those services)? Meh! Who cares? It doesn’t matter how they do it. It. Does. Not. Matter.
If you try to beat them, you will lose. So, don’t try to compete with them. Unless your practice model is already predicated on low fees to attract patients, you’re simply not competing for the same patients. And, that’s a good thing!
But, McDental (DSOs) will have to worry… a lot! A quote from the end of the linked DSO blog article:
With this giant’s expanding reach into healthcare services, and in particular dentistry, we will be following the disruption closely to see how it impacts the dental industry as a whole, dental support organizations and patient care.
Interesting and telling that the DSO blog calls it a “disruption.” But, yeah… the DSOs are also concerned about “patient care.” LOL! I guess they HAD to throw that in there to at least appear to be “concerned” about patients. Uh-huh.
Fillings, nothing more than fillings….
So, their fees for “fillings” range from $75 – $125. My lowest fee is more than double their highest fee. My crown fee is more than double their fee… and for good reason, which should be self-evident to my readers. This is McDonald’s vs Capital Grille or Morton’s. Would Capital Grille worry if McDonald’s started offering cheap Prime Rib?
What would a Morton’s prime rib look like next to a McDonald’s prime rib? How will the customer experience differ?
How would a WallyDental composite or crown look next to mine? What do you imagine would be the difference in the patient’s experience?
Do you offer a commodity? Or a service?
Again… the McDental DSOs should be worried. Very worried. McDental and WallyDental racing to the bottom will be good for my practice. We are already experiencing a two-tier dental healthcare system. Corporate and private care.
Ford sells cars. Ferrari sells an experience.
Corporate / DSO McDental and WallyDental are offering a COMMODITY. And, if you’re selling a commodity, you cannot compete with them. Ask any “mom & pop” retailer in Small Town, USA what happened when Walmart came to town and started selling the same retail items.
If you’re selling “cheap fillings,” Walmart is going to kick your ass. If you sell personalized dental care – as a SERVICE – then you’re not competing with DSO McDentals or Walmart.
Anything that makes my practice stand out is a good thing. I realize that my target audience may be the minority of patients… those who value private care with attention to detail and quality over price. They still exist. They will always exist.
But, if you try to be everything to be everybody, you will be nothing to nobody. You cannot compete with McDental or WallyDental.
That doesn’t mean you can coast. You will have to market yourself. You will have to spend TIME with your patients. You will have to be GOOD at your craft. Really good. You will need “people skills,” too.
Wanted: Worker-bee Dentists
The DSOs have expanded rapidly. I get regular emails from Indeed and ZipRecruiter, listing open positions for employee dentists. 100% of the listings are McDental DSOs. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. Furthermore, week after week, month after month, year after year, it’s the SAME McDentals advertising open dentist positions. They obviously have a very high turnover rate. Imagine that.
Who are you? Who, who? Who, who?
Most of us went into dentistry with the dream of working for ourselves. To lead our own private practices. The environment has certainly changed, and we must adapt. But, that doesn’t mean we conform, nor must we surrender. You DO have a choice. Do you want to be a cog in the corporate wheel? Do you want line up to get your ass kicked by Walmart? Or, do you want to be the master of your own destiny?