By Dr. Suzanne Ebert. Dr. Ebert built a successful dental practice from scratch. After selling her practice, she became the dental director of a federally qualified health center where she provided high quality care to underserved populations. She joined ADA Practice Transitions (ADAPT) as the ADA Advisor to provide real and tangible benefits to dentists as well as helping to address access to care issues across the country. She is currently ADAPT’s VP of Dental Practice & Relationship Management.
In 1994, Kiss.com, the first modern dating website, created an entirely new type of experience. When Kiss.com launched, we could not have imagined how our routine interactions would change from face-to-face to digital over the years. Artificial intelligence (AI) was still science fiction. In less than 20 years, AI has changed how we shop, how products are delivered and how we find our life partners.
Dental practice transitions have traditionally been accomplished by a low-tech process, just like dating used to be.
By using a primarily digital environment, today’s dentists can now find the perfect match (whether practice or person), manage the evaluation, and complete a transaction with greater efficiency and success. AI has the potential to uncover great opportunities a dentist may have overlooked, similar to Netflix, StitchFix, Priceline, or other tech-first companies.
By integrating AI into practice transitions, dentistry can achieve three goals:
- Better matches
- Reducing the cost of the average practice transition
- Providing coaching to help dentists navigate their transitions
Why it’s vital to find the correct match
Picture your dental utopia. Now imagine what happens when your utopia clashes with established office norms. Perhaps you expect the office to run highly efficiently with shorter appointments, but your patients and staff expect you to listen to all the details of their personal life. With that kind of mismatch, someone is bound to be unhappy. You may dread going to work, your staff may quit, or your patients may go to another dentist.
It is why a dental practice transition model should be rooted in matching dentists with shared philosophies of care.
In talking with dentists, I have heard far too many stories of those who settled in a practice that wasn’t quite right, only to leave a year or two later. When that happens, everyone loses: the practice, the staff, and the patients.
Blending technology with a human touch
At ADA Practice Transitions (ADAPT), when you create a profile to buy, sell, join, or hire, you fill out an in-depth questionnaire that enables you to share your personal preferences. A series of filters then process the profiles to show the (human) ADA Advisor several potential matches and rank them according to how well the profiles align. Next, the Advisor validates the suggested matches, applying feedback and additional input they have received from you and the other dentists, ultimately enhancing the matching algorithm with a transition expert’s human touch.
Since we can show multiple practice styles and locations, we often suggest something that pushes the limits of what you indicate you are willing to accept, much like Netflix suggesting a seemingly obscure series you soon find yourself binge-watching. We ask for feedback on how well the recommendations fit or flopped. Over time, these responses help us further improve our recommendations for you and other dentists transitioning with ADAPT.
The goal is only to show those matches that meet your goals, whether the practice can become a great dental home or a buyer who can carry on your legacy.
AI to deliver better recommendations
AI is just beginning to play a role in streamlining the dentist matchmaking process. Imagine you’re preparing to buy a practice, but you’re not quite sure exactly what you want. AI could help you articulate your dental practice ‘style’ before you even begin to formally view actual practices. For example, interactive quizzes could ask your input on different options:
- Showing you images of different types of operatories.
- Asking how you would handle various cases.
- Gauging your preferred work style.
None of these questions has a right or wrong answer but taken together, the AI can begin to narrow the focus and serve up practices or candidates that better fit your style.
This would work much like StitchFix, the clothing site that shows you multiple outfits to determine your personal style. With each outfit you react to, the technology learns your preferred colors, cuts, fabrics, and so on.
At ADAPT, we have found efficient ways to characterize some of these gray areas in ways that allow us to be more predictive about the success of long-term matches. Doing so requires asking more than simple yes/no questions. Making better recommendations will allow our ADAPT experts to focus on coaching and educating our members, helping dentists better understand the process and prepare for what comes after finding them the perfect match.
Growing the pool to fuel better matches
The more extensive the network, the better, more valuable, and more efficient the solution becomes for its participants. The classic example is the telephone. One telephone is essentially worthless, but as more people have them, each is more valuable because you can connect with everyone in the network.
As the volume of ADAPT participants grows, machine learning becomes more effective and efficient. The more matches ADAPT creates, the better we identify factors that lead to suitable matches.
AI’s role after the match: streamlining the entire transaction process
AI’s role does not have to end when a match is made. Instead, AI can then use the same inputs that drove the recommendations to steer the transaction from the LOI and due diligence through closing and beyond.
For example, your ‘style’ inputs and other data could help deliver tailored financing options and customized next steps. We already offer extensive resources as part of our platform, but AI could help us bundle up precisely what you need for your unique transition process.
Similarly, sellers who input their practice details could receive an AI-generated evaluation that accounts for everything from the practice’s finances and equipment to the location, hygiene schedules, treatment style, and community demographic and economic conditions. With the right inputs, the technology could then provide a comprehensive current valuation to help you better understand your situation and serve as a starting point in negotiations.
Using data collected throughout the process, a buyer could receive access to practice management systems that could help them get up to speed more quickly. Meanwhile, automated surveys could assess how patients respond to the transition, guiding changes to ensure patient retention.
People are essential in the transition
Even as AI begins to streamline the process, you still need advisers who have experience in making a good match between dentists and who can pick up on nuances that a machine cannot. AI frees up advisors to do what they do best – advising individual doctors by answering their unique questions, offering reassurance, and bringing a human touch to a complicated process. The goal is for AI to complement, not replace humans, so dentists can make better matches, reduce costs, and navigate the transition easily.