Dental Office Management

What is a DSO and How Could it Affect My Dental Practice?

February 5, 2024

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I'm Amanda — Founder of Essential Dental Services. I've immersed myself in the world of dentistry for nearly two decades.

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DSO stands for Dental Service Organization. These organizations provide business management and support to dental practices, allowing dentists to focus on clinical care without the burdens of administrative tasks. Be sure to check out this article released by the ADA to see statistics on the number of dentists affiliating with DSO’s. But what does that look like in practice, and how could it affect your business altogether?

Pros of Partnering with a DSO

1. Increased Efficiency and Productivity
One of the primary benefits of partnering with a DSO is the potential for increased efficiency and productivity within the dental office. DSOs bring with them particularly well-established systems and processes that have been fine-tuned over time.

2. Access to Advanced Technology and Resources
DSOs often have the financial means to invest in overall state-of-the-art equipment, software, and tools that can enhance the quality of patient care.

3. Streamlined Administrative Processes
DSOs alleviate this burden by taking care of various administrative responsibilities, such as human resources, payroll, and compliance.

4. Marketing and Branding Support
Establishing a strong brand identity and attracting new patients are crucial for the success of any dental practice. DSOs often have dedicated marketing teams that specialize in promoting dental practices, thus attracting a steady stream of patients.

Cons of Partnering with a DSO

1. Loss of Autonomy and Control
One significant disadvantage of partnering with a DSO is the potential loss of control over practice operations and decisions. Dentists who value their independence may find it challenging to relinquish control to a larger organization. DSOs typically have standardized protocols and procedures, therefore limiting the dentist’s ability to make autonomous decisions.

2. Financial Considerations and Profit Sharing
While DSOs handle the business operations, they also share in the profits. Dentists considering a partnership with a DSO must carefully evaluate the financial implications of profit sharing arrangements. It is crucial to have a clear understanding of how profits will be distributed and how this may impact the dentist’s overall earnings.

3. Potential Changes in Patient Care and Experience
DSOs often prioritize operational efficiency. This can sometimes lead to changes in how patient care is delivered. Dentists who have a specific philosophy or approach to patient care may find it challenging to align with the standardized protocols implemented by the DSO. It is essential to assess whether the DSO’s approach to patient care aligns with the dentist’s values and beliefs.

Dental Billing and DSOs

When working with a DSO (Dental Service Organization) for billing, they typically have a dedicated team responsible for handling your dental billing. This process is similar to working with a dental billing company. The DSO’s billing team will remotely access your practice management software to handle tasks such as creating, submitting, and following up on insurance claims. Some DSOs also handle patient billing, both in-office and remotely.

One advantage of partnering with a DSO, is their access to various insurance companies and plans. This helps dental teams manage insurance billing and establish networks with compatible insurance providers. Additionally, DSOs have the ability to negotiate fee schedules with insurance companies, providing valuable guidance to dental practices.

However, it is important to note that even DSO billing teams can benefit from continuous education in dental billing. While DSOs likely provide formal training for their billers, the ever-changing nature of dental insurance necessitates ongoing education to ensure accuracy and compliance. If you are considering working with a DSO, it is recommended to inquire about their education requirements for their billers. They should receive continuous training in areas such as coordination of benefits, the dental billing process, and current dental terminology (CDT Coding).

Despite being corporate entities that own dental offices, DSOs should prioritize education for their billers. We have observed that a focus on training and education can positively impact the cash flow of a dental practice. By understanding how to submit accurate insurance claims, practices can reduce insurance claims denials and minimize the amount of claims work required.

Trying to figure out if outsourcing your billing is right for your practice? Check out our blog article here.

Conclusion and Consideration for Dental Practices

The decision to join a DSO should not be taken lightly. While there are certainly advantages such as operational support and resource access, concerns about control and the impact on patient care are valid. Dental practices must weigh these factors against their own goals and principles.

By carefully considering all aspects, dental practitioners can make an informed decision that ensures the future success and integrity of their care provision. As DSOs continue to evolve within the dental industry, understanding their role — and how they can either bolster or alter a practice — is pivotal for today’s dental professionals.

Amanda DeMoura and Sarah Hamlin deliver a podcast dedicated to helping dental professionals navigate the intricacies of running a successful dental practice. Whether you're a seasoned practice owner, new dentist, or a dental professional looking to enhance your managerial skills, this podcast is your go-to resource for valuable insights, expert advice, and actionable strategies.

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