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Chicago Midwinter Recap: Dental Industry Themes for 2016

Chicago Midwinter Recap: Dental Industry Themes for 2016

I attended the 2016 Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting recently, and though it wasn’t my first time attending, there were a handful of observations and conversations that I think highlight the state of the industry today, and the direction it’s heading over the next few years.

Digital Marketing for Dentists

I spent a significant amount of time in the exhibition hall, specifically seeking out the first time exhibitors as a proxy for where I may find some of the newest companies, product launches, and freshest perspectives. It was very clear from the start that of this cohort of companies, one of the prevailing themes was digital services for dentists. For years, dentists have been plagued with poor or no digital presence, from stale websites with outdated pictures and contact information to half-hearted attempts at social engagement. At the Midwinter, I met a half-dozen companies, many of them were startups, and all were focused on SEO, dentist websites, patient marketing, and generally helping dentists create a more robust online brand. Social Dental gives out fun speech bubbles for patients to hold while getting their visit documented on their dentist’s Instagram and Facebook pages. Doctor.com gives the practice a Chromebook to use for collecting patient reviews in office, and Podium has a mature analytics platform for social posting, reviews, and SEO.

HIPAA Compliance is Big

Throughout the day talking to different companies about their solutions, HIPAA compliance and concerns about private health information came up multiple times across different product environments. Social Dental has a slick app for patients to give their permission to appear on their dentist’s Facebook page, Solution Reach has a number of fully HIPAA compliant patient management solutions, including x-ray attachments, and Dentrix, the leading practice management software, raved about their compliance measures. While it’s not clear if this was anecdotal or part of a larger sensitivity to data breaches stemming from high profile cases like Target or J.P. Morgan, dental products seem to be well prepared to answer these questions.

Banks Want to Finance your Dental Visit

Financial institutions were everywhere! Huge banks like Wells Fargo, PNC and Citi, healthcare finance company Care Credit, and even upstarts like the recently public Lending Club were all in attendance. Each touted a slight variation in rates to differentiate themselves from Care Credit, which helps patients finance large dental costs without insurance. It appears that the space has attracted specific products from major banks, which suggests this is a lucrative market, or at least the right market timing. With over 100 million Americans going without dental coverage, patients who are faced with expensive dental needs like orthodontics, periodontal surgery, or root canals see value in stretching the payments out over 6, 12 or even 18 months. While there were plenty of other interesting products and services at this year’s Midwinter meeting, I was personally encouraged to see more technology blended into the set of vendors. Dentistry has shown itself to be late to the digital revolution (along with most of health care), but hopefully the emergence of some companies and an increased emphasis on the power of technology for practice efficiency, patient marketing, and quality care delivery will push more dentists to make active investments in technology with their practices.

While there were plenty of other interesting products and services at this year’s Midwinter meeting, I was personally encouraged to see more technology blended into the set of vendors. Dentistry has shown itself to be late to the digital revolution (along with most of health care), but hopefully the emergence of some companies and an increased emphasis on the power of technology for practice efficiency, patient marketing, and quality care delivery will push more dentists to make active investments in technology with their practices.

Author Alex Frommeyer

Fro is the co-founder and CEO of Beam, a dental benefits company reimagining dental care. Alex is obsessed with the internet of things, digital health, and all things dental. Find him on Twitter and Medium.

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