Soon, Millennial dental patients may be able to have a filling replaced while their prescriptions are being filled.
The ADA Health Policy Institute released the results of a representative national survey of Millennials ages 18-35. The survey found that nearly 40 percent of respondents were very or somewhat interested in getting dental care in a setting like Target, Walgreens, or CVS. Among those surveyed, the results varied significantly only by race. One-third on non-Hispanic whites were in favor of the idea, while 45 percent of black respondents and 47 percent of Hispanics were interested.
The difference in those figures may reflect the current availability of dental services in the respondents’ particular geographic areas, or there may be some other factor at play.
Retail-Setting Health Care: A Broadening Trend?
In 2004, CVS began partnering with MinuteClinic to offer walk-in health care services at some of its stores. After acquiring MinuteClinic in 2006, CVS significantly expanded store penetration. By 2015, there were over 1,000 MinuteClinic locations in CVS stores in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
Walgreens began offering in-store health care in 2006. Today, there are some 440 retail health clinics under its umbrella with some clinics operated by outside health care organizations.
The forecast is for more than 2,800 retail health care clinics nationwide by 2018.
With health care moving to a walk-in, retail model, it’s not surprising that there would be interest in dentistry following a similar path.
Retail Dentistry Isn’t Great News for Dental Practices
It’s more likely that retail dental clinics would offer cleanings, exams, and whitening treatments than more involved procedures. However, those are still significant revenue streams for many practices. And the possibility of walk-in restorations can’t be completely discounted.
If retail health care locations are any guide, retail dental clinics would be likely to offer expanded hours. That would make them an attractive option for working people and for people with dental emergencies. And, if retail locations are operated by corporate entities, the economies of scale may allow them to offer discounted services.
At present, this is all speculation. But just 17 years ago, the same could have been said for the idea of a health care clinic in a drugstore.
It’s not clear whether corporate dentistry will look favorably on the idea of retail dentistry. If they do, it’s not clear how long the concept will take to spread widely. The possibility is something that dentists should take into consideration in their long-term planning.
As with corporate dentistry, though, established dental practices would have an advantage over retail dental clinics. Established dentists can offer a superior patient experience, an ongoing relationship, and a level of trust that rotating dentists in a drugstore can’t hope to match.
By offering those three advantages, you’ll attract patients who stay, pay, and refer rather than price-shoppers, one-and-dones, and insurance-driven patients. You’ll be the preferred choice for the dental prospects with ability and willingness to pay more for the dentist they trust.
Whether retail dentistry ever emerges as a competitive threat, start now to position yourself as the preferred dentist for your preferred patients.