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Maine, Wisconsin to test online platform matching dentists during key transitions

October 15, 2018

By Kimber Solana

Dr. Norbo
Dr. Norbo
Dentists from Wisconsin and Maine will be the first to test an online platform integral to an ADA pilot initiative to help foster relationships between dentists and practice owners at key transitions in their careers. The purpose: to match dentists who are looking to join a practice with owners who are seeking a partner, associate or someone to purchase their practice.

The goal is to launch the platform and associated programs in the first quarter of 2019 in the two pilot states. The ADA Business Innovation Group will evaluate all elements of the program throughout the year and make recommendations for expansion by the end of 2019.

“At the core of this project, we are working to support independent dentistry and increase access to care — two critical and important goals within our profession,” said Dr. Kirk M. Norbo, ADA 16th District trustee and Business Model Project Governance Team chair.

In May, the Association had announced the initiative to help dentists during their most important transitions — such as finding associates or buying/selling a practice.

The first step in the initiative includes creating an online platform that facilitates connections between dentists seeking associateships or practice owners who are looking for an associate or a buyer for their practice.

Using the online platform, dentists from Maine and Wisconsin will create a profile that captures what the dentist is seeking. For some, this might be an associateship or the possibility of purchasing a practice; and for others, this might be finding an associate or a future buyer for the practice.

“To ensure we are able to make the biggest impact possible, we need to test on a smaller scale to make sure our assumptions are validated and can then be expanded to a larger market,” Dr. Norbo said. “In-depth research is being conducted as the new service takes shape, and the pilot will serve as a test ground to more predictably assess what dentists value in regards to these key transitions.”

According to the ADA Business Innovation Group, Maine and Wisconsin were chosen to test the online platform and program because they offered the “best opportunity to evaluate the long term and scalable possibilities for the success of the service.” The pilot states also had strong partnership, support and collaboration with state dental societies and volunteer leaders; state legislation favorable regarding dental practice ownership; and sufficient capacity to test the scalability of the system and service.

The pilot program was developed after field research uncovered a need in the marketplace for dentists who want to connect for both employment opportunities and to facilitate the transition of a practice from one owner to another but have had difficulty doing so. Research also found additional needs around learning skills related to basic business management, ownership, patient acquisition, purchasing and staff relationships.

The ADA recognizes that there is a need for a more reliable process than what currently exists in the marketplace today. Using an algorithm, the online service will match new dentists with established dentists by considering aspects such as philosophy or care, personality, location and desired practice characteristics.

Once a match is made, an ADA advisor will be assigned to the partnership to help facilitate the process and foster a positive relationship for both parties, beyond the transaction and into the transition.

“We are currently building the online platform with the goal to match dentists in a more predictable way and ultimately lead to successful partnerships, which in turn, ultimately leads to continuity of care for the patients,” Dr. Norbo said. “Piloting the service in these two markets allows us to test elements of the service appropriately and gives us the ability to understand what is needed for the next steps to scale the service on a national level.”