The argument has raged for years, are PPO’s a good thing or a bad thing? And like every other question like this, seldom is there a clear cut answer… other than, “it depends.” The answer does most decidedly depend on many factors. The greatest determining factor as to the good, bad, or ugly of the PPO question lies in who you are. Are you the doctor, the payor, the employer, or the patient looking at the PPO plan?
In the past, many dentists drew a line in the sand and said they would never participate in any of the PPO plans; however, that definitive line drawn in the sand has become blurred. With the economy in the tank and patients taking a closer look at expenses and at making ends meet, dentistry is appearing in an ever lower position on that list of essentials. Those baby boomers who were to be retiring with inheritances and retirement plans that would allow them to seek, value, and pay for reconstructive and cosmetic procedures at a rate never before experienced by the dental profession have seen their huge nest eggs disappear and the dream of a leisurely luxurious retirement turn into a search for another job to supplement their retirement.
This unforeseen change has caused dentistry to look for alternative methods to fill the empty chairs caused by today’s economy. Many practices have looked toward PPO’s as a way to become busier. Many have become successful opening their doors to PPO patients. Others have opened their doors to the PPO’s with dismal results. The key to success in a PPO environment, should you decide to play, is to work efficiently and effectively utilizing the staff and available recourses to their maximum allowed by your state’s dental practice act. Success will depend upon the practice’s willingness to invest in the new technology, the latest products, and training for the staff. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that with technology improving and techniques developing that streamline the process, and an ever growing employee pool, dentistry can live and survive in this environment. The situation will be ugly if the practice continues to operate as a fee for service practice in the PPO environment. If you choose to play in the PPO pool, great! Be aware, you must be willing invest in the practice to be able to swim competitively. Remember, the marketplace is shifting as employers demand PPO plans, more and more.