I have been a practicing dentist for nearly a decade. After post-graduate work at Marquette University and undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I was fortunate to follow in my father’s footsteps as a dentist. He too graduated from Marquette. It is the family calling; my brother is also a dentist. Taking care of people is what we do. It’s our passion and we’re grateful to provide the best dental care to our patients as possible.
It is therefore extremely troubling that the Wisconsin legislature is considering a bill (A.B. 368/S.B. 637) that would affect my whole family and our ability to effectively care for our patients.
Not long ago, we each were having separate problems with the standard and outdated model for managing a practice. My brother had a child who needed medical attention many times a year so he needed flexibility with his work schedule and assurance that his practice would prosper even though he was sometimes away. My father was getting to the twilight of his career and was looking for ways to take care of his patients, but not have the burden of the business side of dentistry each day. I, on the other hand, was a fairly new dentist who needed help to administer multiple offices with tens of thousands of patients.
Three different dentists with three very different types of challenges. We all needed help. Circumstances were driving our individual focus away from patients and toward these other problems.
Running a dental office has many non-clinical aspects like managing supply procurement, facility maintenance, and bookkeeping, to name a few. I turned to a well-established practice of working with a dental support organization, or DSOs. DSOs first came on the scene in the 1970s and have been a boon to patients across the country by working with individual dentists to solve the unique problems of their practice. In my case, the non-clinical tasks of a large practice combined with providing the dental care meant I was working seven days a week and losing the passion and fire necessary for a caring profession.
The proposed legislation gives unchecked regulatory authority over non-dentist entities that do not provide clinical care to patients. With a DSO I don’t have to worry about training, human resources, banking, purchasing, and most accounting. I can’t imagine a heart surgeon having to worry about payroll or if the hospitals quarterly returns are in, they have to stop focusing on patients. I’m concerned others won’t get the benefit of a DSO if legislation passes. It would cause a disruptive and chilling effect on DSOs that have operated here for more than 30 years.
Dental Service Organizations allow dentists more time to focus on patients, which expands the access to care and improves the quality of healthcare for our patients. Additional regulations are unnecessary and will only increase expenses and decrease access to affordable and convenient dental care for state residents. A DSO-supported practice might not be everyone’s choice, but I would love a time when we can all just simply focus on helping our patients.
Dr. Tim Quirt is a dentist from Wausau who practices at Quirt Family Dentistry