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Reading Tea Leaves and Numbers

Posted by Paul on 1/26/2013 11:56:00 AM

Don't start calling me Madame Paul the Tea Leaf Reader quite yet. But I amtempted to play amateur number sleuth after reviewing the latest membership report from the ADA. What do these numbers tell us? I'll give you some data ina minute but first a few musings.
As Director of Outreach for the MDA, I'm always curious about the of membership. Why do people join? Why do they leave? What do they really want from membership? What makes an associationvibrant? Is 100% membership even a goal we should have?
Do benefits drive the boat? The MDA proudly stands behind the value of what we offer our members. We strive to be better every day but your dues (hefty as they may seem) work hard for you on many fronts from communication to advocacy at the Capitol to insurance savings to CE and on and on. Benefits are a great incentive but I think they are icing on the cake when dues are paid.
Does price makesomebody jump ship? I hear that excuse on occasion. Let's face it, no one likes to write checks in this economy but of all the financial choices you make for your practice, membership may lack an immediate warm fuzzy but it is far reaching in it's value. Smart people, a.k.a dentists, understand the difference between price and value. So if benefits aren't the main draw and price is not the main barrier - what is the common thread in membership?
I'm reminded of Groucho Marx who said "I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." Ha! Yes, interacting with people (good or bad) is probably the biggest influencer in deciding on membership. It's human nature to want to belong- especially with people who share so much in common. My observation is that the strongest and longest relationships I see in the MDA were forged through frequent interaction and involvement provided by membership. It is not always pleasant but it is real and it validates and accommodates your own professional journey. On the other hand, I think those who storm out or silently slip away are really just victims of a bad or overlooked encounter with people. So with people in mind from the longest tenured member to the squeaky new dentist fresh from school, let's look at some trends in numbers and contemplate together how we can reach out to more "people" and thus enhance membership and the association experience for everyone.
I'll start at the national level and then share some state trends. My only disclaimer is that terms and measurements are confusing and vary but if we keep apples to apples then we can make a few observations.
According to the ADA for the 2012 calendar year, therewere 194,160 "active, licensed dentists" (ALD's)in the U.S. That's one for about every 1,600 people based on a US population of 311 billion. 128,524 of thoseALD's belong to the ADA. That's 66.2% market sharewhich is down 1.1% from 2011. How does that number hit you?That meanstwo out of every three dentistsare engaged in organized dentistry.Does that sound right for your city?Is that enough to promote and protect your interests? Is it a critical mass to accomplish goals that are important to you?
Using the same metrics, Missouri is doing a tad better with 68.5% market share out of 2,787 ALD's in the state. When we add all categories of membership to the equation, the MDA is at 77.7% market share which is the highest its beenin close to 20 years. Thank you members, you are making your voice count!
Nowlet's look atwhere the ADA and MDA are doing a good job and where the biggest opportunity for growth lies when we analyze different categories. Again, these numbers are based on ALD's. For instance, the specialty with the highest market share inADA membership (82.4%) is endodontists. In Missouri, pediatric dentists edge out endo's 93.4% to 93.1%. The specialty that has the highest % of non members is maxillofacial radiology for both the ADAat 46.5% and the MDA at 50%. As a total target group specialists make for the highest percentage of market share forboth the ADA at 76.6% and the MDA at 83.5%. The lowest market share for a group is foreign trained dentists with just 47.3% belonging to the ADA and only 38.5% belong to the MDA. Finally, whatrace is the membership? Among all minorities, the ADA has 53.4% market share and the MDA has 52.7%. Breaking it down, the biggest market share is white dentists with 73.8% for ADA and 72.8% for MDA. The lowest market share is black dentists with just 43% belonging to ADA and 41% belonging to MDA.
The challenge we face at both the state and national level is the market is growing faster than membership especially in the fast growing segments of minorities, women, and foreign trained dentists. Add to this the erosion of the number of GP's and we have a slowly declining market share.
While the numbers tell part of the story, let's not get lost in them (If you're like me youmay already feel dizzy). Membership has always been and will always remain a person to person connection.Yes our sheer numbers allow us many benefits and a strong voice at the Capitol but your bottom line connection comes from your involvement in organized dentistry whether it be the local study club or leadership at the highest levels. Remember this when you think about your colleagues. Ask them to events. Welcome them to your city. Invite them to join the MDA and tell them why you belong. Pay special attention to those segments that are a little different than you. They are perhaps already struggling with"fitting in" sothey may feel the same way when considering membership. Will I feel accepted? This outreach can be difficult for some but it gets easier with practice. You'd be surprised how many dentists are just waiting to be asked and included. Membership offers so many avenues for that to happen.
Let me know how I can help and good luck!

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