How to Use Four Types of Data to Your Advantage
A modern, full-service dental office sits on a corner of a major freeway of a dense, affluent neighborhood in North Dallas. Most dentists would agree this is a good location—one that seems highly conducive to the practice’s success.
But this office is now closed. Why? The real estate data—one of four critical data points of selecting a dental office—was misinterpreted.
The major freeway is a toll road intended for commuters traveling from the suburbs to downtown. The highest traffic counts are during morning and evening commutes. Drivers may not be looking at signage. Their mission is to get to work or home.
For those who live in the adjoining neighborhood, the stand-alone building and its parking lot can only be accessed from one direction, sits at a busy intersection, has few parking spaces, and doesn’t connect to the neighboring shopping center.
How to Determine if a Location is a Good One
There are four important factors to consider when selecting dental office space: demographics, density, competition and real-estate data.
A site that aligns your practice’s short- and long-term goals and preferences with these four factors will be the right site for you. (Examples of preferences include: your ideal patient population and the kind of care you want to provide.)
The goal of using demographic data is to identify areas with individuals and families who fit the profile of your ideal patients.
Data for the following begins to tell the story of who lives in an area, and will help you narrow your search fields:
- Average household size
- Median age
- Median household income
- Native language
- Owner-or renter-occupied households
- Households with private insurance
Because most individuals visit providers close to where they live, identifying households with private insurance within your practice’s trade area (the geographic area most of your customers will come from) is key.
The goal of using density data is to understand the intensity of land use in an area (e.g., people per square mile or housing units per acre).
In order for you to get a comprehensive look at the density of an area, the trade area configuration should be a range of miles or drive time. For example, it could be a three- to five-mile radius, or a drive time of 12 to 15 minutes.
To evaluate density, the following data should be reviewed:
- Population density (number of persons per square mile)
- Total population
- Population growth rate
- Forecasted population growth rate
- Number and type of housing units
- Number and type of jobs
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Texas is home to five of the 11 fastest-growing cities: Georgetown, New Braunfels, Frisco, Pearland and Pflugerville. Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio were among the highest cities in the country for population gain. Growth in densely-populated areas creates opportunities for new practices to acquire patients.
According to the American Dental Association, a good competition ratio is one dentist to every 1,500 patients.
But it also cautions you to be sure to look beneath the raw numbers. You should also consider if the existing practices are truly your competition and meeting patients’ needs.
Are you planning on treating a different population base? Areas with rapid growth or re-gentrification may have existing practices that may not be adapting to or serving the influx of new patients. For example, a neighborhood that was primarily made up of Medicare recipients could be re-gentrifying and attracting mostly privately-insured residents.
Do you plan on using equipment that’s not in service? Older practices may not be receiving the investments needed to serve the changing population.
Will you be offering services not readily available?
Similar to above, well-established practices may not offer new cosmetic dental procedures or advances in dental care.
There could be an opportunity to serve a community that, on paper, appears to be oversaturated.
Real Estate Data
Once the demographic, density and competition data have directed you to certain markets, use real estate data to narrow office options within those areas.
An optimal location has these qualities:
- Is located in a dominant position that can’t be overshadowed by a competitor
- Is located between homes and daily-needs stores
- Has visibility and large, bright signage with exposure to traffic
Women are the primary decision makers for health and dental-care decisions for their families. And convenience is one criteria for choosing healthcare providers. This is why the majority of dental practices are choosing retail shopping centers, instead of medical office buildings—a movement we call the retailization of healthcare.
A space near a daily-needs store (like a grocery store), and complementary businesses will also increase awareness of a practice (potentially lowering the need for marketing) and attract shoppers.
Parting Words to the Wise
Surround yourself with a support system of professionals who understand dentistry. Your lender, real estate broker, attorney, architect, equipment rep, insurance broker, marketing team, and construction crew all should specialize in helping dentists.
Challenge these professionals by asking why throughout the process. Be selective and only hire the people who not only have extensive expertise, but also care about putting you and your practice first.