The New Roadmap

The New Roadmap

Edward J. Vigna, D.D.S.*:
In many of my journal articles of late, I have stressed the importance of addressing the long-term future of the American Dental Association and how we remain relevant, financially strong, and able  to continue to provide members with the services and value they need and deserve as a benefit of membership. To remain the unified voice of dentistry, we must work hard to embrace our Vision,  Mission, and Goals. What follows is the outcome of our February 2012 Board of Trustees retreat. This is a portion of a document that will be shared with each council and staff as we begin the  budget process for 2013.
 
Where We Are
Dentists face unique and urgent challenges during their professional careers. Economic recession, stagnant utilization, increasing costs, complicated technology, regulatory mandates, declining  demand for services, significant growth of dental school enrollments, health care reform, third party intrusions into the doctor/patient relationship, and a rapidly changing demographic entering the  profession present opportunities for organized dentistry to play a critical role in preserving the profession of dentistry, and in helping dentists be successful throughout their careers. 
 
In addition, the ADA faces unprecedented business challenges resulting from declining member market share, now at 67.3% (75% target); this despite aggressive member recruitment efforts and a  low interest rate environment resulting in a weakening balance sheet and declining non-dues revenues while ADA operational costs continue to rise. The challenges our profession and our organization face today are urgent, requiring bold action now. 
 
The Foundation to Build On
The 2011-2014 Vision, Mission, and Goals of the American Dental Association are:
Vision: To be the Recognized Leader on Oral Health
Mission: The ADA is the professional association of dentists that fosters the success of a diverse membership and advances the oral health of the public 
Goal: Provide support to dentists so they may succeed and excel throughout their careers 
Goal: Be the trusted resource for oral health information that will help people be good stewards of their own oral health 
Goal: Improve public health outcomes through a strong collaborative profession, and through effective collaboration across the spectrum of our external stakeholders 
Goal: Ensure that the ADA is a financially stable organization that provides appropriate resources to enable strategic and operational initiatives 
 
The public’s oral health is best ensured through a strong, capable, compassionate, and independent profession of dentistry. In order for each member of our profession to be successful, (in whatever  manner each individual dentist defines success), the American Dental Association must provide support. This support currently takes many forms, and despite the current volume and complexity of  support, the overall result must create tangible value for the dentist, while having a positive impact on the profession, the public, and the American Dental Association. This value must be  measurable through a return on objectives (Are we winning membership? Are we winning public perception?) and through a return on investment (Are we improving the ADA’s immediate and long-term   financial condition?) 
 
Value creation for the dentist, our primary client, is best accomplished by focusing on the following priorities: 
o Providing relevant, visible, and impactful solutions to the day-to-day business and practice problems challenging dentists, regardless of the career stage or professional career paths, which include  but are not limited to private practice (solo to large group), academia, research, corporate practice, Federal Service, public health practice, humanitarian work, and industry. 
 
o Strengthening the profession’s ability to maintain autonomy through effective advocacy. This advocacy must support the best interests of the public’s health while preserving the integrity of the  profession. The advocacy must enhance the independence of the profession, the place of the dentist as the head of the dental team, and resist undue interference by third parties (government, insurers, etc.) into the dentist/ patient relationship. Advocacy that is effective in educating and influencing public perception, As policy makers, regulatory agencies, and third-party dental financing entities provides tangible value to members and the profession. 
 
o Members value ADA’s intercession in helping dentists manage their relationships (if any) to third party payers, and in the ADA providing education and consultation that assists them in making well- informed business decisions regarding participation in various dental benefit plans and how that participation impacts the patient, the practice, and the dentist. The dentist/patient relationship should  remain sacred, and the ADA is committed to minimizing interferences by outside entities in these relationships. 
 
Interpretation and Planning
In order to deliver on the promise as stated in the Vision, Mission, Goals and 2012-13 priorities, the ADA must be financially sustainable in the immediate term and long into the future. Non-dues  evenue growth must accelerate while promoting and protecting the ADA brand. Allocation of precious resources (human and financial) must be prioritized in a manner that reflects the priorities of the ADA and the member dentist. 
 
Revenues (dues and non-dues) must be sufficient to support achieving results in the pursuit of the stated goals and priorities, while carefully managing ADA expenses. Longterm financial stability relies on strengthening ADA reserves annually until the level set by the House of Delegates is achieved and maintained. The current pattern of annual deficit budgets presents a significant threat to  the long-term financial health of the ADA and is counter to building member value. 
 
The Climate We Live In …
Enjoy whatever season this is, winter/spring, you pick it! I look forward to seeing you all as the spring season of many state meetings will be here soon. As always, you may contact me with any  ideas, concerns, or comments at vignae@ada.org or (402) 770-7070. 
 
 
*Dr. Vigna is the Trustee to the Tenth District of the American Dental Association, representing Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.