ADIA strategy: strength in numbers

What does the new ADIA strategy have to do with dentists? Plenty, CEO Troy Williams says, as the peak body focuses its increased resources on growing the industry through collaboration. By Chris Sheedy

In November 2016 the Board of the Australian Dental Industry Association (ADIA) released the organisation’s strategic plan for the next five years. It was a powerfully broad, externally focused message, particularly compared to the ADIA’s last plan, which was more inwardly focused around growing the association and developing its long-term financial sustainability. Those goals have now been achieved, so the next logical step is the utilisation of those resources.

More importantly, the peak business organisation (representing the interests of dental-product manufacturers and suppliers) has flagged that collaboration with the dental profession is a key to success.

“At the heart of the 2016-20 ADIA Strategic Plan is an appreciation of the symbiotic relationship that exists between the dental industry and the dental profession,” says Troy Williams, ADIA CEO. “ADIA’s objective therefore is to create an environment in which the industry and the profession work collaboratively to build sustainable businesses as a result of a nation that makes a greater investment in its oral health.”

The ADIA represents around 200 businesses that produce almost 95 per cent of products used in Australian dentistry. The purpose of the five-year strategic plan, Williams says, is to ensure a consistency of direction and effort.

Newly-elected ADIA national president Phil Jolly, global region senior manager at Ivoclar Vivadent, says the new plan will build on the success of its predecessor.

“The last strategic review was about building the organisation,” Jolly says. “We did that and our budget is now almost twice the size—our membership has grown about 40 per cent. That has allowed us, with this new strategic plan, to take an organisation that administratively and financially is very healthy and focus on what the real needs for the industry are.

“Those needs came down to a reduction of red tape, an issue that ADIA has proven itself to be a strong and effective advocate for at a parliamentary level. But there’s also another key theme we identified. We’ve got upwards of 30 per cent of the population not seeing the dentist in any given year, which has adverse oral health outcomes for the population. We’re happy to defer to the ADA and other professional organisations as to how that plays out and the steps that need to be taken to address it, but it’s something we have an interest in. If we can close that gap it naturally supports the longer term commercial sustainability of dental practices and the dental industry.”

Much debate exists around whether there are too many dentists based on current demand levels. Williams says ADIA’s preference is to look at the demand side of the equation.

“At the heart of the 2016-20 ADIA Strategic Plan is an appreciation of the symbiotic relationship that exists between the dental industry and the dental profession.”—Troy Williams, CEO, ADIA

“If we can get more Australians to step up and look after their own oral health, the current workforce issues will dissipate,” Williams says. “The great health outcomes for the community are what makes this a sensible priority for ADIA and the broader dental community. The reasons for collaboration between the profession and the industry are clear.”

The 2016-20 ADIA  Strategic Plan is broken  up into five key areas:

1. Invigorating sustainable businesses—recognising that the long-term sustainability of the dental industry will be achieved only when many more Australians take responsibility for their oral health.

2. Invigorating promotional platforms—using exhibitions such as ADX Sydney as a platform for member businesses to increase sales, raise their profiles and build an awareness of their role supporting the delivery of healthcare.

3. Invigorating a reform agenda—using the ADIA’s respected position amongst parliamentary and departmental stakeholders to create an environment where businesses can grow, create jobs and operate sustainably.

4. Invigorating member engagement—engaging with businesses across the dental industry so that members set the agenda, fund activities and directly benefit from the results.

5. Invigorating a sustainable organisation—using the ADIA’s sound financial position to invest in new services whilst preserving the Association’s long-term financial sustainability.

Clearly, the first two points would benefit enormously from collaboration with the dental profession. And if point three results in simpler compliance and less red tape, everybody in the dental world wins, including patients.

“Sometimes the interests of the dental profession and the dental industry don’t always align,” Jolly says. “What we’ve been able to do is enter into meaningful dialogue with key stakeholders where we understand and respect those differences. Then, together we can focus on those issues where there is common agreement, and the reality is there’s common agreement with about 85 per cent of the issues.”

Such issues include the removal of the things that are getting in the way of people going to the dentist in the first place.

“There’s a perception that it’s too expensive to visit a dentist. There’s that sad joke that it is cheaper to have a heart attack in Australia than it is to have a filling. But the reality is that it isn’t expensive.”—Phil Jolly, national president, ADIA

“There’s a perception that it’s too expensive to visit a dentist. There’s that sad joke that it is cheaper to have a heart attack in Australia than it is to have a filling,” Jolly says. “But the reality is that it isn’t expensive. There’s just little to no public subsidy for the average person, so the value proposition for the average person is perceived differently.”

A shift in understanding is required at the individual and governmental level, Williams says, around the value of dentistry to general health.

“If you’ve got a severe case of gingivitis, you’ve got an infection the size of a fist in your mouth. If that was anywhere else in the body you’d march yourself to a specialist quick smart. But because it’s in your mouth and it’s relatively painless, a lot of people are simply happy to live with it, ignorant of the problems it causes,” Williams says.

“This is where collaboration comes in. The ADIA broadly understands the problems. The ADA understands the science and the pathway to addressing the problem. ADIA’s interest is in aligning the messages that are an effective call to action, resulting in more Australians taking responsibility for their oral health. To date, it’s arguable the dental community hasn’t yet struck a message that really resonates.”

Moving forward, Williams says, individuals, businesses and other stakeholders in the Australian dental community are going to have to develop very different but complementary messaging. If resources are combined through collaboration between industry bodies, it is likely that a sustainable and broad-based solution will be developed much sooner.

“The ADIA is putting cash on the table over the long term. This includes research as to how we convince more Australians to take responsibility for their oral health,” he says.

“As the ADIA works through the current strategic plan, dentists should notice two things. One is that the red tape associated with dental products will be reduced, and they can continue to have confidence in products they buy from ADIA member businesses. The other is that, as a result of our collaboration with key stakeholders, they will see the population having a very different view of dental and oral health, a view that sees people taking greater responsibility and visiting their dentist.”

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