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The NetMinder Blog

Do We Count Access Points or Unique Providers?

Posted by Laura McMullen on Thu, Feb 08, 2018

This question has been around since the first time someone decided to compare two provider networks. In fact, NetMinder wouldn’t be here without it! One of our founding principles is a commitment to comparing apples to apples. This thread runs through all our processes starting with the way we collect data and ending with selecting report criteria. We’re focused on this idea because we know that how you count network providers can make a big difference in calculating network strength. Read our whitepaper about counting providers.

Choosing The Best Counting Method For Your Analysis

Each counting method has strengths and weaknesses. Access points is the broadest count with the highest numbers. It’s great for showing consumers where they’ll be able to access care. Unique providers (sometimes called “belly buttons”) is often the cleanest count and preferred by benefits decision-makers. It’s not so good for consumers since it doesn’t show all locations. Unique locations (sometimes called “doorbells”) is the narrowest count with the smallest numbers for obvious reasons.

One Report To Show Them All

Dental_Dashboard.jpegMaking sense of these options is why we added a new Dental Dashboard to our suite of snapshot reports. It shows all three counting methods plus validated counts and percentages for a single geographic area in the same report. The six bar charts bring access points, unique providers, and unique locations together for up to five networks. Watch this video to learn more.

Each counting method is important at different points in the sales and renewal process and the Dental Dashboard makes it easier to look at them all. For example, access points are important to consumers when they are making appointments while HR teams rely on unique providers to compare networks. This report helps you prepare for questions about both scenarios and encourages a broader view of the reliability, convenience, and strength of your network.

How are you counting and comparing the providers in your network?

Tags: compare networks, network providers, counting method, network strength, access points, unique providers, provider network, unique locations

Which Counting Method Should You Choose?

Posted by Susan Donegan on Thu, Jun 08, 2017

apples to apples.jpgClients and brokers expect to see an “apples-to-apples” comparison of price and benefit design. NetMinder lets you do the same for networks. Choosing your counting method ensures that you always know what you are counting.

Comparing access points is important at the beginning of the evaluation process because it gives you the most granular view of each network. The networks look largest through this lens because each provider at each location counts as one access point. This view includes all locations that each provider could practice at, even if he or she doesn’t see patients there regularly. To avoid this problem, use the unique provider counting method.

The count of unique providers is the clearest count of contracts that each network has. Looking at the network this way can make them seem smaller since many providers practice at more than one location. This method of comparison complements the access point analysis as you continue to position your network.

Matching counts of unique locations is the methodology that carriers use in the accessibility reports they run against clients’ employee census. These reports generally show you which zip codes meet the minimum access standards. Evaluating networks this way returns the smallest counts and is usually one of the last steps in the decision-making process.

Download our whitepaper, How You Count Matters As Much as What You Count  for more detail on how to make accurate, effective provider network comparisons.

Tags: health insurance, health care providers, counting method, access points, unique providers

A Peek At Dental and Vision Network Trends

Posted by Susan Donegan on Wed, Mar 29, 2017

In dental and vision insurance, the network is where the consumer experience happens. That’s why it’s important to know the network landscape and leverage all points of differentiation and separation from the competition.

First, a few definitions. These observations are based on a review of NetMinder data for the top 15 national dental PPO networks and the top 10 vision networks as of March 2015. A network is defined as a payer/plan combination, i.e. Delta Dental PPO or EyeMed Access. Counting methods are:  

  • Access Points: each provider at each location in a provider directory.  
  • Unique Providers: each provider one time regardless of the number of locations s/he is listed at in a provider directory.
  • Locations: each location one time regardless of the number of providers who are listed there in a provider directory.

AvgNetworkSize.jpgRelatively speaking, dental networks are much larger than vision networks. The supply of dentists is larger than the supply of optometrists and ophthalmologists. There are 65 dental schools vs. 23 optometry schools23 and nine dental specialties vs. two optometric specialties.

There is also greater demand for dental services:


Download our whitepaper to learn more about these favorable trends as well as the synergies that help the dental and vision insurance markets work together. 


Tags: dental network, health insurance, Vision insurance, vision networks, dental provider, practicing locations, counting method

Dental PPO Network Growth Rate Down While Locations Per Provider Increased Significantly

Posted by Laura McMullen on Mon, Oct 24, 2016

Our annual analysis of dental network trends showed overall annual growth in unique providers of ~7-8% over the last five years. By all measures, networks are growing.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • The average number of unique locations grew from 58K to 77K, or 33%
  • The average number of unique providers grew from 72K to 99K, or 37%
  • The average number of access points grew from 163K to 309K, or 90%

Top 15 Dental PPOs_mar 2016.jpgNot only are there more locations and more providers, but there are also more locations per provider: up 38% (2.25 to 3.12) from March 2012 to March 2016.

And yet, when we did this same analysis in 2015, we saw 10% annual growth in unique providers over the prior five years. While the growth was higher in access points and lower in unique locations like it is this year, all of the percentages were higher:

  • The average number of unique locations grew from 54K to 76K, or 41%
  • The average number of unique providers grew from 67K to 100K, or 50%
  • The average number of access points grew from 134K to 281K, or 110%

Interestingly, the average number of locations per provider only grew 29% (2.01 to 2.82) between March 2011 and March 2015.

So if the annual growth rate is lower, and the overall growth in each counting method is less, why did the average number of locations per provider grow 33%?

The multiplier effect we were starting to see in 2015 has blossomed. Just one of the 15 largest national dental PPO networks doesn’t have any lease partners and the other 14 have increasingly more complex network stacks. On average, the largest networks have four network partners and four networks have six partners. Connection Dental, DenteMax, Maverest, and Stratose are the most frequent network partners.

Another factor is the number of networks each dentist is joining. In our analysis, we found that the average dentist participates with 55% of the top 15 dental PPO networks, while nearly half of dentists in networks are in at least 11.

One more element of the growth is the rise of dental service organizations. We’ve seen a decade of private equity investment and that’s paying off. Becker’s Hospital Review noted that a 2014 Sageworks analysis found that DPMs generated the highest return on equity of the industries it examined. With additional cash, DSOs are growing by building and acquiring dental practice. And following the industry practice of listing each provider at each office contributes to the increase in locations per provider.

How are these trends playing out in your networks and markets? About 40% of dentists participate in 1-4 networks, so there is still room for organic growth. How well are both tactics represented in your strategic plan?

Tags: network growth, dental network, network providers, dental PPO networks, counting method




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