We ask two experts the same question to give you two different answers on a complex issue
QUESTION "I met an associate who I really like. My plans are to form a partnership in a few years, but my patients total 1,600. What steps can I take to increase my patient base so there's enough production to support two doctors?”
Guy Jaffe, MBA
One way to increase patient flow is for the associate dentist to open his or her practice to managed care patients. The associate might begin by taking three or four better paying PPOs. It is better to stay busy seeing PPO patients than to sit around and do nothing. As the associate builds his or her practice, it is possible to eliminate one or more of the PPOs but, for now, it is a quick way to pick up new patients.
The office should undertake a marketing program. It is best to start with internal marketing. It is less expensive and typically more effective. Both the senior and junior dentists should begin by asking existing patients for referrals from their families and friends. Each staff member should have his or her own business cards to pass out. When you get referrals, be sure to reward the referring party. For the first referral, send your referral source a coupon for a nice dinner for two. Next time that source sends a patient, send the referring party tickets to a baseball game and dinner. It is important to encourage people who are sending you patients.
The ideal way to inject a large number of new patients into your practice is to have the associate dentist purchase a practice nearby and merge that practice into the existing practice. For example, if the associate were to purchase a practice with 900 active patients, the combined offices should have between 2,300 and 2,400 active patients. There is no better deal in dentistry than a merge. You end up with two gross incomes but not two overheads. The economies to be achieved when the offices are merged are substantial.
Guy Jaffe, MBA, is a principal of ADS Midwest and past president of American Dental Sales. He provides brokerage, appraisal, and consulting services in St. Louis, Columbia, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and central and southern Illinois. You can reach him at (800) 221-6927 or at [email protected]">[email protected].
Tom Snyder, DMD, MBA
There are several steps you can take to increase production. First, assess what services you are routinely referring to area specialists. Hopefully your new associate will be able to provide some of these referred services and this will increase your production immediately. If your candidate needs additional training, do not hesitate to make an investment in him or her and offer to pay for the course(s). Next review your clinical schedule. Are you comfortable with reducing your clinical schedule? If you are practicing four days per week, consider taking another day off and possibly increase your hours for the remaining days that you will be practicing. If you schedule wisely, you may be surprised that your overall production may not decrease dramatically. You'll improve the quality of your life and transfer some of your patients to your new associate. Finally, to assure a significant increase in your patient base for your partnership, consider purchasing the patient lists of an older doctor in your community. This, however, may not be a realistic option (based on where your practice is located), but if it can be done, consider taking action on this plan. Since an increasing number of dentists are practicing well into their 70s, there will be more practitioners who will have these "part-time practices” with a rich patient base available for acquisition. We recommend a records acquisition program which will pay the selling doctor either a set amount for the number of records to be acquired or pay the seller a percentage of revenue collected on behalf of the former owner's patients for a defined period of time. If this is not an option, consider implementing an aggressive marketing program either using direct mail or advertising as another way to increase your patient base.
Tom Snyder, DMD, MBA, is the director of transition services for The Snyder Group, a division of Henry Schein. He can be reached at 800-988-5674 or [email protected].
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