If you build it, will they come?

Would you have a more successful practice if you had a bigger and fancier facility? Would you experience better case acceptance if you had a more polished public image? There seems to be a direct correlation between the facility you practice in and your patients` willingness to accept higher-fee procedures - i.e., services with fees greater than $3,500 But this acceptance may not be for the reasons you think.

Paul Homoly, DDS

"Knock, knock."

"Who`s there?"

"Con."

"Con who?"

"Confidence. Do you have enough?"

Would you have a more successful practice if you had a bigger and fancier facility? Would you experience better case acceptance if you had a more polished public image? There seems to be a direct correlation between the facility you practice in and your patients` willingness to accept higher-fee procedures - i.e., services with fees greater than $3,500 But this acceptance may not be for the reasons you think.

Dr. Harry Demaree is something of an expert on dentists` offices. His company, T.H.E. Design (Total Health Environment Design, Inc.) of Austin, Texas, makes a specialty of designing dentists` offices. He says that prosperous-looking facilities engender a feeling of well-being on the part of the patients. "Trust and confidence are enhanced when your words are congruent with what your patients see and feel in your practice environment." T.H.E. believes it`s the improved image of the facility that boosts case acceptance by boosting patients` confidence in the skill and market worth of the practitioner.

Who could argue with that logic? But as I interviewed dentists with new facilities, I discovered a new facility created opportunities for improved case acceptance beyond image issues. One of the best examples of this came from Dr. David Slekovich of Livonia, Mich., when he told me, "When committing oneself to a large long-term project, the practitioner is in some ways demonstrating to the patient that one believes in what they do and is committed to long-term excellence."

Another practitioner told me, "After I committed to the building process and worked through the entire process, when I finished, I began to take myself more seriously. It`s as if I had built some pretty big boots and now I had to fill them. And I did!"

After I finished my interviews with dentists who all made a sizable commitmentto their new facility, it became obvious to me that the greatest influence of facility on improvement in case acceptance for high-fee cases is on the dentist, not the patients. Although dentists told me that the new facility seemed to give them more confidence, I believe they have it backwards. I believe it was their confidence that led them to build the new facility. The facility upgrade is a symptom of their new confidence, not its cause. The facility demonstrates to the patients the dentist`s confidence in his/her abilities.

How do you know when it might be time to build or remodel? Take this quiz:

(1) Are you happy with the community in which you practice?

(2) Have you identified your target patients, their demographics, the type of dentistry they want, and the typical fee for the target dentistry?

(3) Does your current facility reflect the quality of your treatment?

(4) Do your management systems work?

(5) Are you booked out more than two to three weeks?

(6) Are your fully functional doctor`s operatories producing $15,000 a month or more?

While this isn`t a bullet-proof test, it is a pretty good measure of the health of your practice. If you have answered "yes" to each of these questions, then your practice is a likely candidate for a physical upgrade. But before you get physical, you need to get mental. Do you have the confidence to "grow" your practice in this way?

Growth comes from within. Growth is like talent and money - you can`t hide it! When an athlete`s performance and confidence grows, the natural thing to do is to seek out greater challenges and awards. When a doctor`s performance and confidence grows, building/remodeling a new facility is a natural thing to do ... and the improved case acceptance becomes part of the prize!

Confidence is the child of clarity. When you`re clear about where you want to live, how to love your family, the kind of dentistry you want to do, how to manage your business, how much income you can generate, and how to lead your staff, it`s effortless to act with confidence. It`s not knowing these things that locks us in place, robs us of our confidence, and keeps us from becoming the successes we deserve.

"Knock-knock."

"Who`s there?"

"Willie"

"Willie who?"

"Willie find it in himself to make the move?"

Free by fax: Do you want a complete list of questions that will help you decide if building or remodeling is for you? Fax your letterhead to T.H.E. Design at (512) 328-7474 with the words, "Send me the list!"

Dr. Homoly is author of Dentists: An Endangered Species - A Survival Guide for Fee-for-Service Care. He has practiced restorative dentistry for 20 years. He is president of Innovative Practice Solutions, helping thousands of dentists implement reconstructive dentistry through his hundreds of continuing-education workshops and seminars. Dr. Homoly can be reached at (794) 342-4900 or via e-mail at phomoly@aol.com.

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