Success in Group Practice

In our post “The Mom Group: the Future of Women in Dentistry”, we touched on the concept that for parents, as an example, a group practice is a good way to be able to manage life and work:

“A high producing dental office isn’t particularly efficient as a solo practice, particularly for professionals who might wish to take some time off for important family considerations. Let’s remember that this doesn’t relate only to women and children but also fathers with children, caregiving for elderly parents and other life events.

A managed group practice unifies qualified professionals with the team and systems to create maximum benefit with a minimum of extra overhead, providing the all-in-one service structure that patients have come to look for.”

We were looking at the fact that a group practice can be more efficient for dentists who are also parents, versus a solo practice that requires the dentist to wear several hats, including human resources management, dentist, customer service specialist, and scheduling coordinator. Sure, he or she would have staff for many of the tasks, but ultimately, the responsibility lies with them and that adds up to a long working day. Every day.

The obvious solution for many dentists who aren’t sure about maintaining a solo practice is to invest in or become part of a group practice. And there are good reasons for this, beyond time management.

It comes down to money

Reason number one? Costs go up. Staff, equipment, supplies, marketing, rent, and so on. The only way to stay on top of rising costs, aside from increasing revenue, which isn’t always an immediate possibility, is buying in quantities, and reducing the unit costs of the items the practice needs.

In other words, if you have four dentists in a group practice and you need to buy gauze, you can buy far more, with the cost spread over the production of those four dentists, hence lowering your unit cost. Now imagine that purchasing power extended over practically all other aspects of the practice!

Other advantages of a group practice

1. Stress—Not having the whole practice depend on just one person is freeing. It’s stressful to have the full weight of several staff, to say nothing of the practice itself and the happiness of the patients, balanced squarely on one person’s shoulders.
2. Expanded service offering—By including specialists along with general dental practitioners, a group practice casts a wider net on the types of patients they can attract. Ultimately, for patients, it is far more practical to have a one stop shop for their dental / dental surgery / orthodontic needs.
3. Patient friendly extras—Beyond being able to get multiple services from one practice, patients who can get appointments during extended hours or on Saturdays, or who can get an appointment relatively quickly will be far more likely to remain patients.
4. Staff who are busy, stay on—One of the biggest costs in a practice is staff and chief among those costs is the price of ongoing turnover. Busy staff who service a large patient base but aren’t run off their feet are more likely to be interested in staying rather than switching to another practice. A solo practice will often have one or two people doing multiple jobs. In a larger group practice, staff can specialize in their areas of interest: office management, scheduling, dental hygiene, marketing; all without having to spread themselves too thin.

Group practice pitfalls to be aware of

The single biggest pitfall in a group practice is decision making. Consensus decisions aren’t realistic for the day to day, or even some of the larger decisions. While all invested partners should be consulted prior to major purchases or staffing changes, ultimately, the power to make a final decision needs to be with one person and that person needs to be qualified to make it. This isn’t a task for the office manager.

That said, a practice coordinator is ideal to have: someone who can manage the day to day activities, freeing the dentists to do what it is they do best.

Ultimately, a group practice makes sense for the dentists, the staff, and the patients.

Don’t get stuck stagnating in your practice. There are ways to change and grow, keeping it interesting for you and lucrative too.

Contact the experts at Dental Management Advisors and we’ll help you get back to doing more of what you love.

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