Time for an Associate?

 

Dentistry is whirling with changes.  Dentists are trying to run a business, take care of patients and understand the new normal in the dental marketplace.  The new normal is the competition for patients. This competition includes practices that open longer hours to cater to busy patients; practices that accept all dental insurance plans and practices that offer a wide range of services.  Where do you fit into these changes?

One solution for dentists is to consider hiring an associate dentist. There are some old rules of thumb and then there is the reality of NOW.  One old rule was that you had to have 2000 patients or more and the dentist needed to be booked out 6 – 8 weeks before considering an associate.  A new rule is that you can open more hours, especially early, late and Saturday, so that you can create and entirely new patient base for an associate dentist while using your existing equipment and facility.

An old rule was that you should consider an associate as a future partner. New rules show that dental school graduates are not always interested in buying your practice. They want a job for several reasons. Most graduates are in debt and therefore, want to work to pay off dental school debt for several years (the average being five) before they consider a purchase or buy-in. Another factor is the large percentage of females who are graduating. Many female dentists want a part time life as a dentist and may not ever want to be a practice owner.

The old rule was that you referred patients out for specialty services such as difficult endo, oral surgery or perio.  New rules find specialists setting up as journeymen practitioners who do not own an office. This means that you can bring a specialist into your office one day a week or once per month and have that convenience for your patients. Yes, they even travel with their own staff and equipment.

Considering the many models using the new rules, are you ready for an associate in your practice?  You may be and don’t even know it. Here are some other considerations:

Are you turning away new patients because you are not a participating provider? You do not have to give away the farm to ease into participation with PPOs. You can choose wisely and create more patient flow to allow for an associate and bring in more new patients. Patients today are savvier about using their dental plans.  As the economy stays shaky, patients are more likely to want a dentist on their plan. At least you should consider dental plans for the teachers, the local government, the largest hospital and the largest employer in your area.  Adding an associate can help you take care of the PPO patients you may be turning away.

Are your hours too restrictive for the working blokes?  Patients work and live in the same shifting economy as you. Those who work want to keep their job.  Therefore, many patients want extended hours.  They want to come in at 7 AM for their hygiene appointment or come in after 4 or 5PM. Many would like to come in on Saturday. In several practices where we opened with an associate on Saturday, it took only one month to be fully scheduled on the Saturday and with new patients to the practice. Opening your practice more hours with an associate can help you serve your patients better and help recruit new ones.

Do you have a new service line you would like to pursue or develop and you would like someone to take care of the general dentistry patients? Some dentists have skills they are not able to fully use because their patient base needs general dentistry.  This can be a perfect segue to an associate. There are dentists who want to work part time.  You can pre-block your schedule to use one chair and allow an associate to use another. You can then focus on TMJ, Cosmetic dentistry, sleep apnea or another service.

Are you missing out by not having the latest technology available to your patients?  Many dentist came through dental school without a CAD CAM. The new graduates know the new technology. Can you give the practice a marketing edge with “crown-in-a-day” technology? The technology has advanced and the prices have come down so that the number of crowns necessary to pay for the technology has changed.

If any of these new rules or considerations have you thinking, don’t stop there. Call me (888) 488-1366 and we can discuss the options that can expand your practice with an associate. Also, look for my blog later this month on how to choose an associate.

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