Ask 100 dental practice owners in the first 10 years of their dental career and at least 99 of them will tell you “NO, I don’t have all the patients I need.” In fact, since we began assisting dentists in 1988, we have not met any general dentist (at any stage of their career), who really thought their practice had enough fee-for-service patients.
The dental profession is all about quality patients. The only means of having a steady income is to have a steady flow of patients! Nothing else in your office really matters unless you have a solid patient base. You can obtain equipment, office space, staff and supplies easy enough, but none of the above guarantees a steady flow of patients into your practice.
Not having enough quality patients causes many young dentists to keep their office doors open 5 to 6 days each week (with an overhead of a 5 to 6 day a week practice) even when they really only have enough appointments to adequately fill 2 or 3 days each week. A growing dental office must remain open because that new patient may just call with an emergency. If the dentist is not in the office and ready for business that new patient may call the next doctor listed in the phone book. Remaining open for business is just merely a cost of doing business: an “Opportunity Cost.”
Of course you could pick up more patients by signing up for the various managed care and capitation programs available. Actually these programs capitalize on unsuspecting doctors who have full-time overheads and part-time patient schedules. Those who do sign up will indeed find themselves much busier. They also feel better that the staff is working harder. But it doesn’t take long for these doctors to discover that these types of new patients will not allow you to escalate to the income levels you desire. You are busy, but not very profitable… a bad trade-off! And, once you enter the managed care trap, it is quite hard to get free from that trap!
Let’s assume that you have not made the managed care mistake and fall into the category of spending money to increase your patient flow. You are advertising heavily. You remain open every day because you are investing in your future. You have the overhead of a busy practice but you are not busy yet: an “Opportunity Lost.”
Let us explain what we mean by an “Opportunity Lost.” If your office rent is $2,000 per month and you really only need the facility 50% of the time right now, then it is like you are investing the additional $1,000 each month into your future growth. If your receptionist is being paid $2,000 per month and you really only need her 50% of the time, then it is like you are investing the another $1,000 each month into your future growth. If your assistant is paid $1,500 per month and you really only need her 50% of the time, then it is like you are investing yet another $750 each month into your future. If you are advertising at the rate of $1,000 per month (not an unrealistic amount) that is another cost to try to increase your patient base.
You could conclude that you are investing an extra $3,750 monthly that will eventually pay off, but it will be very slow to develop! It takes years to accumulate a sufficient flow of quality patients to keep your office busy every hour you are open to see patients. Statistics show that your monthly investment will gain you an average of 3 new quality fee-forservice patients each week… that’s hopefully 150 new quality fee-for-service patients each year… and perhaps 1,500 new quality fee-for-service patients over the next 10 years.
There is a Better Way to Get the Patients You Need…
Seems to us that a better investment would be to invest some of that same $3,750 per month into receiving 1,500 new patients TODAY! And, I am not talking about managed care patients either… these are high quality, fee-for-service patients that are already accustomed to regularly visiting a dental office in your area. You could purchase a practice in your area and merge that practice into your practice tomorrow! You will be busier and more profitable immediately!
The monthly debt service on a small “Hidden Treasure” practice, with 1,500 or more quality feefor-service patients, could possibly cost you $2,500 a month, possibly even less, in debt service payments. The positive financial results will be immediate! That sure seems like a much better use of funds to us!
You know that there are a lot of different ways to do everything. Some are much better than others. As far as building a base of quality patients, it really does not make a lot of sense to spend the time and the money it takes to build a mature practice over the next decade when you could be exactly where you want to be NOW!
A practice merger acquisition could solve your problem TODAY!
Dr. Berdj Feredjian, DDS, FAGD a has been a transition consultant with PARAGON Dental Practice Transitions and is presently its Director of Recruitment and Advanced Training. He is also the co-founder of the Practice Mentors Group LLC. Dr. Feredjian is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dental Medicine at a leading university in New York City. He also has served as a faculty in their Department of Behavioral Sciences in addition to being a member of the Admissions Committee. Dr. Feredjian is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry, a member of ADA,OKU,and NYAOR. He is a general dentist and was in private practice in Montville, NJ prior to his retirement.