Issue # 228 - 07.21.06

Think Before Starting Up Your New Dental Practice


Belle M. DuCharme
RDA, CDPMA
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New dental imagery software, new computers, new monitors, new cabinetry, new digital x-ray machines, new office location, old management concepts???  Whoa, wait a minute!!

Over the years I have observed many start-up practices.  It is common for new dentists to begin their career in an existing practice as an associate prior to purchasing their own office. This practice is a “learning laboratory” for new dentists.  What they learn there may determine whether the new dentist remains an associate, establishes a mediocre practice or creates a successful rewarding practice. Having the established dentist as a mentor can be a positive experience but as I have heard frequently, “I don’t want a practice like the one I have worked in for the last five years.” Often, the management systems in place are outdated and inefficient for today’s sophisticated market place.  Unfortunately, this is what the new dentist has learned and now has to “unlearn” in order to get off to a “good start”.

Recently, I visited a dentist who had started up his new practice two years ago.  He had worked in a managed care practice for ten years.  His new practice is 90% PPO Network.  He doesn’t do any internal or external marketing and does not know how to attract fee for service patients. He would love to do more dentistry but not in a PPO environment where reimbursement keeps him at break even each month. His training as a managed care dentist has taught him to diagnose very conservatively.  I introduced the idea of treatment phasing instead of “watching” or ignoring dental situations that would need treatment in the future.  The patient that has come to the practice because you are listed as a Preferred Provider needs to be groomed as a fee for service patient.  When the employer changes plans and you are not on the plan the patient has a choice to stay with you or move on to another practice.  The way you have marketed this patient will make or break that decision.  While treating the PPO network patients you must begin a marketing strategy geared to attract and keep fee for service patients.  

People in the business of dentistry who have the successful practices have learned by trial and error and spent countless days attending seminars and courses on practice management and staff motivation.  Their advice to the new dentist may suit their own practice but may be entirely wrong for the new dentist.

  • Much depends on the type of practice you want and how you are going to develop it, your personality, your location and your budget as basics.  At McKenzie Management we have developed the Dentist Start-up Program to address all issues involved in getting your new practice up and going.  It is not a “cookie cutter” program with general information, as you would find in a seminar.  Instead, it is a custom program designed to answer the questions relating to your new practice only.  The Community Overview report looks at the Demographics and the Psychographics of your neighborhood.  The Fee Analysis report studies the fee schedules of dentists in your new neighborhood and gives you suggestions as to how to set your fees.  We analyze how much you need to produce and collect to meet your overhead demands. 

Staffing, the most challenging issue facing today’s dentist is divided into segments to guide you to:

  • Recruit staff members
  • Develop job descriptions and areas of accountability
  • Choose the right personalities for the job
  • What salaries and benefits to offer
  • Develop Office Policies to set standards for staff management
  • Coordinate and facilitate successful staff meetings

By thinking before you start-up and getting customized information will save years of trial and error and give you the tools to succeed where others have failed to thrive.

Dental software programs are constantly being improved to manage more data and produce reports rivaling expensive accounting firms, however most dentists use only about 20 to 30% of their programs due to lack of understanding of the software.  Showing the new dentist how to use these reports and what reports will be necessary to run a progressive and profitable practice is a must in a technologically fast paced society.

Remember: don’t adopt the management systems of your “mentor” dentist friend or partner without fully understanding the dynamics of your practice.  Put the right building blocks together with McKenzie Managements Dentist Start-up Program and reward yourself with the tools to succeed.

For more information on McKenzie’s Start-Up Program email training@mckenziemgmt.com.

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