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11.11.05 Issue #192  
Primary vs. Second vs. Satellite Locations

Scott McDonald

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It may seem like a subtle distinction to some but it can have a significant impact what will be your Best Site for a second office.  From a demographic standpoint, it is a vital difference. Here is how we define the alternatives.

Satellite Offices:
      a.      Most often within the same “market” as the primary practice facility
      b.      Open no more than two days per week
      c.       Referrals from the satellite to the primary office are not uncommon

Second Offices:
      a.      Outside of the “market”
      b.      Are open at least two days per week
      c.       Do no “poach” patients from the primary office

The first consideration in determining “how far is too far” is the doctor’s drive time. Some dentists do not mind an hour drive to and from the office each day. For others, this is a terrible burden. We have found that a 30 minute drive from the doctor’s home to be a reasonable alternative and very common. We often find that drive time is a better measurement for where to look for an office than distance.

If the doctor lives between the two offices, this is not a significant issue because it allows a potential hour’s drive between the locations. On the other hand, it becomes extremely difficult if the doctor is trying to cover emergencies in each office on the same day.   The answer, then, has to depend upon the doctor’s preferences.  We cannot ignore the staff’s drive, however.

 For a Primary Practice (full time schedule of 4 days or more per week), we set a threshold of 1 dentist per 1,400 residents for a scratch practice (assuming this is a suburban area. Urban and Rural areas have different ways of calculating competition). For a Second Office Location (2.5 to 3.5 days per week), we look for at least 950 residents per dentist. For a Satellite Location (2 days or fewer per week), we look for a ratio of 1 dentist per 800 residents.

 Obviously, we would like to know how many Primary, Satellite, and Second offices there are in the area. It is worth noting that their numbers vary greatly from state-to-state. In fact, we have found that surrounding the Boston area, there are a very large percentage of offices that are Satellites (many with only 1 day open per week) while in Arizona, we find very few.

 Need suggestions on where you should consider putting a Primary, Second, or Satellite location?  Give us a call!

Want a SHORT Commute to the Office?

Hate that morning commute to the practice? Newly released data indicate where the shortest commute from home-to-office can be found. All of these communities have in common that they are a moderately growing community that is somewhat isolated from larger metropolitan areas. While these numbers do not imply anything about either competition ratios (population-per-dentist) or socioeconomic information, we note that most of these locations keep showing up on the "promising site" lists we review.

Scott McDonald is the former Marketing Manager for the California Dental Association, national lecturer and author and provides demographic marketing and site analysis recommendations for The McKenzie Company. For more information email or visit our website

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