One of the most efficient and profitable ways to grow your general practice is to bring on a specialist or multiple specialists. But before you call every periodontist, orthodontist, and pediatric dentist in the phone book, you’ll want to consider the following.
With every decision a general practitioner makes, patient care should always be at the top of the list. After all, it’s the reason you got into dentistry and how your business continues to thrive. As the industry continues to move away from solo private-practice specialty providers toward collaborative multispecialist practices, ask yourself: Does this one-stop shop model benefit my patients as much as my staff in terms of need and affordability? While the ability for a patient to get a referral and set up an appointment is certainly convenient, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Before merging with a specialist full time, make sure the need is there first in terms of patient load. If not, there are other options. Consider bringing on a specialist a few days a week or month, one who has his or her own practice location or multiple similar arrangements, using your practice as a satellite office while splitting time between multiple practices.
Does your current practice offer the space necessary to house a specialist and the accompanying equipment, or will expanding warrant a move? Each new specialist has the potential to come with his or her own assistant and staff, not to mention the need for space to accommodate different equipment and setup. If a move is in the plans for expansion, consider an area that makes geographic sense for all the dentists under the same roof.
As with any partnership, it’s important to seek out specialists who have the same practice philosophy so as to not recommend competing procedures that could potentially confuse the patient. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure there’s no overlap between specialists, perhaps between an oral surgeon and periodontist. It benefits the team when the general practitioner is versed in the different specialties being offered but does not take control of the procedures and recommendations. For example, while most general dentists are knowledgeable in endodontics, taking on an endodontist will allow the primary dentist to focus on general dentistry.
There’s much more to share than square footage in a collaborative practice model. Think shared teams, facility overhead, and peer collaboration that all help improve efficiency and productivity. An increase in production and decrease in overhead will result in optimal profitability and better clinical outcomes for all parties involved. A common collaboration is for a recent graduate to become an in-practice specialist at a dental service organization where there’s already a full patient load and the ability to work from the ground up. Additionally, choose partners who complement the work currently being offered, like a general practice with periodontist or an orthodontist with a pediatric practice.
The decision to go into a multispecialist practice doesn’t have to be cut and dry. The specialist can bring his or her own equipment, buy new, or even consider a contractual arrangement in which equipment is shared in exchange for services. The owner dentist could supply all bookkeeping, charting materials, and reception scheduling, while the specialist could cover the cost of any treatment incidentals, supplies such as instruments, lab procedures, even cotton balls.
No matter the situation you arrive at, you’ll need to inform your malpractice insurance company of the addition of any specialists, consult state regulations on how to categorize a specialist, and make sure all arrangements—including a non-compete agreement, percentage of payment based on collections rather than production, and what the specialist is expected to provide—are contractually agreed upon. Let the experts at Professional Transition Strategies help guide you.