New Ownership in an Existing Practice
A dentist can inherit a practice from another dentist by becoming an associate and “buying into a portion of the equity of the practice” (Breiman and Caldwell 2011). Eventually, the associate becomes the owner when “the balance of the equity transitions” to him or her, while the original owner could either “[retire] or [continue] as a part-time or full-time employee of the practice” (Breiman and Caldwell 2011). Alternatively, the dentist could also buy a practice from another dentist (Breiman and Caldwell 2011). Transitioning into ownership or buying a clinic from another dentist could be less expensive since “a start-up requires more upfront investment and has no existing patient base” (Blatchford 2016). Albeit, new dentists must ensure that they could profit from this practice. They need to factor in the clinic’s patient base, “future growth potential,” insurance, technology, competition from other dentists in the area, employees, etc. (Blatchford 2016; Cohen and Cohen 2017). Also, new dentists need to make sure that they could offer the same “type of dentistry” to patients like the previous owner (Cohen and Cohen 2017). Once dentists find a clinic that suits their needs, they must retain the previous owner’s patients through a variety of methods.
They need to avoid changing the clinic’s previous financial policies in order to retain patients. The previous owner could prepare patients for the new owner by showing support for the new owner via a “letter of introduction to active patients and referral sources” (Levin 2018; Schaub 1999). Albeit, new dentists risk alienating longtime patients with drastic changes to different aspects of the clinic before they become comfortable with the new owners (Blatchford 2016; Cohen and Cohen 2017). For instance, patients may stop attending the practice if the new owners suddenly raise the prices of their procedures, especially hygienic treatments (Levin 2018). Additionally, if a new owner alters the clinic’s logistics, such as “[changing] from a billing cycle to immediate collection of payment without any advance notice” or “[applying] a $50 missed appointment fee,” the patients may stop going to the practice (Levin 2018). Before changing the financial policies of the practice, new owners need “to build relationships with patients during the first year…” (Levin 2018). For example, keeping original staff “with whom the patients are familiar for a period of time,” such as the receptionist, could help retain patients (Blatchford 2016; Schaub 1999). New dentists could also retain them by “[personally calling] the practice’s most loyal, long-term patients, and those who have a history of referring friends and family” (Blatchford 2016). Eventually, once the patients trust the new owners, the dentists can make changes to their clinics in order to improve them (Cohen and Cohen 2017).
In a practice that had a previous owner and long history with the patients, dentists must not estrange patients through new financial policies initially. They need to develop their patients’ trust for them before they can change the clinic.