Second Opinion: Unique business model contributes to practice success

2016 10 12 14 41 06 881 Dr B Second Opinion 400

As the owners of a private oral surgery practice, my partners and I were increasingly frustrated with the lack of time to focus on what we enjoy most and do best -- clinical oral surgery. There was just too much to do to build the business and keep it running smoothly.

Colin Bell, DDS.Colin Bell, DDS.

With this in mind, we began searching for solutions and found one in a specialty management services company that partners solely with oral and maxillofacial surgeons.

Working with a management services company can be advantageous because dentists' unique specialty is oral health, not business. While practitioners may have some experience and skill in marketing or accounting, treating patients is our true expertise. A greater level of business expertise can result in better patient outcomes and overall satisfaction, new patients, and a safer, more efficient business. This improves patient service, encourages best practices, enhances the brand and practice reputation, and ultimately leads to a more profitable business.

Perceived disadvantages

“Working with a management services company can be advantageous because dentists' unique specialty is oral health, not business.”

Perceived disadvantages are that the practice will lose autonomy and the management services company may make changes that improve the bottom line but have a negative impact on patients or clinical excellence. This may be the case for some, but this has not been our experience.

The concept of a specialty management services company is not new, but the company we work with is a partnership in which the company handles the day-to-day operational details, but the practice maintains clinical autonomy.

It is most similar to a merger, wherein the name of the practice and also locations, employees, branding, and clinical direction all remain the same, under the practice's banner. The management services company provides operational, marketing, and administrative support services; re-invests resources when appropriate; and provides financial and operational improvement strategies as needed.

Keeping options open

Working with a specialty management services company such as this can be particularly helpful for practitioners who need capital to reinvest in the business or established practitioners who want to reduce their workload or retire in a few years. It can also be an attractive alternative to hiring an associate as a replacement before retiring, because many associates need to make money right away to pay off educational debt. The business model also seems to work best with group-owned practices. Individual practitioners may be able to form a partnership with a like-minded, group-owned practice to improve alliance potential.

Before making a decision, practitioners who are thinking about working with a specialty management services company should do their research to determine how much clinical autonomy the company offers. Also, practitioners need to decide on their long-term plan. What do they want the practice to look like in 10, 15, or 20 years? What do they want to be doing in the office day to day? Will the partnership work for them financially, or is their debt load too heavy?

If practitioners can make the numbers work and have done their due diligence in researching the company, then the partnership is well worth considering. It can make a thriving business even more successful and give practitioners the freedom to do what they enjoy most and do best -- take great care of patients.

Colin Bell, DDS, is a practicing oral surgeon at Oral Surgery Associates of North Texas in Dallas and the chief clinical officer and a member of the U.S. Oral Surgery Management Clinical Governance Board.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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