Proper introduction of associate dentist crucial to patient relationships

By James Anderson, DMD, DrBicuspid contributing writer

January 16, 2020 -- "Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning." — Benjamin Franklin

It is a good thing when your dental practice is growing and you are too busy to do it all yourself. You have determined -- after the professional and proper analysis of new patients, active patients, and treatment accepted -- that it is time to consider hiring an associate dentist. You have notified third-party payors, and credentialing is complete. You may be thinking that the associate can take some of the new patients who are on the preferred provider organization (PPO) plans and do examinations and minor procedures of the patients of record while building his or her patient base.

James Anderson, DMD
James Anderson, DMD.

However, it is important to heed some advice when making this critical move. For instance, if your name is the practice name and isn't followed by "and associates," confusion can arise when adding an associate. Patients will assume that they will see you because your name is on the door, signage, and website.

A dentist friend of mine told me of losing a few patients when he brought on an associate. He directed the front office to offer the associate instead of himself to patients of record. The patients reluctantly accepted the appointment with the associate, yet were not happy, and decided to leave the practice without saying a word. Upon questioning, the patients revealed that they weren't given proper notice and weren't introduced to the new dentist. This made them feel unimportant.

This was the remark of one of the displeased patients: "I give careful consideration in choosing my healthcare providers. I did not choose this doctor nor was I properly introduced. I am not just a procedure."

Consider how patients may perceive the introduction of the associate as a move toward your retirement. If your goal is to have more free time to develop new skills and not to retire, then communicating this direction is vital. To dispel rumors and innuendos, send out an email blast via your electronic patient communication system and make appropriate announcements on your website, Facebook, and LinkedIn page also.

Another option is a letter of introduction by mail to the patient base announcing the addition of a new dentist, providing his or her brief education, experience, and interests. Patients must not feel abandoned. A short video clip on your website of the associate team member introducing himself or herself would be a great way to connect with the patients and the public.

Patients deserve to know of changes in their healthcare providers and their options for choice. For instance, will your patients of record still have the opportunity of seeing you if they are on the PPO network? Will your days and hours change? Will you be accepting new patients? Any changes should be posted online and at the desk of your practice.

Wording an introduction could read something like the following:

Dr. Gee Dee and the team are excited to announce the newest member of our company's dynamic team. On October 16, Dr. Ruby Gums joined our clinical team as an associate dentist to Dr. Dee. Dr. Gums brings more than 10 years of general and cosmetic practice experience to our team. She is a graduate of the UCLA School of Dentistry and was a member of Doctors Without Borders, bringing dental care to people in need. She will be available on Mondays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 12 noon. We are eager to see Dr. Gums' positive contributions to our company and enthusiastically welcome her to our organization.

Good patient relationships are what builds productive and profitable dental practices. Most people need a positive introduction to change, especially when it has to do with sensitive relationships with their healthcare providers.

James Anderson, DMD, is a practicing dentist in Syracuse, UT, and is the CEO/founder of eAssist Dental Solutions. He can be reached via email.

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


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