To build a successful, thriving practice in today’s market, dentists and oral surgeons may feel like they have to be a jack-of-all-trades. It’s imperative to provide patients with the highest quality outcomes and service possible, while simultaneously managing the billing process; staying up to date on government regulations and safety guidelines; finding and retaining a top-notch staff; ensuring that the office is clean, organized, and well-stocked with the right materials and supplies; understanding all the latest industry technologies and techniques; and the list goes on and on.
With so many responsibilities demanding attention, it can be difficult to get all the necessary jobs done correctly and on time, not to mention that taking care of all the little details can be physically and mentally draining.
As an owner of a private oral surgery practice with about 40 years of experience, I learned the value of a good juggling act long ago. However, 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.
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. It is a shared services company that creates true partnerships with oral and maxillofacial practitioners. The company manages the day to day operational details, and the partner practices focus on patient care.
Contracting with a management services company can be advantageous because our unique specialty is oral health, not business. While practitioners may have some experience and skill in marketing, accounting, or other administrative tasks, our true expertise and passion is treating patients. A greater level of business expertise can result in better patient outcomes and overall satisfaction, new patients, and a safer, more efficient business. In addition, it can provide a more flexible work schedule, which helps practitioners build a better work-life balance.
The shared services business model can be particularly helpful for practitioners who need capital to reinvest in the business or for established practitioners who want to reduce their workload or retire in a few years. For example, it can be an attractive alternative to hiring an associate as a replacement prior to retiring because many associates need to make money right away to pay off educational debt.
Newer practitioners also may benefit from this model. Working with a management services company may bring them more hands-on patient experience than they would have had elsewhere because they can focus their efforts on patient care instead of administrative tasks. In addition, they may find this arrangement to be a better financial fit.
A perceived disadvantage of working with a management services company is that the practice will lose autonomy and the services company may make changes that improve the bottom line but have a negative impact on patients or clinical excellence. I cannot speak for companies that I have not worked with, but I can say that the company we partner with does not do this.
The concept of a management services company is not new, but this company has a novel approach to working with oral and maxillofacial surgeons. It is a true partnership, where the company handles the everyday operational details and the practice maintains complete clinical autonomy.
It is most similar to a merger, wherein the name of the practice as well as locations, employees, branding, and clinical direction all remain the same, under our banner. The management services company provides operational, marketing, and administrative support services, reinvests resources when appropriate, and provides financial and operational improvement strategies as needed.
Finding the Right Fit
It is crucial that each oral health practitioner find the right fit, whether that is a specialty management services company, a partnership with additional practitioners, or a different solution. When reviewing options, keep individual values, business goals, and practice specialties in mind.
Find a likeminded company or partner that understands your individual business goals and has the expertise to help achieve them. Specialists may want to consider contracting with other specialists who truly understand the unique facets of this kind of practice and what that means for the business, its employees, and its patients.
Often, the shared services business model works well for group-owned practices. To improve alliance potential, individual practitioners may want to look into a partnership with a likeminded, group-owned practice first. Then, as a group, seek out a management services company.
Different companies have different philosophies on how to do business, so it is important to fully research each option being considered and discuss concerns early in the review process. When selecting a company, talk with practitioners who have partnered with them before to determine how much clinical autonomy was retained, what a typical day in the office looked like, financial considerations, and so on.
If practitioners can make the numbers work and if they have done their due diligence in researching the management services company, then a 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.
Dr. Bell is a practicing oral surgeon at Oral Surgery Associates of North Texas, a partner practice of US Oral Surgery Management, where he also serves as chief clinical officer. In addition, he is a clinical professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Texas A&M College of Dentistry. An active member of the ADA and American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and a fellow of both the American and the International College of Dentists, Dr. Bell has held leadership positions for a number of professional organizations throughout the nation, including former president of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.