In some cases, where loss of patients does occur, the transition planning was either handled by the dentists themselves or by attorneys, brokers, and other professionals who lacked experience in dental practice sales. They may have been misinformed, or inadequately prepared. In some cases, the practice may simply be purchased by a doctor with poor patient relations skills, inadequate management and leadership skills, or a very different clinical philosophy from the previous dentist.
The best way to keep patients from leaving the practice is for the seller and staff to work together in completely endorsing the purchaser. This is accomplished through several different mediums including a letter sent directly to the patients and specific dialogues with patients used by the staff and doctor. Most patients will give the new dentist a chance to win them over during their initial visit. Keep in mind, they are left with a choice of locating a completely new dentist elsewhere or staying with the practice that has already given them great service. It may be a decision based on trying something entirely new and unknown, or staying with what works. Do not give the patients an opportunity to take risks and try new dentists. Most patients prefer not to take too many chances in choosing a dentist. This is a key factor that must be leveraged by the new owner and staff. Make it as easy and as convenient as possible for those patients. If the transition is handled properly and seamlessly, patient retention will remain very high.
Charles H. Kim is a dental practice broker with Transition Consultants, a specialized advisory firm assisting dental professional with practice sales transaction advisory, mergers and acquistions, financing, and appraisal.