Grow your private practice by giving your patient list to your associate


A common situation amongst our clients is the dentist who has started a private practice, or bought one and then grown it, who is now trying to look after too many patients. As a rule of thumb our perfect list size (derived from many years of looking at this situation) is 1,000 adult patients per full time (five days) private dentist.

If a dentist looks after many more than 1,000 adult patients, what happens is that:

  • they spend too much time doing check-ups or they start pushing check-up intervals to eight or 12 months
  • patients can’t get into their diary for longer appointments
  • the dentist starts prescribing short appointment (lower value) treatment in order not to clog their diary up for weeks ahead

None of these “tactics” are really in the interest of the patients and they also fail to serve the practice well. Once the principal has worked out that the active patient numbers are too high, they usually hire a part time associate and divert the new patients to them in the hope that the new dentist will grow a list of patients and eventually become full time. Just like the principal. And sometimes this works, but most times it doesn’t because:

  • the associate’s new patient value is significantly less than the principal’s
  • principals have a habit of hiring associates who are not as skilled or charismatic as they are and so the patients are underwhelmed and less “sticky”
  • associates are unwilling to go the extra mile for patients like the principal has always done

So the outcome is that the associate grows a list very slowly while becoming disillusioned with the practice and the principal’s promises. Paradoxically, of course, while the associate is plotting their next move, the principal remains as busy as ever and is reaping the rewards.

So, here’s a different way to handle the same situation.

Let’s imagine that the principal is attempting to look after 1,500 private patients, working five days a week. He goes out and finds a charming, highly skilled career-associate who wants a five days a week job. And then hands over 1,000 patients to the associate. This makes the associate very happy (they usually want a “full book”) and if the associate grosses £1,000 a day five days a week on these well maintained patients, a 45 per cent pay plan will deliver circa £95k/year to the associate. A very happy associate indeed.

The principal now has a list of 500 patients to look after, taking up 2.5 days a week. And so there are 2.5 days a week (or less if he wants to take some time to develop the practice or play golf!) to see new patients. Of course, he may need to turn up the marketing to fill the rest of the week or he may decide to do some of the work for these patients that he’s had to delay because of his previous busyness.

The results of this are:

  • the principal usually maintains their gross even with far fewer patients by doing bigger treatment plans
  • the new full time associate has added significantly to the practice gross
  • the practice profitability has increased, a lot…
  • the patients fall in love with the new associate, who has more time for them
  • the new patients, as ever, love the principal

Lots of win win situations here, but I know you will have spotted the pinch point. How do you get the patients to move from the principal to the associate? 

I offer some proven tactics in my other article this week.

If you would like some help with growing your practice call me for a chat or email me.

m. 07770 430576


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