How to move your patients to an associate…and still have a practice left!

There comes a time in most principal’s life where they are trying to look after too many patients. (More than 200 active patients per day worked is too many).

The symptoms are easy to spot: your diary is full, you are spending large portions of your day (more than 3 hours) doing check-ups and it’s hard to find space to book treatment into your diary. Because of all this, your daily gross has plateaued or fallen and you are getting bored as you find yourself clinically “In the thick of thin things”, while trying to please everybody!

So, the search begins for a nice, polite, grateful, clever associate for just a day or so a week, (“we’ll start with this and see how they get on”). Having chosen a lucky candidate and had a bit of a chat with them, they show up for work and then, it starts going wrong from day 1. Here’s why.

The top 5 mistakes that principals commonly make when hiring an associate to look after some of their patients:

  • Hiring an associate who has limited private practice experience and who is unused to, or unwilling to, offer treatment choices and make recommendations.
  • Hiring an associate for just a day or two a week. They need to be in the practice more than this in order for it to be meaningful to them and in order for them to develop a loyalty to you and your practice. In my experience, anything less than 3 days a week is a waste of time and often ends badly.
  • Hiring an associate with a different value set to those of the principal. In other words, the two of you just don’t see things in the same way and have very different life styles and very different agendas.
  • Hiring an associate who runs late or who cannot deliver painless treatment. Enough said.
  • Leaving them to get on with it. Unless you spend some quality time explaining to your new associate how your practice runs and, more importantly, what your practice standards are (try a list of: “what we always do and what we never do” to get hold of this), your new associate will simply behave in a way which suits them and may, or may not, suit you.

If you have made these fundamental mistakes you will probably have to lose your new associate, re-recruit and start again.

Here’s a formula for making the transition of patients to your new associate work:

  1. Hire someone who is as likeable as you are (if not more!) and who has good hands and who looks like the sort of dentist your patients would be happy to see. Don’t stretch their comfort zone. Hire someone with lots of emotional intelligence, someone who doesn’t launch into big treatment plans the first time they meet with one of your patients and someone who can judge a situation and do the right thing!
  2. Get hold of your patient list and qualify which patients you aim to move to your new associate: A. definitely, B. maybe, C. don’t move. Then talk to your patients on list A.
  3. Introduce your patients to your new associate yourself, face to face. Don’t send letters and don’t have your receptionist phone patients up to explain that they won’t be seeing you anymore…
  4. Work out what to say, why are you doing this to them? And what’s in it for them, why should they want to see a new dentist? Create a script and role play it!
  5. Have a safety net for those patients who, once you’ve spoken to them, insist that they might leave if they can’t see you.
  6. Make your associate’s appointment hours more attractive and more flexible than yours.
  7. Make your diary difficult to get into and your associate’s diary easy to get into.
  8. Precondition the patients that you have a new dentist working in the practice: put up a poster in reception, or even a cardboard cut-out (see photo). If you produce a newsletter, now is a good time to send one out featuring your new associate.
  9. Have the new associate make friends with all of your team before they start. Your new associate needs your team to sell them to the patients, big time.
  10. Induct the associate in your practice way of doing things. Pass some restorative work over to them and assess how they get on.
  11. Book the first check-ups with your patients into your associate’s diary with longer appointment times. After all, every patient is a new patient to your new associate. (Keep the check-up fee the same, despite the longer appointment.)
  12. Book meetings with your new associate after their: first day, first week, first month and then monthly until they are happily installed.

Implement these tactics and you are much more likely to have a smooth transfer of happy patients to your new dentist.

If you want some help to grow your practice by bringing in another dentist, contact me for a chat.
m. 07770 430576

Simon Says is taking a break during August. The next post will be during the first week in September.

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2 Responses to How to move your patients to an associate…and still have a practice left!

  1. Hennie says:

    Hi Simon
    How are you? Hope all is well.
    Great to see Markus got an associate at last ( even if its just a cardboard cut out!).

    This article couldn’t come at a better time! I’m actually at last cutting down my clinical hours to only 3,5 days a week and want to reduce it further after my new associate has been personally introduced to my patients. I’m just about finished with our massive extension and refurbishment ( another 2 months) as recommended by you on our first meeting.

    We are in a great place right now with happy patients and happy staff. It still all come back to your help and advice. Thank you!

    Kind regards


    • Ernie says:

      Hello Hennie – how lovely to hear from you and delighted to hear that things are going well for you at the practice. Thank you for your kind words, they are really appreciated.
      Best wishes – Simon

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