Josie Hutchings, Regional Support Manager at Practice Plan, examines the big questions to ask when thinking of moving to private…
When you begin investigating the possibility of introducing private dentistry into your practice, it can feel like there are so many unknowns. Before deciding whether to take that first step, there are a lot of considerations and questions to ask.
Sometimes it feels like there are too many uncertainties, and it becomes so overwhelming that people can be put off from going any further to explore the options fully. However, if you narrow your focus on asking the right questions from the start, and have support to understand the answers, you can make sure you don’t fall into that trap and can make an informed decision.
Below are the four big questions you really need to be asking from the start of your reflections:
What proportion of my patients can I afford to lose?
Answering this question involves some number-crunching. You need to know how much income you need to replace the NHS contract you are rescinding. You also need to think about what costs you have, some of your expenditure will remain the same (for example, building rent/mortgage), but some may change, for instance if you want to offer different services as a private practice you may need to invest in new equipment or specialist staff. Once you have worked this out, you can think about a fee pricing structure, and from there you can calculate how many patients you need to retain for your practice to remain financially sound.
What factors might affect the loyalty of my patients?
To know the answer, you need to do some analysis, looking at factors, such as local demographics and how long you have been seeing patients. Your patients are more likely to stay with you if they’ve been with you long enough to form a strong relationship and feel a bond with you. This can sound daunting but you can find external support to guide you through making sense of the information. More often than not dentists are pleasantly surprised at the number of patients they need to retain – in some cases as low as 50%.
“Your patients are more likely to stay with you if they’ve been with you long enough to form a strong relationship and feel a bond with you.”
What is the most effective way to communicate the change to my patients?
Some practices choose to tell patients they are ‘going private’ when they come for an appointment, others choose to do it by letter, or both. Whichever method you opt for, the best approach is to be authentic and transparent about why you are making the move and why you feel it is in the best interest for your patients, as well as the practice. You also need to make sure the entire team is on board and understands the reasons behind the change. That way the patient will receive the same message and be clear on the benefits to them, no matter who they speak to.
“The best approach is to be authentic and transparent about why you are making the move and why you feel it is in the best interest for your patients, as well as the practice.”
How will I get the team on-board?
It is a team effort to run a successful practice, so it is important to make sure the team is behind the move. Just like when you communicate the change to your patients, you need to be upfront and honest about why you are ‘going private’ and the benefit to the entire practice, including staff and patients. Painting a positive picture of the future will help the team to embrace the change and pull together to make the transition as smooth as possible.
There are, of course, other things to consider when thinking of making such a big change to your business, but focusing on the above gives you a solid starting place. To support dentists who have started thinking about leaving the NHS, Practice Plan has created a free guide, ‘how to make a seamless and successful conversion from NHS to private dentistry’. You can download the guide here.