Will the patients stay if I buy a dental practice?

Keep patients happy after you buy a dental practice

When you buy a dental practice, some dentists worry that the patients in their new practice will not stay after the handoff. Fortunately, in our experience, this shouldn’t be a huge concern.  

Why? 

Well, the simple fact is that – in almost every well-managed transition – the patients stay. 

When my dad sold his practice in 1995, he was almost annoyed at how quickly his old patients took to the new dentist. (Thankful, sure, but mildly perturbed that they weren’t asking after him more often…) 

Let’s take a closer look at a few reasons why your new patients will stay — and how you can ensure a smooth transition by following some of these best practices.

Patients put a lot of trust in their dentist. 

As you probably know from experience, patients usually have a much higher view of their own dentist than they do of dentistry in general. They like and trust you. They’ve built a relationship with you and your team over many years.

So, when the time comes, they’ll take your recommendation for the next doctor. 

Now, there’s some art to deciding how and when to inform your patients about a transition after you buy a dental practice. But if you follow the right steps, it’s likely that most of the patients will stay. 

It’s annoying to switch dentists.

Frankly, this one is simple. It’s really annoying to find and transfer over to a new dentist. 

Your current dentist has your health history, x-rays, charts, etc. You don’t need to schedule a new patient exam. It’s just easier to stick with the same practice, even if there’s a new doctor in charge. 

Now, this isn’t the kind of thing that we’d highlight in a transition letter after you buy a dental practice, but it’s useful to think about. The operative concept here is ‘switching costs’. It’s sufficiently annoying to switch dentists that your patients won’t want to leave unless you give them a reason. Don’t give them a reason.

There is continuity with the team even after you buy a dental practice.

For the patient, there may be a new doctor in the practice, but everything else remains the same. In most cases, they will still park in the same lot, be greeted by the same smiling receptionist, and be seen by the same hygienist. 

The practice may be new for you, but it’s just another visit to the dentist for the patient. 

And when the patients want to know how to feel about the new doctor, they will look to the staff that they’ve known for years.

This is why I always say that it’s more important to win over your new team than it is to win over your new patients.

Your new team is the first point of contact with the patients, and they have a huge influence on the way that the patients feel about the new doctor. Even if they don’t say anything explicitly, a glance or a shrug or an encouraging smile can be the difference between starting from a place of trust and having to work extra hard to earn patient trust.

In any transition, it’s crucial to communicate effectively with your new team how much you value them and how much respect you have for the practice. 

It’s about forming a cohesive narrative for your team that they can then pass on to the patients. That’s why we say that oftentimes a transition letter can be just as important for your employees as it is for your new patients. Let’s dig deeper into that idea. 

A great transition letter is vital for both your patients and your team.

Your transition letter is undoubtedly one of the most important steps you’ll take to ensure a smooth transition. If your patients get a great transition letter at the right time, it gives you control of the narrative of how the transition will go. 

When folks receive great, honest communication, they’re more likely to stay put than if the change comes as an unwelcome surprise.

Additionally, your transition letter becomes the basis of the script for how the rest of your team will talk about the transition. It’s worth going over the letter carefully with your team.

When your new employees feel good about the transition, they will tell the patients, who in turn also feel reassured. Conversely, if they feel left in the dark, annoyed, or upset by how things are changing, then that too will be conveyed to the patient. 

That’s why we take such care in crafting our letters for our dentists to use after they buy a dental practice. That’s why we created a guide on how to write the perfect transition letter

Don’t leave your transition to chance after you buy a dental practice. If you’re curious to see what those letters might look like — or how else we can help, we’d encourage you to contact us today to learn more. 

 

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Trevor Kimball, PhD

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