‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs….’ so said Rudyard Kipling, and this is a phrase that perfectly fits dentistry at the moment.
Despite the announcement of ‘prototype practices’ last year, each testing one of two potential remuneration models, we still appear to be no nearer a conclusion than we were five years ago when the process started. And with the Government already locking horns with the medical profession, it is likely that dentistry will once again be kicked into the long grass for at least another 12 months.
All this is of little comfort to high street dentists who are trying to run efficient, patient-centric practices of all varieties. It therefore seems to make more sense to simply make the case for dentists to take control of their professional existence and become masters and mistresses of their own destiny, in spite of, rather than because of, the looming contract.
It is something of an anomaly that those who run their own businesses then decide to abdicate much of the control of that business to a third party over which they have little or no influence. Surely the desire to retain control of the financial and ‘intellectual’ value of your business is a key motivating factor for running your own business in the first place? Certainly my experience is that practices making the transition from NHS to the private sector do so for a number of reasons, not least so they can have freedom in the services they provide and be fully in control of the financial aspects of their business.
There is clearly still a dichotomy between being a clinician and a businessperson and so long as the dental schools desist in teaching any form of business management as part of the undergraduate curriculum, there seems little prospect of improving the skills of the profession in this area. For this reason, like some other dental companies, DPAS offers help and guidance in a variety of business functions, designed to help dentists find their way in an increasingly competitive and aggressive market. We hope that this support provides a positive opportunity for dentists to benefit from the wealth of experience that we and our Business Bites partners have in running more successful practices.
To be successful, every business requires a stable and predictable environment, as it is only under such conditions that tenable business decisions can be made. Traditionally, many dentists choose the relative comfort and predictability of the NHS sector as they fear the potentially fickle nature of the private market, in which they are forced into competition with other practices and corporates without any firm guarantee of patient numbers. However, it is entirely possible that we are about to enter a completely new stage in the life cycle of NHS dentistry and given that the new contract is likely to include a capitation regime, it is highly likely that we will experience an increasingly competitive market within and between NHS practices to rival any that exist privately.
In addition, the growth of corporate dentistry, providing a mix of NHS and private treatments and often using examinations as a ‘loss leader’, is changing the dental landscape. Their influence is likely to increase in the next five years as existing corporates continue to grow and more and more ‘mini corporates’ are established, eager to take advantage of the current market ambiguity.
A predictable and stable environment
So what can be done for those dentists who want to take control of their own destiny? Some of course, exasperated by the deliberations of the Department of Health, are already considering how and when to make the move to the private sector and there are a number of things that individuals can do in order to create a more predictable and stable environment in which their practice can operate viably.
There is little doubt as to the valuable role that payment plans play in helping to infuse predictability into a practice’s finances. For the principal, the ability to forecast consistent income levels even during holidays or periods of natural slow down is of huge financial relevance.
For the patient, paying manageable monthly amounts for dental treatment is clearly more cost effective in the long run, ensuring a good level of preventive care, which will reduce the need for extensive, often costly treatment that can result from neglect.
The Chancellor’s recent gloomy remarks about the state of the world economy may have been intended to ensure his back is covered just in case the recovery is derailed, but they have also ensured that ‘affordability’ remains a word on the lips of most consumers and it is realistic for practices to make sure they are sensitive to the needs of patients in this area.
Keeping control of costs is a key factor in any business and ensuring you get best value for money from all your suppliers is always a worthwhile endeavour. The important thing to remember when looking to control costs is that cost effective does not necessarily equate with ‘cheapest’.
A plan that provides all the core services expected from a plan administration company, alongside an extensive list of added value services all supported by a reputable and experienced organisation is the minimum you should expect from a company that will be so vital to the financial wellbeing of your practice.
Aside from the financial benefits, the ability to take control of all elements of your service provision is critical for all practices and particularly those considering a move to the private sector.
No matter what the new contract brings, the practicalities mean that dentists need to view the future through a pair of reality glasses and not simply rely on someone else taking responsibility for providing them with a thriving business and a reasonable income. I would urge anyone on the cusp of this decision to come and talk to us at DPAS and see how we can help you take control of your practice and your future.
If you’re considering a move to private practice, have just made the change, or want to consider your options, give DPAS a call on 01747 870910 or visit www.dpas.co.uk and find out how we can help you make the most of your practice.