DPAS Dental Plans caught up with Chris Pritchard, principal dentist at Gentle Dental Care, a ‘BDA Good Practice’ in St Andrews, to chat about his practice philosophy and commitment to developing and maintaining a consistent quality of service for his patients.
I took over the practice here in St Andrews in August 2010, having previously worked for many years as an associate in some very well organised practices, both in Edinburgh and New Zealand. I gained valuable knowledge and experience from my senior colleagues, observing and familiarising myself with the ins and outs of running a practice. I was positively inspired by this and felt ready and eager to run my own practice.
Finding a practice to buy wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. With very little on the market, I quickly realised I needed to be proactive if I wanted to find the right practice, in the right location, for my young family and myself. I speculatively approached a few practice owners who I knew were nearing retirement and thankfully, one of them, a former clinical supervisor from my university days in Dundee, was interested in selling his private practice in St Andrews.
From the outset I was keen to have a monthly payment plan in operation and having been very impressed with DPAS at a previous practice, I felt comfortable using them again with my new venture. Their support was invaluable and with their in-house graphics team, they quickly helped me to create and personalise my new logo, colour scheme and branded literature. Gentle Dental Care was ready to go!
Focus on prevention
The monthly payment plan was a new concept for many of the existing patients at the practice and although I met small pockets of resistance, the vast majority could see the benefits and quickly signed up. I genuinely believe that when patients join a monthly membership plan, they feel part of the practice and are more likely to attend regularly. It allows us to care for their mouths and focus on prevention, which of course is the cornerstone for good dental care.
Prevention has been a consistent message to our patients over the years and we’ve used practice newsletters, Facebook and the local media to try and engage and encourage people to think more about their mouths and attend regularly. Recently, as part of National Smile Month, the whole practice team dressed up and hit the streets armed with free toothpaste and top tips for tooth care. It seemed to be well received and we even managed to hit the headlines of the local newspaper.
In terms of my practice philosophy, I’ve always been keen to provide the best dental treatment possible, with a strong focus on great customer service. Prior to university, I worked in a five-star hotel for a year and observed first-hand how attention to customer service makes a real difference to people. Thankfully, I inherited a great team of like-minded staff, who all bought into my ideas and what I wanted to achieve. We always strive to show patients that we really do care about them and the service they receive from us. We recently achieved World Host Customer Service status and were delighted to learn afterwards that we are the only dental practice in Scotland to have achieved this accolade.
Aside from staff training, I have had to invest financially in the practice. I knew when I bought the practice that I would need to make major structural changes in order to install an LDU and comply with health board requirements. Within my first year, I approached the banks for funding and having the DPAS monthly payment plan in place offering a guaranteed monthly income, meant that they looked favourably towards lending.
I worked closely with an architect and interior designer to create the look and layout that would help shape the practice to how it looks today. Although it was a stressful time during the renovation, I’m really proud of my practice. Hearing the many compliments certainly goes some way to compensate for the increasing number of grey hairs and receding hairline!
As the practice continues to grow, I hope that my team will grow with it. I currently have two part-time hygienists and a part-time associate dentist. We also have a visiting specialist oral surgeon who comes from Edinburgh Dental Specialists every six weeks to place dental implants here in St Andrews. This is an invaluable service and allows patients to receive specialist treatment without having to travel to Edinburgh or Perth.
I feel very fortunate to live and work in an amazing town like St Andrews and will continue to try and provide the best care I can for my patients. I would hope that the future of the practice is bright and with the ongoing support from DPAS, I feel confident we are heading in the right direction.
If you, like Chris, want your practice to stand out from the crowd, call DPAS Dental Plans on 01747 870910 or visit www.dpas.co.uk and find out how they can support you on your journey to grow your business and patient loyalty.