Tracy Webb, practice consultant at DPAS Dental Plans, discusses what practice owners should be looking for in a relationship with their plan provider.

Relationship advice abounds. Books, magazines, newspaper columns and organisations are there to guide us through relationship difficulties; it’s widely recognised that many couples need help in navigating the key challenges that life throws at them. And we all want to live happily ever after with Mr or Mrs Right.

But what about the relationships we have in our professional lives? What are we meant to do when there are difficulties with our key suppliers or service providers? Unlike our personal relationships, where the advice is to take the rough with the smooth, a commercial relationship cannot be sentimental.

In this article, I am going to discuss what practice-owners should be looking for in a relationship with their plan provider. The income from plan patients is often critical to the financial wellbeing of a practice, providing a steady, predictable income. If that income stays constant, you may think that you don’t need much from your plan provider, but you do.

You are paying for a service and are entitled to expect care and attention. After all, just because everything is running smoothly now, doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges around the corner. You need to be prepared at all times for a sudden change in your fortunes and the least you should expect is that there is someone there for you – to support, to offer advice or to just lend an ear. Ask yourself if you are experiencing the following:

Regular contact

Do you feel you can pick up the phone and speak to someone at any time? Are they staying in regular contact with you, whether via email or phone? Do you have a named person who knows who you are and picks up the phone to speak to you every now and then? You need to feel they are close.

Support when you need it

Imagine that your practice expenses have gone up and you need to maximise your income. Perhaps you want to speak to someone about putting your plan prices up? In a situation like this, you should feel certain you can speak to someone that can help you to evaluate the risks around what you’re proposing; someone who really understands the dental landscape and can offer invaluable support and advice.

If you decide to proceed with putting your prices up, you want to feel confident that your plan provider will know how to communicate this to patients in the most effective and reassuring way.

An appreciation of what you do

When you do speak to your plan provider, do they understand your practice and the dynamics of how best your team works? Do they have a feel for what it’s like to be in healthcare at the same time as running a small business? At DPAS we are purely dental so we appreciate the challenges our clients face.

Putting your interests first

As a dentist, it’s your job to put your patients’ interests first. By the same token, you want to know that your external partners, such as your plan provider, are putting your interests first too. If you don’t feel this way, perhaps it’s time to consider switching.

For a long-term relationship with a promise of a happily ever after, whether personal or professional, you need to feel appreciated, supported and understood. And both sides need to work at it. But in a business relationship, there is no place for nostalgia. If it’s not working, it’s time to split. Unlike your choice of lifetime partner, where the advice would be to treat a divorce or a break-up as a last resort, saying goodbye to a non-functioning business relationship could be the best thing to do.


DPAS is a specialist provider of dental plans for your practice and patients, offering everything the team needs to implement and promote plans effectively. For further information, visit www.dpas.co.uk, email [email protected] or call 01747 870910.