Effectively managing multiple dental offices requires careful planning, the right tools and the ability to balance both the clinical and business aspects of your offices. Whether you’re considering a practice expansion or joining a dental support group (DSO), the prospect of managing multiple locations can be as exciting as it is intimidating—that is, if you don’t properly consider a few crucial risks, challenges and best practices.
To understand how you can make your practice plural, let’s explore some of the key strategies dentists use to succeed in many locations while preventing common mistakes.
The Pros and Cons of Managing Multiple Locations
Before we dive into our tips though, you might still be wondering whether practice expansion is a good idea in the first place. While the decisions will be unique to each dentist and their business, the number of aging dental patients and rising demand for dental services are certainly driving growth in the DSO space. But what exactly are the potential benefits and disadvantages of expanding to multiple practices?
Here’s a quick look at some of the pros and cons:
- Increased revenue: Multiple locations can attract a larger patient base, potentially leading to greater cash flow and income.
- Broader patient reach: Expanding your geographic footprint helps you reach patients in different markets you might not have had access to before.
- Diversified services: In addition to geographic expansion, opening a new specialty practice, such as an orthodontic office, can broaden your patient base.
- Operational efficiency: Growing a multi-location practice can provide an opportunity to streamline operations and maximize efficiency between offices.
- Negotiating power: Whether you’re scaling for leverage in negotiations with suppliers or with larger DSOs, expansion can provide a significant value add to your offices.
- Initial investment: Establishing and running multiple locations requires a substantial investment up-front, and securing this capital can prove challenging.
- Increased overhead: Operating multiple practices can lead to higher fixed costs that you will need to consider in the medium to long term.
- Added complexity: Adding locations adds complexity to administrative processes, making management difficult without the right tools in place.
- Staffing difficulties: A new dental office requires additional staff, but recruiting and retaining skilled talent at multiple locations can be challenging.
- Economic risks: The addition of a brick-and-mortar location can expose your business as a whole to greater economic risk.
Avoid These Common Pitfalls in Multi-Practice Growth
Of course, not every multi-location practice will experience the same benefits and drawbacks. Much of the challenges will depend on a range of factors that vary from dentist to dentist. However, there are a few areas that are often overlooked when starting a new expansion initiative.
Before you launch your multi-practice venture, be mindful of these common pitfalls to avoid potential setbacks:
- Ignoring Administration: Without a clear business plan to connect multiple practices, administration can quickly descend into chaos. Inconsistent record-keeping, siloed data and disorganized patient billing and scheduling can all combine to create a logistical nightmare that slows operations and detracts from staff and patient experiences.
- Neglecting Cash Flow: One critical oversight is failing to monitor and manage cash flow effectively. A practice expansion comes with increased costs, and if you’re not careful with finances and revenue cycle management, you may find yourself falling short on funds at one or more locations.
- Falling Behind in Tech: With rapid advancements in dental technology, keeping your practice up to date can be difficult. But outdated equipment and software can impact not just operational efficiency, but also patient care and perceptions. After all, using computers, processes and machinery from 10+ years ago doesn’t exactly inspire confidence—especially compared to competitors.
Best Practices for Managing Multiple Locations
Now that you know the key mistakes to look out for, it’s time to dive into the strategies and best practices modern dentists use to manage multiple locations:
1. Standardize Procedures and Technologies
Establishing standardized processes, record-keeping practices and other protocols across dental office locations ensures that each branch operates cohesively. Not only does this enable a consistent quality of service, but it also minimizes errors and potential confusion, fostering efficient data sharing between locations. This enhances overall productivity and patient care.
2. Improve Scalability and Efficiency
In addition to standardization, dentists looking to expand their practices must also consider scalability and efficiency. It will be critical to develop systems and workflows that seamlessly integrate across all sites, allowing for consistent, high-quality care. This often involves implementing centralized services like scheduling, billing and record-keeping to streamline operations and optimize resource allocation.
3. Leverage Cloud-Based Solutions
Cloud-based solutions like dental practice management software enable dentists to access data and manage workflows at any time and from anywhere. Additionally, leveraging these solutions across multiple practices allows for effortless standardization, streamlining administrative work across the DSO as a whole. At the same time, all data remains secure and HIPAA compliant to keep your patients safe and your practice protected.
4. Maintain Security and Compliance
Security and compliance are non-negotiable when it comes to managing any dental practice, let alone multiple locations. Protecting patient data is vital, so it’s always best to adhere to the highest standards and most stringent healthcare regulations. Be sure whatever solutions you use (cloud-based or otherwise) align with your security standards to safeguard your patients and your practice.
5. Demonstrate a Patient-First Approach
A patient-centric approach to dentistry is essential in today’s landscape. By prioritizing their needs with faster appointments, clear and efficient billing and convenient self-service tools across practices, you lay the foundation for an exceptional patient experience and a long-lasting relationship. Building this trust takes time, but the result is more loyalty, positive word-of-mouth and increased referrals.
Sensei Cloud: Your Flexible Practice Management Solution
Sensei Cloud is the most versatile solution designed by and for dentists in solo and multi-practice locations. As a single platform with countless uses, Sensei helps you tackle patient care and practice management no matter the specialty.
Request a demo today to see Sensei in action.