This article is the second in a series of three covering some of the more practical steps you’ll need to take approximately three months before opening your practice. The first article covered finance related items that you’ll need to complete, whereas this article focuses on practice operations.
1. Dental Equipment Orders:
You’ve probably already picked a location, but you probably haven’t yet ordered your office’s dental equipment. Now is the time. While some equipment can be shipped out immediately, the vast majority requires a lead time ranging from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. So it’s time to create an equipment list and compare vendors.
In the dental equipment world, you can often buy the exact same piece of equipment either directly from the manufacturer or from about a half dozen retailers. Bizarrely, you can often get cheaper pricing by going through a reseller/retailer company because they negotiate discounts with the actual company producing the equipment and often operate on slimmer margins. An additional benefit is that these resellers will help you plan exactly what will go where, what will work with your existing plumbing and electrical, etc. and will have relationships with multiple manufacturers, so they’ll be less inclined to push a specific product.
2. Website Design:
Merely having a website just so that when patients look you up in Google or Bing they can quickly find your contact information is no longer enough. Now, when patients land on your website, they’re not just looking for a phone number or mailing address, but rather your website needs to convey your competence, authenticity, and personality. That sort of customized design will help you attract new patients, as well as retain existing patients by reinforcing the good reasons they selected you in the first place.
The best way to find a website designer is to look at other websites in your dental sub-specialty that you like. You can either look on the website footer for a link to their web designer, or call and ask the office who they used. Having recently assisted a friend who was building her new practice’s website to convey a level of authenticity and personality in her design, I can attest that it takes a lot of hands on time from the dentist. And because the goal is to convey personality and authenticity, it’s important to continue to update the website as your practice grows. To that end, I highly recommend having your designer build your site on a WordPress platform so that it’s easy for your staff to update themselves.
There are really two choices when it comes to phone options in a dental office, a traditional analog system or a VoIP system. A traditional analog system runs over telephone lines, it’s pretty reliable, but has limited capabilities when it comes to call forwarding or routing. VoIP phones run over the internet, which means you need very reliable and fast internet to have them consistently work well. They’re also generally more expensive, but when they’re setup, they give you limitless capabilities to route calls, forward calls, etc.
If you plan on having multiple locations in the future, go ahead and invest in a VoIP system, or if you plan on running a large clinic that you’d like to use an after-hours answering service or appointment booking service for. Otherwise, for most single location dental practices, an analog phone system with 2-3 phone lines is sufficient and cost effective.
Dealing with details like setting up a phone system, designing a website, and ordering dental equipment aren’t the sorts of tasks you dream about when envisioning opening your own dental practice. However, it’s exactly these sorts of mundane details that are needed to make sure that your practice functions efficiently and effectively. And because they are so crucial, and can take a couple of months to get fully functioning, these items should not be left to the last weeks prior to opening for business.
As far as product recommendations go, it’s a good idea to ask around for recommendations from your colleagues. The ADA, and perhaps your state dental society, offers endorsed providers (check out ADA Business Resources) for some products and this is a good place to start. In the final article in this series we’ll discuss three more operational tasks that you should do three months prior to opening your practice.
Rich McIver is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and a partner at Soar Pay a merchant services provider. He also assists his wife, Dr. Holly McIver at her orthodontic practice, Kingwood Orthodontics. You can follow him on Twitter.