The Cost of Entering and Staying in Private Practice
The ACP Private Practice Committee is pleased to introduce a new series of articles for members in practice -- written by prosthodontists, for prosthodontists.
These articles are intended to share tips and wisdom that members have picked up from their experience in practice -- with useful ideas for prosthodontists new in practice and those who are further into their careers.
Contributed by: Dr. Carl Pogoncheff
The biggest cost of practice is time. Being a successful specialist starts with delivering high quality care to patients. This means investing time during treatment at the chair and in the laboratory. The more laboratory work you complete for your cases, the more savings and profit that you can earn, but it takes time to deliver high quality prosthodontic therapy. Each patient requires your full attention and your very best work.
Getting patients to come to your practice is also essential to a successful business. This requires time to develop a referral network. Advertising is an option for some, but may entail high costs with small returns. A new prosthodontist may not have this money in the budget. Networking and creating personal relationships with referral sources can be a challenge for a new prosthodontist. Frequent meetings with other health professionals and influential members of your community are a must. Word of mouth is valuable, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
As a prosthodontist, you have a unique advantage due to your residency training. The reputation of prosthodontists may precede you in the community in which you practice, or you may need to create awareness for the specialty. Either way you must prove yourself to your potential referral network. Earning board certification from the American Board of Prosthodontics would be a great way to do this. Completing the examination process required a major investment of time and money, but it was very rewarding personally and professionally, and it has greatly helped my career.
You will also need to consider the day-to-day costs of running a practice. Purchasing equipment, supplies, and materials requires research to make sure that you are getting what you need to be successful at a price that fits the budget – and that takes time. Remember those late nights studying during residency? They are not over after graduation. Managing your staff and keeping up with taxes are no simple matters either. Accountants and attorneys can help, but that will take money out of your pocket.
The good news is that the skills you learned in residency can help lift some of the burden. The work ethic that was a critical part of your success during residency can be your best resource. Some of those lab skills will come in handy to cut costs when you are starting out and have more time than patients. Even as you task others with laboratory procedures your training can help ensure quality.
Colleagues in the American College of Prosthodontists can provide advice from their experience. Mentorship can go a long way. Another key is to balance work and personal life. Having a good support system at home can make all the difference. Your spouse or significant other can be a source of strength for you individually and in your career.
Once things get established and your time starts to become scarce, you can start to look for ways to improve efficiency while maintaining a high level of care. Embracing technology can require a costly financial investment, but can pay off by improving efficiency. Technology keeps you on the cutting edge and ahead of the pack. An expertise in things like intraoral scanning and in-office milling are proven technologies that can improve your patient’s experience and ensure a top-end outcome while streamlining time required. Stay on top of your field by keeping your education at a high level with continuing education and learn new ways to accomplish your tasks in a more efficient and precise way while maintaining quality. This is an important part of staying on the cutting edge as a specialist.
The costs may seem daunting, but it’s worth the effort. Keep moving forward with a positive attitude and a patient-centered approach, and the rewards will follow.
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