No dentist wants to face a disability. But should the unimaginable occur, there are steps that can make the event a bit less painful. Planning for a disability of the smart thing to do. Here's how.
You’re working harder than ever and building a great practice. You’re taking care of your family, business, patients, and staff. Then it happens—a diagnosis that doesn’t look good. In fact, you’ll probably be considered disabled in the near future. Since your practice is a major part of your financial future, ensuring its sustainability through a bad diagnosis becomes extremely important.
What can a dentist do to face something this traumatic, and come through a tough situation? In my years helping dentists plan for their financial future and face potential disability, I’ve discovered five things doctors can do to take action, feel empowered, and create a more stable outcome.
Do your patients and staff need to know about your diagnosis? Probably, but not right away. Maintaining control over how information about your condition is shared is the first and possibly most important step. Not sharing isn’t to be clandestine, but to maintain a tempo by which patients and staff become aware of your circumstances. At some point, it will be very important to make patients and staff aware, but unless your condition is emergent, or could put patients and staff in harm’s way, keep your diagnosis private until a later date.
Keep production up
If your diagnosis dictates a reduced work schedule, it’s important to find some help to keep your production up. A looming permanent disability could mean that a practice transition is in the future, and the value of a practice is based on productivity. Consider recruiting the help of another doctor who might not be interested in owning a practice. This can help reduce your workload, yet provide the opportunity to maintain contact since you can be on site to supervise. You remain a part of the patient encounter, but the associate dentist can take on the workload.
Get your accounts receivable in check
If you have an accounts receivable ledger with several accounts past 90 days, now is the time to take action.Do so with the idea of keeping these patients in the fold. To that end, make a personal contact, or empower a well-trained staff member who can request payment in a way that does not alienate a patient. It might make sense to negotiate a reduced payment or some other mutually agreeable plan before calling in a collections agency. The bottom line is reducing AR, which will make a practice more attractive to potential buyers.
Find legal and accounting support
If you’ve been diagnosed with a condition that will likely cause disability, it’s important to have a qualified attorney and a qualified CPA on your team. An attorney who understands the issues you will face can help navigate potential disability claims and apprise you to risks that need to be managed. The attorney can also help with overall estate planning and other legal work to put you in a good position. The person can also assist with confidentiality agreements with your team.
A qualified CPA can help pull your books together, and help justify a fair settlement if your practice will be transitioned.
Engage a qualified broker
This is not the time to “do it yourself!” If you’re facing disability and must transition your practice, hiring a broker will help in a multitude of ways, including having a list of potential buyers lined up. If you’re exiting your dental career, getting the most value out of a transition is worth the cost of working with a broker.
Facing a tough diagnosis that could lead to disability is traumatic, to say the least. Using these five strategies can help alleviate some of your upcoming anxiety and help you focus on maintaining your health, which is the best thing you can do during the transition.
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