Reading Letter

Thursday Troubleshooter: Should we notify our dental patients a doctor is leaving?

Dec. 5, 2013
Creating good will with dental patients depends on good communication

QUESTION: I am in the process of buying out my partner of 19 years. Our practice is probably 50% crossed over, so I see her patients and she sees mine. The other 50% is our individual practice with those patients seeing us exclusively. My partner says she does not want to tell them, as they "will not know the difference." I feel we should at least post a letter in the office. Your suggestion will be appreciated.

You're 100% correct — her patients should be notified immediately following the completion of the sale. The majority of what you are purchasing, in purchasing her half of the practice, is her good will. A large part of good will is in how the transfer of patients is handled. This is really important.

She should write a letter to her patients telling them that she is leaving and why. In this letter she should also tell her patients about you and that you will be there to handle all of their dental needs, and she should give them some reasons that she is confident she’s leaving them in good hands. In doing this she will build their confidence in you and make them comfortable with moving forward with you as their dentist. Anything short of sending this letter is doing the patients a huge disservice.

ANSWER FROM ROBIN MORRISON, President RLM Healthcare Marketing
When a dental practice is sold, it is ethical and, in most states, required to notify all active patients that their dentist is selling the practice to another dentist who will retain custody of their records, or forward them to other dentists upon proper authorization. As a dental marketing consultant, I see this notification as a unique opportunity to warmly welcome these patients and create a sense of confidence in you and your team.

If the current team members will be retained, I recommend letting the patients know that their hygienist will continue to care for them and the remaining team members look forward to their ongoing relationships. In most cases, retaining team members will help you retain patients. If patients are not notified, they may be very disappointed and lack trust in you going forward. Be open and honest with patients, and you will build lifelong relationships with them.

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