While at a party over the weekend one of the other guests after finding out that I design dental offices said, “I’ve been going to the same dentist for thirty years now, and he’s not updated anything in his office this entire time except putting up new wallpaper, once about 15 years ago.” Really? After hearing this I wondered what his book of business was like. My guess is that the patient base is dwindling and there are very few new patients coming to the practice.
I fully realize that once one finds a dentist they like, they’ll most likely stick with them through thick-and-thin. New people to an area when deciding to choose a dentist will keep looking when they see a tired, thread-bare office that hasn’t been updated in thirty years. Patients want to feel confident that they are going to receive good oral health care when they choose a dentist. They want one they can trust not to cause pain or to oversell services. The state of the dental office is one of the key criteria people use to judge the quality of a practice. If the office hasn’t been updated in decades odds are the equipment, techniques, and skills of the dental team haven’t been updated, either. Dentistry is an every advancing profession, with new technologies and breakthroughs, and patients are fully aware of this. In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, patients expect change and improvements and a stagnant office design does not communicate this.
So, why does one care if the book of business is diminishing? Dentistry is a business like any other and at some point the dentist is going to want to retire. What’s the exit strategy? If he’s just going to turn out the lights and walk away then he doesn’t need to worry about the size of the patient base. He can just keep serving the patients he has until they all age out or move away. However, if he’s looking to sell the practice a thriving patient base is one of the key assets the business has. Without one finding a willing buyer may be a challenge.