A common question for general practitioners is: “When is the right to time bring on an associate?” There can be any number of reasons to add an associate employee (e.g., succession planning, new practice location, etc.), but clinical overload is the predominant reason to hire an associate. When an associate is hired and expected to produce profit solely from new patients he or she is bringing to the practice, the venture is unlikely to succeed. However, when an associate is brought in to help relieve current patient overload or enable the primary practitioner to slow his or her own production, as well as grow the practice by attracting younger patients, there is opportunity for great success.
Is Your Practice Saturated?
A saturated practice is one in which the owner is working at optimum speed, practicing optimum hours, is fully scheduled six to eight weeks in advance, and has more new patients than can be scheduled within a reasonable amount of time. A general dentistry practice with more than 1,700 active patients is usually considered saturated. An active patient is one who visits at least once in 18 months. From a clinical overload perspective, the owner of a saturated practice seeing 1,700 active patients who wants to reduce his or her workload should consider a part-time associate while the owner of a saturated practice with 2,500 patients or more is in a good position to bring in a full-time associate. The particular numbers will vary practice to practice, but, in the general setting discussed in this article, the associate will be able to join the practice and immediately begin seeing patients to relieve the primary dentist while also allowing for growth. This will also alleviate patient wait-time.