What I learned at the ADA meeting in Washington, DC

I just returned from the ADA meeting in Washington, DC where I had the opportunity to participate on a panel discussing the steps to find, design and build a dental practice. The members of the panel were a comprehensive group that I would consider to be the dream team of dental office construction. Each member of the panel spoke briefly and then questions were asked of the panel at the end of the session. I listened to each of my fellow panelists and I embraced some of the wisdom they shared.

The first speaker was a dentist who shared his experience of building his own dental office.  His remarks are designed to help dentists understand some of the benefits and be prepared for the challenges. The one thing that this dentist said that resonated with me was that he has learned more from his mistakes than from his success. This is a powerful statement on the pain of making a mistakes and the desire not to repeat it.

The next speaker is a dental practice specialty lender. During his address to the audience, he spoke about the importance of having an engaged team supporting the dentist and his practice. He shared the results of a study that said that employees rank compensation third on a list of the most important attributes of a job.  The number one attribute was recognition. As leaders of their practices it is critical that dentists be thankful for the team that supports the practice and to demonstrate that appreciation frequently.

The lender was followed by a healthcare realty specialist. He shared with the group his experiences in locating and negotiating real estate transactions for dentists. His presentation was high energy and he spoke faster than many New Yorkers even though he is from the Midwest. He pointed out that in some dental offices, the ceilings are a mess and it is usually only the patients that see them.  It is important for dentists to look at their practices from the point of view of a first time patient. This will help in giving the practice a much more appealing appearance. If a patients views a dirty or neglected office this can reflect on their perception of the care being offered.

The next speaker was a specialist in lending money to healthcare providers to purchase real estate. His self-deprecating humor kept the audience engaged. But he did share some great advice about purchasing real estate for a practice. The one piece of advice that I noted was that when requesting a loan, request more money than you think you might need because there is always an element of uncertainty in the real estate transaction.

The final speaker was a well-known dental practice office designer. He shared many examples of dental offices he designed and the thoughtfulness in how he came up with his designs since each dentist and office is unique. What he did share that I thought was memorable was that he designs his space so that the sounds at the front desk are masked so as not to be heard by patients waiting to be seen. It is so important to keep patient information private that even an office designer will consider this when creating new dental office space.

My part in the presentation was to share the financial aspects from planning to implementation. Keeping a close watch on the practice’s key performance indicators can help in knowing when a practice is growing or changes are needed.


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