It has always been a little difficult for the general dentist and a specialist to amicably co-exist. But the fact of the matter remains, both of them are equally important components for providing the highest possible care for patients. However, a lack of communication and trust with referrals can add complications that not only cost patients valuable time and money, but also costs each dentist the rewards that come from doing business together. But how do you build trust, communication and an environment of mutual interest that could benefit all parties concerned? Here’s everything you need to know!
Understand the Business Model of a Specialist Practice
Nobody wants to go to a prosthodontist until things have really taken a turn for the worse. Commonly a general dentist tries everything in his capabilities before realising that the case is best handled by a specialist. By that time, the patient has lost more than just a few dollars. Most specialists often complain of only being consulted to fix mistakes made by other dentists, and there may be some truth to that. A specialist needs more than just a few ‘special’ cases to remain in business. Only dealing with complex cases leads to a drop in profitability that affects their bottom line. It becomes very difficult for a specialist to stay in business if they are only seeing very complex cases. And especially if they are getting them too late in the process. Most general dentists are equipped with the knowledge and technological support to conduct complex procedures themselves, and even when they aren’t, they tend to wait until the last minute to consult with a specialist for fear of losing a patient. This conflict of interests leads to resentment and a lack of communication. However, by just respecting each other’s space and the understanding that there will always be ‘work for everyone’ both the general dentist and the specialist can create a bond that will help build each other up. But again, it is easier said than done. Following are a few tips, tricks and tactics to help bridge the gap and build a team that can work together to positively influence the bottom line for everyone involved.
How Can you Work in a Collaborative Environment?
The best way to co-exist is to accept and respect each other’s areas of expertise. A general dentist should have a relationship strong enough to consult and refer patients without fear of losing the patient. The best way to do this is to use more than just notes to communicate with each other about a specific case. By taking time to discuss a patient’s diagnosis at length and all the procedures that need to be conducted, a lot of the apprehension a patient may feel can evaporate. Consultation doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on a patient. A general dentist could seek advice or an opinion on how to deal with complex cases. A specialist can help identify problems and provide solutions that may not be too obvious. In many cases, just a little consultation could help a general dentist provide better solutions to their patients. Even in cases where intervention may be required, a specialist would highlight areas where he could help and leave the rest of the treatment to be taken care of by the general dentist.
When Do You Call in a Specialist?
This is an extremely important question. Do you wait until things get out of hand or is it best to refer prior to attempting to fix the problem all on your own. Ideally, you should consult with a specialist the moment you have a complex case in the chair. You should request a meeting at a time suitable for you, the specialist and the patient to discuss options. You could then have a one on one meeting with the specialist to discuss the processes and delegate procedures relevant to your individual areas of expertise. Doing so helps create a cohesive plan that would help save both time and money for the patient and also help create a healthy cash flow for yourself as well as the specialist.
More and more dental practices are working towards a business model of general dentists complimented by a trusted panel of specialists they work very closely with. The understanding that both dental professionals are on the same team and have similar objectives helps them work together and create a collaborative and financially rewarding relationship.
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