Taking control of your practice management
Practice principal, Mark Retallack, tells us how the DPAS Dental Plans Business Bites initiative helped him take control of his practice management challenges.
Mark Retallack has been principal at Angel Dental Practice in Helston for almost eight years. Having set up the practice in 2008, Mark was unable to secure an NHS contract and so opened as a fully private squat.
Taking into consideration the fact that at the time the country was just entering the worst recession since the 1930s it was to say the least, a baptism of fire.
After the practice had been open for a year, Mark was offered a contract by the local PCT. By this time the practice was fairly well established and the business was performing well in the private sector, so although it had always been Mark’s intention to have a mixed practice, he thought long and hard about whether to accept the contract, which he eventually did.
Choosing the plan
‘Over the past eight years we have seen the numbers of both NHS and private patients grow steadily’, says Mark.
‘Obviously when we first opened our doors to NHS patients that was a sharp spike, but we are now happy with patient numbers and are not currently accepting any new NHS patients. My focus is on organising and managing the practice well.’
‘A dental plan was not really part of my financial model for the practice to begin with. It was something we introduced after we had been open for a little while and was intended to encourage regular attendance and obviously help with the cash flow.
‘Also, and perhaps more importantly, I simply believe that a dental plan is beneficial for lots of patients. Of course it provides patients with a means of spreading the cost of their routine care and offers them value for money in the sense that they are choosing a slightly cheaper alternative than fee-per-item and receive a discount on subsequent treatment.
‘More importantly, joining a plan is a tangible sign that each party (practice and patient) has made a commitment to each other, which helps cement a long-term relationship.
joining a plan is a tangible sign that each party (practice and patient) has made a commitment to each other, which helps cement a long-term relationship
‘I chose to introduce a maintenance plan and when I was looking for a plan provider DPAS seemed a natural choice. They are reputable experts in the dental plan sector and throughout our relationship I have always felt I was in good hands.
‘Initial uptake of the plan was very positive and I remain pleased with its steady growth, which means we currently have around 50% of our private patients on plan.
‘We have recently introduced a hygiene-only plan to run adjacent to our standard maintenance plan. Our rationale in this case was to provide our NHS patients with a means of budgeting for hygiene care.
‘This plan is also generating a very positive response and is helping us communicate the all-important oral hygiene message to our NHS patients.’
Evolving with the business
‘Aside from our standard plan administration, DPAS has also helped in another very important area of the practice. We ran a completely paper-based operation until summer 2015, when I made the decision to introduce a computerised practice management system.
‘Coincidentally at the time I was discussing general practice issues with my DPAS practice consultant, Tracy, who mentioned that practice management software supplier, Dentally, was a DPAS Business Bites partner and if I were in agreement she would affect an introduction.
‘I have a great relationship with Tracy and DPAS and have always found them to be forthright and honest, so I trust their judgement and having also heard good things about Dentally’s new cloud-based management system, I gave the go-ahead and simply waited for them to get in touch.
‘After a visit and various discussions we finally bought both hardware and software from Dentally and they advised us very well throughout the process. The transferring of data from paper records was a little arduous, but this task is now complete and the basic contact details for all our patients are in the system.
‘Of course we are still going through the transfer of clinical details and we do this continuously as patients attend for examinations or treatment.
‘Dentally is quite an intuitive system and is relatively easy to navigate. The most obvious benefit is that we are now able to submit our NHS claims online and this is a huge improvement from the paper forms we used to have to complete.
We are now able to submit our NHS claims online and this is a huge improvement from the paper forms we used to have to complete
‘We had staff training for a day and the Dentally team spent the time showing the team how various screens and functions worked and since then I have to say everything has gone very smoothly. Some of our staff weren’t at all familiar with a computerised practice management system, which in one way was good as they had no preconceived ideas, but in another way it was a disadvantage in the sense that it was quite daunting to begin with. However, I’m pleased to say that everyone was very positive and we were up and running very quickly.
‘Introducing the computerised system has made the practice more efficient. We have been able to streamline many of our processes and it has speeded up our front desk systems and improved reception to surgery communication.
‘It is very welcome that although DPAS is essentially our payment plan administrator they have a number of other industrial partners they are able to connect us with. It shows that DPAS is interested in the success of our business overall rather than just seeing the provision of dental plans in isolation.
‘Overall my experience of Business Bites has been very good. We are continually looking to improve and grow the business – this growth is likely to come from converting some of our NHS patients with the help of our dental plans, but of course we are always looking to attract more new patients.
‘We have a good reputation and we are never short of people enquiring if they can register with us. So now, with our plans in place and a computerised practice management system to help us keep on top of our data, I really feel as if I am in full control of my business.’
Mark Retallack has worked as a dentist since qualifying in 1984. His postgraduate qualifications include a master of science degree and a diploma in health education. He has gained extensive experience in many areas of dentistry and has spent recent years working with children, patients with disabilities and those who are very nervous of dental treatment. He is interested in advances in cosmetic treatments and has decided to set up his own practice in order to offer these services as well as high quality dental care. He trained under Dr Bob Khanna, president of the International Academy of Advanced Facial Aesthetics, to treat facial wrinkles in a non-surgical way using Botox and Dysport.
For more information on how you can benefit from DPAS’s flexible, comprehensive and effective dental plans, call 03456 802 820 or visit dpas.co.uk.