A business continuity plan for a disabled dentist is very important component of a complete dental business plan. Hopefully you already have yours and can activate it on short notice. If you need a dental business continuity plan now and don’t have one, we have put together a list of recommended items that you should consider as integral parts of that plan. Contact your attorney to have a more formalized plan developed; but if you are in a hurry, this will get you started.

Step One:

Secure your property. Ensure your practice burglar alarm codes are not compromised. Make sure all valuable practice documents are secured in a fireproof safe. Make sure all computer programs are backed up with duplicate memory file stored in a secure location. Consider a quick run through your office with a digital camera, taking photos of the contents of every drawer and room.  Make sure copies of all insurance policies, passwords, keys, and legal documents are secured in a safe location.

Step Two:

Make a decision on who will run your practice in your absence. This may be your office manager, spouse, or dental business partner. They will have the responsibility to interact with your staff and arrange for patient care while you are gone. They will also be in charge of rescheduling your patients and arranging for new appointments with you in the future/referral of patients.  Everyone must know who this person is, and that they have full authority to make important decisions. Failure to do this critical step properly will result in your practice being run by a committee and eventual doom.

Step Three:

Designate who will treat your patients while you are away. They may be authorized to treat emergency situations only, or continue on with existing or new treatment plans. If you have a mutual-aid agreement with other dentists this will help immensely. You will need someone to assume care within 7-14 days, and there are legal risks as well as risks of losing your hard-earned patient base if you fail to act in a timely fashion.

Step Four:

Alert your staff and keep them informed of your progress on a regular basis. Don’t let rumors influence their actions/decisions.  They are your loyal well-trained staff and will support you if you keep them involved/informed. They especially need to be kept informed on your progress and expected return to work date. They have families too, and they cannot wait forever without a paycheck. Your staff keeps value in the practice and will help you with transition and foster relationships with your patients.

Step Five:

Designate a financial manager. This responsible person will be responsible for collections (accounts receivable) and making deposits as directed.  Dealing with delinquent accounts will also be a required duty. This person will also need to continue to submit billing claims , submit preauthorizations, and respond to billing denials.  Someone will need to pay your bills (accounts payable) and staff wages. They may be the same person who is your overall manager or someone else. Be prepared to meet emergency cash flow needs, so have someone with the authority to access you business accounts with passwords/codes. You should order your banks to closely monitor your accounts in the interim and make sure copies of all statements and receipts/invoices are kept in a safe place. Be  prepared in independently monitor collections/accounts and personally make sure that you finances balance on a daily basis.

Step Six:

Make a decision how to inform your patients, and what exactly you are going to tell them. Everyone knows someone with a disability, and your patients will surprisingly support you and stay loyal but not indefinitely. You have the option of using social media or your website; but beware of giving out too much or too little information. Keep to the facts and let there be little room for speculation.  Your return date should be noted if you can give one as well as who will be covering your practice in the interim.

Step Seven:

Make up a master list of all critical information. This must include billing records, computer passwords, computer access codes, keys to safes/buildings, important mobile phone numbers/e-mails, a list of important suppliers and payment schedules, insurance/disability documents, payroll data/ employee information,credit cards, checking/banking account information with passwords/codes, copies of all licenses and certification. This is just a start but gives you an idea of the detail you need to go into. Keep your license/certifications active and up to date. Strictly avoid missing any deadlines. You may be able to participate in continuing education while disabled and keep up with the total number of hours required by your state.

Step Eight:

Develop a Practice Continuity Plan as noted and stick with it. Understand that you are in a dynamic situation with your disability and have the option to make changes at any time. You plan is basically only a guideline, but it will limit confusion and allow your staff/patients to avoid confusion. It should give you a direction to go, but may fail to spell out a destination. You must make a decision on when or if you can return to work.

Step Nine:

The worst case scenario for a practicing dentist is the realization that you cannot return to work for an indefinite period. Once you are sure that you are in this situation, consultation with a practice appraiser and attorney are recommended. Practice sales are another complicated topic, and dealing with them on short notice will require you to seek assistance. Consider hiring a firm that specializes in this area. Don’t hesitate to seek out references.  You will have some time to work with, but you cannot go on forever without loosing significant practice value.  Continue on with dentists functioning  as temporary practitioners. Seek multiple appraisals and avoid making decisions too quick.  Remember, you started this practice. You can do it again. A practice sale under disabling circumstances is extremely emotional and you will need as much support from your family and peers as possible.

Step Ten:

Congratulations, you are transitioning back to work at your practice. Understand your illness may return and you may relapse. In addition, it is not infrequent to over-estimate your abilities and you may be able to return to work at a reduced rate for a short or long period of time.  Keep your Practice Continuity Plan handy, you hopefully will never need it again but there is no guarantee.WE ARE DENTISTS HELPING DENTISTS.

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