In the first two articles in this three-part series on selling a practice, we discussed general selling concepts and putting a value on the practice that is equitable to both buyer and seller. Once a sale has been finalized, the next order of business is to transition the practice from the seller to the buyer. In this article, we switch to the buyer’s perspective and discuss the steps necessary for a smooth transition, with the goal of retaining as many existing patients as possible.
The first step, and it’s a very important one, is the agreement in the contract for a period of overlap between the new urologist taking over the practice and the urologist who is leaving it. This overlap makes it possible for the exiting urologist to introduce the patients to the new doctor. A face-to-face introduction between doctors and patient, and assurance from the exiting doctor that patients will be in good hands with the new doctor, create a form of endorsement. During this overlap period, patients will have to decide if they are going to buy into the new doctor and his/her philosophy or search elsewhere for urologic care.
This overlap also allows the new doctor to become familiar and comfortable with the existing staff and learn the process of the exiting doctor and staff. This includes managing patient flow from scheduling, examination, insurance, and patient follow-up. Of course, the new doctor can make changes in the staff, but this should probably be done at a later date and not during the overlap period. We suggest that the overlap period be a minimum of 6 months and not longer than a year.
Outreach to patients
We suggest that the exiting doctor send a letter to patients with his intention of leaving the practice (retiring if that is the situation) and that the new doctor will be taking over his/her practice. This letter can enlighten patients on the training and skills that the new doctor will be bringing to the practice. It is important to mention that an overlap will take place so that the departing doctor can say goodbye and introduce the new urologist to patients.
It is also recommended that the exiting doctor use the letter to explain to patients why they should remain in the practice. For example, the letter might mention that the medical records are in the practice, the staff knows the patients well, and patients will feel comfortable with the new doctor. We suggest that a hard copy be sent to the patient, but also send an email copy if the practice has been collecting email addresses.
If you really want to be certain that patients stay in the practice, then we suggest the “extra mile” approach. This consists of having the exiting doctor personally call every patient. Although this phone call may appear awkward and even cumbersome to complete, it goes a long way in saying thank you and goodbye. In the call, the exiting doctor can thank patients for trusting their urologic care to the practice over the years and then recommend an appointment to meet the new doctor. This very nice gesture is way to leave a legacy not only with your patients but also with the referring doctors in the community, as they will certainly hear about your kindness and consideration.