In most states, when you sell a dental practice, you are required to notify your patients of the sale and to introduce the new owner who will retain custody of the dental records. Texas doctors should be familiar with TSBDE Rule 108.5 as well as other State rules and regulations to ensure they are following the current laws related to patient abandonment.
Your departure announcement is typically the first marketing piece for the new owner of the practice. For the buyer, it is the first opportunity to make a positive first impression on the existing patient base and reduce or eliminate any patient attrition. The theme of the letter should be a sincere thank you from the seller for all the years of loyalty, the seller’s approval of his or her successor, a short professional and personal biography of the new dentist, and a request for the patient to extend the same loyalty to the new dentist as they extended to them.
The Purpose of the Letter
A dental transition letter is a key instrument in encouraging patients to remain in the practice. Creating a well-written and thoughtful letter to your patients should not only explain why you’re leaving and who the new doctor will be, but it should also make your patients feel comfortable that their dental health will be in good hands.
The Format of the Letter
Sending out a written correspondence ensures that everyone knows the relevant details, including when the transition will take place, the name of the new doctor, what changes they can expect, and other important details.
Typically, most dentists choose a letter format to notify their patients, however, an email or postcard may be acceptable. The letter is typically sent on the seller’s letterhead.
Elements of a Good Letter
The letter should be written with the patient in mind — not the seller. In addition, resist the urge to focus on your departure. While it is necessary to state your departure, your patients are mainly interested in the new doctor and why they should place their trust in him or her. Use a positive and enthusiastic tone as you welcome the new doctor.
- Begin by announcing your departure. Use a professional and positive tone to explain in one or two sentences why you are leaving the practice. These are your patients and you have provided their dental care for a long time. If any of the staff will be staying on to work for the new owner, mention them by their names to ensure a sense of continuity.
- Express your appreciation and gratitude. Your patients want to know they are important to you. It’s natural to express your gratitude for your wonderful patients and the positive relationships you have formed with them.
- Introduce the new doctor. This section should be the focus of your letter. Maintain an optimistic tone by focusing on the positive aspects of the new owner. Discuss the reasons why you chose the new owner and what specifically impressed you about him or her. Let your patients know that you personally trust the new doctor and why. Include the doctor’s name, how long they have been practicing, their education, their specific professional qualifications, their family (spouse and children), hobbies, etc. Introducing the new doctor will give your patients a better understanding of the transition and provide peace of mind going into their next appointment.
- Set appropriate expectations about your continued presence in the office. Some of your patients may want to say good-bye, especially those who have a long history with your practice. If you have negotiated a work-back period to assist with the transition, it may be appropriate to have certain patients come in during this time to ease their anxiety about the change. If you will not be staying on for a transition period, remind them of the trust you have placed in your replacement and encourage them to schedule an appointment soon with the new owner.
- Include a photo. It can be powerful to include a group photo of you with the buyer, and if possible, the staff with smiling faces to promote the camaraderie of the transition.
What to Avoid in the Letter
- Using negative or sad language such as “I’m leaving” or “I’m sad to say…”.
- Writing a long and wordy letter. Keep it short and to the point with the appropriate amount of attention to your departure and the new owner.
When to Send Out the Letter
As a general rule, you should mail the transition letter on or after the closing date of the sale. This is to ensure there are no last minute delays or issues that could derail the sale.
If a dental transition is in your future, it is important to effectively control what is communicated to your patients. The patient letter accomplishes both the seller’s duty to notify patients of their departure and introduce the buyer to the community. Focus your patient letter on the patient and the new owner – not you. A well-crafted letter, sent at the right time, will ensure an easier and more successful transition for everyone involved.