Locum Tenens Dentist Vacation?
Make It Happen!
Do you ever have a desire for worry –free extended vacations? Is the vitality of your practice and its cash flow guaranteed if you become unable to work? Do you sometimes think about a “no-strings attached” associate to help with periodic workload? Is your exit strategy complete? These are just some of the areas Interim Professional Service or Locum Tenens can become part of a well-managed dental practice.
The concept of locum tenens has a long, successful history in the health professions. Currently, many general dentists, as well as specialists such as orthodontists, pedodontists and oral maxillofacial surgeons, are the concept to enhance their productive years in practice, while at the same time providing security for what is most likely their most valuable financial asset.
What is it exactly? Locum tenens, which in Latin means holding a place, is simply the effective and efficient use of qualified, available dental manpower to provide substitute office coverage for colleagues who choose to or must be away from the their clinical obligations for a period of time. Experienced, substitute locum tenens clinicians are conditioned to compliment office systems, procedures, protocols and staff already established and in place. In this way, normal office production, quality of care and patient access are maintained in the owner’s absence. Locum tenens dentists are typically Independent Contractors. They may work on their own, or, more often, are engaged by and work through an established locum tenens firm. It has been time-tested, that, if done properly, patients will readily relate to an alternative professional caregiver working on your behalf.
How does it work? For elective absences, you would typically identify inclusive dates to be away, preferably well in advance, and contact a reliable locum tenens resource. If you were a new client, they would most likely ask you to complete a comprehensive profile of your office and practice. At the point, they would begin to make an appropriate match for you situation and ask you to sign and agreement for interim services. Once a match is made, client and provider would be in direct contact to discuss various details beneficial to the transaction.
Billing for services usually consists of an hourly / daily rate or a percentage of total billable charges, whichever is greater. Customary travel expenses may also apply. Since these individuals are not employees, as a client, you are not responsible for their payroll taxes or withholdings. They receive an IRS 1099 at the end of the year and the amount you have paid is a deductible business expense like any other vendor. When working through an experienced, dentistry focused firm, a non-compete covenant would protect you. Contractors carry their own liability/malpractice insurance and are thoroughly vetted. For non-elective occasions, if you have secured a relationship in advance with a firm, all of the above would apply; however, last minute anxiety can be avoided and requires only a phone call to request assistance to continue the daily operations and cover the needs of your patients and daily overhead costs. A Comprehensive Contingency Plan should include a key man replacement strategy. For any business, interruptions of activity, regardless of cause, always carry negative implications. By developing a relationship with an experienced, reliable locum tenens firm in advance, you have an opportunity to minimize disruptions in patient access, staff turnover, overhead costs without revenue and potential loss of income.
All businesses have an inescapable annual fixed overhead. Fixed overhead costs in the private practice of dentistry tend to be higher than in man y other small businesses. In any event, fixed overhead is a relentless, daily event; whether we are at the office, on the golf course or in the hospital. We also have a narrow window of earning opportunity, bounded by a limit on how efficiently we can work during our most productive years as a clinician; therefore, ever day, week, or month our facilities lay fallow, the income lost can never be recovered or recouped. The inclusion of locum tenens into a business plan is one effective way to help mitigate this “leakage,” which over time can result in significant increased to net income.
When you consider the added benefits of stress relief, increased staff morale, a more flexible lifestyle, staff job security, insured practice worth/vitality, and peace of mind, as well as the financial upside, locum tenens utilization can be an attractive package for most situations. On the Provider side, locum tenens is a viable option for clinicians who desire an avenue for income other than full-time associateship or ownership.
Locum tenens is a very well established concept for the healthcare industry. It has proven to be readily adaptable to dentistry and medicine. Since many health professionals remain solo practitioners, having a key man replacement option in place can help to insure consistent levels of patient access and revenue production, but perhaps most importantly, provide a hedge against the unexpected the often devastating attendant effects. A sound small business model should include a solid “what if” component.