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A Nevada dentist followed in his father's footsteps, then guided the family's dental practice to a major expansion. He says foresight and a solid team have helped bring success.
Jason Champagne, DDS, was only too happy to follow in his father’s footsteps. The elder Dr. Champagne practiced dentistry in Sparks, NV for nearly 40 years. He was an inspiration to his son, as well as a great mentor. But he never pressured his son to take over the family business.
“My dad certainly left it open,” Champagne says. “But it was definitely something that I zeroed in on right away. And I never really wavered during my high school and college years.”
What he did do, however, is take his father’s legacy of a solo practice and build it into Champagne Family Dentistry, a thriving multi-doctor, multi-specialty practice of more than 70 employees.
Champagne says that his practice, as constituted today, evolved organically. Space constraints, brought about by an association with his brother, who is also a dentist in the practice, and his spouse, a pediatric dentist in the practice, forced a move into a new facility. Both were finishing their training and there was not enough room to effectively integrate them into the existing facility.
“We took a leap of faith and built a facility,” Champagne says. “And I built it bigger than what I needed at the time in anticipation that we would grow into it.”
That foresight was key to the practice’s growth. But Champagne says it wasn’t necessarily in his mind to grow the practice to the size it is today. It was more a matter of convenience.
“I built it to that size because I didn’t want to ever have to move again,” he admits. “I built it so there would never be an operatory or chair space issue again.”
Ironically, as the practice and patient base has grown, the conversation has already begun about available chair space. Champagne says the practice is already maximizing every square foot of available space. A good problem?
“It has its challenges at the moment, logistically and managing the schedule, but it certainly is better than the alternative.”
More Than Growth Challenges
Champagne says the biggest challenge in being a privately owned or smaller dental practice is managing the ever-growing overhead. He says it should come as no surprise that an increasing challenge is collecting full fee for procedures performed. There are more PPO insurance plans, even more capitation systems moving into dentistry, and that’s affecting reimbursement rates.
“And the cost of doing business is certainly not going down,” Champagne adds.
He explains that dentistry has always had a pretty high price tag when it comes to overhead being able to deliver high quality, high technology dentistry. That magnifies the challenge of managing profit-loss statements effectively.
“Dentists have to be the CEO, the HR director, the CFO, the main operations person, and the person delivering the product each day,” Champagne says. “It’s very difficult to wear all of those hats and do any one of them effectively.”
That’s where building a solid staff comes into play. Champagne says the key is having a clear purpose and vision of what you want your practice to be, then finding the right people who will support that vision. And make sure that vision is communicated day in and day out, because the day-to-day operations can often overwhelm and take over.
“And when a team has lost its vision, it’s very difficult for any system, any process to stay on track.”
Reviews and Evaluations
For years Champagne was involved in the Seattle Study Club, an organization started by a Seattle-based periodontist that helped dental practitioners form small study groups around the country where dentists could meet, present cases, and talk about new techniques. He has since moved on to the Spear Study Club, organized by Seattle-based prosthodontist Frank Spear.
Champagne and his colleagues meet on a monthly basis to review comprehensive dental cases. He believes it’s one of the most important things dentists can do when operating a group practice.
“It’s what I believe can make a good practice a model for the future as far as delivering high quality dental care,” Champagne explains. “I believe that patients ultimately get better service when dentists are continually being mentored, coached and evaluated by their peers, as opposed to only being evaluated when a problem arises.”
But it doesn’t stop there. Champagne says that when patients come in for various checkups in the examination process, the dentists at his practice have an opportunity to see each other’s work. It’s an open policy to regularly review where improvements can be made.
“My rule around the office is, all of our patients’ charts within the practice are open between clinicians,” Champagne says. “We keep them open for everyone’s evaluation and input.”
Community and Family
Champagne Family Dentistry participates in the Give Kids a Smile program, which is recognized and supported by the American Dental Association. It’s a free day of dentistry for youth in the community that takes place at least once a year.
Champagne himself is an active board member on the local Boys and Girls Club, and regularly works with the club to determine new ways to support members of the organization through dental opportunities for care they might not normally have access to.
But he’s also aware of creating opportunities for members of his practice.
“Dentistry gives me the opportunity to grow and develop the people in my organization,” Champagne says. “As we grow, and as we’re able to expand and offer our services to more patients, we’re also able to offer more opportunities to our team members. As the organization grows, different opportunities will arise.”