Showing posts with label Doctors Selling Practices to Corporate Dentistry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Doctors Selling Practices to Corporate Dentistry. Show all posts

Monday, January 02, 2017

Doctors Selling Practices to Corporate Dentistry; or Dancing with the Devil



Title: “Doctor No Control”
By: Vaidya Selvan, DDS

Dr. Michael Davis

Dr. Michael W. Davis maintains a general dental practice in Santa Fe, NM. He serves as chairperson for Santa Fe District Dental Society Peer-Review. Dr. Davis also provides a fair amount of dental expert legal work for attorneys. He may be contacted via email:


Doctors Selling Practices to Corporate Dentistry; or Dancing with the Devil

More and more, dentists owning and operating private practices are approaching retirement age. In today’s dental practice sales market, and within numbers of demographics, practice buyers are limited. Younger practitioners are saddled with student loan debts between $250,000 and $330,000 upon graduation. These junior professionals usually lack adequate credit ratings to assume the purchase of a small business. They often must pay down mountains of debt over an extended period of years, to demonstrate credit worthiness.

Most states have statutes which require only duly licensed dentists may own and clinically operate dental practices. These laws were established because a doctor has a primary ethical and legal obligation to place interests of patients to the fore. By contrast, a corporate entity has a primary obligation to place generation of profits and the interests of shareholders (not patients) to the fore. The conflict of interest is obvious.

The dental service organization (DSO) industry (a/k/a corporate dentistry) has stepped into the mix seeing an opportunity to generate profits for Wall Street and the private equity investment industry. Over most of the past decade, the feds have kept interests rates artificially low for the intended purpose of economic stimulation. DSOs have moved into this buying opportunity and purchased many hundreds of dental practices.

DSOs often retain selling doctors for a limited time after the sale of their dental practices. However, with maximal profit generation being the bottom line, not patient welfare, these doctors are usually dispensed in short order. A recent dentist graduate may be retained, regardless of limited skill and clinical experience, for far less salary remuneration.

Also favorable to the DSO, the recent grad employee doctor has little emotional or professional ties to the existing patient base. These doctors are unlikely to question policies of the DSO diminishing quality of patient care. If they do raise ethical questions, they are quickly replaced with others who play along with the DSO’s practice of dentistry, with the ultimate goal of maximizing quarterly profits. Most of these young doctors are primarily focused on paying down educational loans, and moving out of the DSO clinic, as soon as reasonably possible. Most of these doctors truly do care about providing patients with the best care possible, but their hands are tied.

(Author’s note: To circumvent state statutes about only doctors owning dental practices, DSOs establish shell companies for nominee ownership of their dental practices.1-6 These may be individual dentists who purportedly “own” one or several dental clinics, or a group of dentists who are assigned “ownership” status for an entire chain of clinics. In no case do these doctors exercise any real control or benefits of ownership of these dental practices. The “big lie” of the DSO industry is that they only control the non-clinical aspects of a dental practice and doctors contract with them for this service. In reality, doctors are employees of corporate management and do what they’re told, or forced out or fired.)

Case of Dr. Susan McMahon vs. Refresh Dental Management, LLC, et al

image005Legal cases arising out of disputes between selling doctors and the DSO industry is highlighting many of these problems. Dr. Susan McMahon alleged in her action against Refresh Dental Management, et. al., that she was financially and professionally damaged after selling her practice, to a shell company subordinate of a DSO.7,8 Within a couple of years, she was terminated from employment, as is common.

(Author’s note: Dr. McMahon’s resume includes very substantial clinical achievements, as well as professional teaching assignments. Although the legal filing was against Refresh Dental Management, LLC, et al, the parent company is North American Dental Group9, which is in the private equity portfolio of ABRY Partners- a Boston-based private equity investment firm.10)

Dr. McMahon alleged that for numbers of months after leaving employment, her name remained on the DSO’s clinic signage and advertising from insurance companies. Clinic staff was instructed to misrepresent to patients her employment status; claim she now worked in the restaurant industry, and claim she had a license suspension for abuse of controlled substances, or had retired from dentistry, all according to signed affidavits in Dr. McMahon’s legal pleadings. Dr. McMahon further alleged that patient records were denied her, upon patient request. Allegedly, Refresh Dental staff was using the name and positive reputation of Dr. McMahon to get patients in the clinic door, but invent falsehoods as to why she wasn’t there when they got there—the classic bait-&-switch scam.