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“We’re like family”: Organization has provided doctors with business assistance for 50 years

By Susan Shinn
For the Salisbury Post

When you’re a patient, it probably doesn’t occur to you who’s taking care of your doctor or dentist.

Turns out, it’s an entire company.

Healthcare Management Consultants is committed to easing the burdens of practice management, or, as one partner puts it, “doctoring the doctor.”

Dan Dagenhart founded the company in 1966. Originally, it assisted physicians with their billing collections. Once professional collection agencies came into being, Dagenhart was able to turn his attention to medical practice management. The company also offers services to dental practices.

Our team has done a fantastic job, educating and providing additional services unheard of in the beginning,” he says.

The company offers a diverse menu of services, including accounting services, employee benefit services, personal finance services, human resources consulting, coding analysis and consulting, and strategic planning.

Until the last year or so, Dagenhart still served as a tax and investment advisor for a few clients, also retired.

My clients became my friends,” he says. “And tax advising and real estate planning were my favorite areas to work in.”

He says of the company today, “It makes me proud. They have a good team and they work well as a team.”

The company employs 21 people, including three employees and a managing partner in its Southern Pines office.

Healthcare Management Consultants’ six partners are Todd Dagenhart, Stan Jordan, Tom Loeblein, Tim Norris, Donna Poteat and David Carpenter.

Todd Dagenhart, who is Dagenhart’s son, joined the company in 1986, about the time the company was converting to wide-spread computer use. Poteat came on board in 1991, Loeblein in 1992, Jordan in 2000, Norris in 2004. Carpenter, who’s based in Southern Pines, originally joined the company in 1976.

It’s been rewarding to see people grow,” Carpenter says, “and achieve the ultimate goal of serving our clients. We’re not in their offices on a day-to-day basis, but they call us with questions. Whatever it is, we’ve probably seen it and can help them through unfamiliar things. We doctor the doctors.”

In a large practice, the point of contact is typically the business manager, but in a small practice, it’s the physician or dentist.

The goal of any practice is profit,” Loeblein says. “They’ve got to create profit to pay for team members to care for their patients. Doctors and dentists don’t get business training.”

This is a good niche to be in,” Jordan says. “There’s a lot of value we add to physicians’ practices, and their quality of life.”

We focus on the business side of a practice, so physicians can stay focused on care,” Todd Dagenhart says.

As questions increased in different areas of practice — human resources, for example — the company kept adding specialty areas, Lobelein says.

About 70 percent of our questions were dealing with HR, so with the addition of Tim, it was nice to have that resource for the doctors.”

The company also consults in hiring processes, for example, so that practices may bring in the best people for the job.

We’re doing a lot more of the soft stuff,” Loeblein says.

Because of this, practices have lower turnover and higher staff morale.

All of the services, Loeblein says, are provided seamlessly. “By all these specialties, the doctor only makes one phone call.”

Dagenhart says the company has always relied on client referrals for new business, and has done very little advertising over the years.

Sandy Boucher-Bessent joined Healthcare Management Consultants in July as director of sales and marketing.

Right now,” she says, “we’re looking at bringing on new clients and expanding.”

That expansion plan also includes a future move to downtown Salisbury, as the company has outgrown its two-story office space on Statesville Boulevard.

Boucher-Bessent, a dental hygienist by training, has been in health care for more than 30 years.

I’ve encountered the struggles they help practices with,” she says. “Our goal is to get the word out that there is a solution.”

The Dental CFO, which serves dental practices, was founded a handful of years ago. There are enough differences between physicians and dental offices — including different insurance and codes — to better serve both groups, Todd Dagenhart says.

While the majority of Healthcare Management Consultants’ clients are in Salisbury, Charlotte, Greensboro, Statesville and Gastonia, it also continues to serve clients who have moved out of the area.

Todd Dagenhart acknowledges a lot of longevity, both among employees and their clients.

It’s a family type of business, if you will,” he says. “We hire good folks, and they get the job done.”

This company stands for integrity,” Boucher-Bessent says. “It’s just an ambience and atmosphere that’s rare in the workplace. They’re the gold standard in this industry. They do it all, and they do it seamlessly.”

Elizabeth Mitchell retired March 1 after 35 years with Healthcare Management Consultants.

I love the people I worked with,” she says. “They were my second family. I never met a lot of our clients in person, but we got so close on the phone. We would pray for each other and send little gifts.”

Mitchell and Dagenhart were honored Sept. 30, when the company hosted a 50th anniversary reception at Salisbury Depot.

Dr. John Crawford, a local ophthalmologist, has been with the company since 1970.

They’re a good group,” he says, “and without them, I don’t know what we’d do. They organized us, they’re straight, they’re honest, and they’ve kept me out of trouble. I can’t speak highly enough of them.”

Susan Sides is Crawford’s office manager, and has worked for him for 36 years.

Dan was our monthly consultant,” she says. “We would sit down and go over the financials, all by hand. Now Todd and I have become best friends. He is my confidant. We’ve had a long, close relationship all these years, and I treasure that relationship. It’s a great group.”

Amy Van Gurp of Charlotte does the books for her husband Richard’s dental practice. They’ve been clients for more than 20 years.

This is an amazing organization,” she says.

She exchanges frequent emails with Nancy Shirley, director of special projects.

We’re like family,” Shirley says. “It’s more than just a business relationship.”

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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