You may be tired of hearing about how we are living in an unprecedented time, however, there is really no other way to describe it. If you are like most people, you are unsettled about being away from your office, about the structure of your life being upended, and about what you’re going to do once you can get back to your practice. You are worried about your staff and your patients. The fact is that we are all feeling the same way—we are in this together. While we can’t do much about the uncertainty that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything.
Even if you aren’t able to work in your business, you can still work on your business. The reality is that the practice of dentistry is going to change—even if only for a time—until we’re certain that our normal routines can be returned to. It’s not too early to be thinking about— and planning for—how you need to adapt to the new landscape.
In thinking about how your practice will need to adapt, there is some good news. First, dentistry is largely a relationship business. There is a reason that as most of the value of a dental practice is goodwill. If you’re well established in your community, the odds are in your favor that your practice can return to pre-pandemic levels of production (with the exception of cosmetic procedures, which may lag behind general care). It certainly won’t be in the first month or two, but, with patience and ingenuity, you can get there. People are going to want to go to the dentist, especially those who have had to postpone treatment. And given all of the change we’ve experienced, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be looking for a new doctor.
With this in mind, here are some things that you can be doing right now to keep your practice alive and ready to open again.
Stay in contact with your staff. They are your most valuable asset. Be sure that you are speaking with them at least weekly to reassure and update them as to your plans and the status of your practice. Regardless of the status of your practice, you can even keep up weekly office meetings and brainstorm ideas for recovery.
Make sure someone is available to answer your phones. If you have to cut staff, whatever you do, make sure the phone is answered. Always. If there is a chance to lose patients (or a chance to bring in new ones) letting calls go unanswered will encourage them to go elsewhere.
Stay in contact with your patients. People are tired of COVID 19 based marketing emails, so be judicious. Your message should be one of compassion. Let them know you are concerned about their health and safety. Let them know that you are available for emergency procedures, if you offer that. Set up a teledentistry system and let your patients know you are available for treatment that way. The message here is that even if your office isn’t open, you are still available if they need you. Make use of your social media channels to keep these messages out there. Use them to provide education and information about post-COVID dentistry.
Be working on a marketing plan. Keep your finger on the pulse of your community so you can reflect its take on the current situation. People everywhere are frightened, frustrated, uncertain, and, often, unsure of who to trust for accurate information. As a doctor, you are uniquely qualified to provide reliable information. With an empathetic approach, you can use that position to reassure your patients and community. Again, the goal here is not to sell but to communicate compassion and to educate.
As time to reopen draws closer, send an email to your patients describing (perhaps in detail), your sterilization methods and protective measures. Make a few short videos demonstrating the process to include in the email, on your website, and on your social media. Emphasize that your methods are at or above hospital standards.
Consider how your office appears to patients. Walk through the front door and try to imagine their experience. Consider what you might want to change if you are limited in the number of patients you can have in your office at a given time. Think about how you want to present your sterilization procedures. You may want to open sterile packages in front of patients and let them see the cleaning procedures. While it is not necessary that they understand everything, the goal here is reassurance. Help them to feel they are in a safe environment.
Consider opening in stages. For instance, start just with exams. Patients can come into the office for a short, low cost appointment and get used to the new circumstances. This can help them feel more comfortable but also address some issues they may have since they’ve gone without treatment. Then add in cleanings and so on.
Reconsider your pricing. Where you may see some of the biggest change is in the amount of unemployment among your patients. Many of them have lost their jobs. Some will get right back to work again, but not all. There will be both a loss of income and loss of dental insurance. This is something you need to be thinking about as you get ready to open your office again. You may want to consider doing special promotions with discounted exams and cleanings, especially for new patients. You may want to consider a subscription service where you offer a packaged plan of preventive care and offer it to uninsured patients at an affordable price point. You want to make it easy for patients to come in and get treatment.
Also reconsider how you present treatment plans. Instead of presenting everything all at once, you may want to break it down into stages based on importance. You will need to be sensitive to costs to your patients and provide them with flexibility in being able to accept treatment.
Be flexible in your thinking. There is no question that it will be some time before we are back to business as usual. We’ve offered some suggestions of things you can do but, like everyone else, we are not certain how things will play out. We will all need to be adaptable as circumstances change. And though we may struggle with the unpredictability, that is not a reason to lose hope. Rather, make the most of a unique situation to brainstorm solutions and explore interesting options.
DDSmatch is Here to Help Where We Can
If you have been thinking about selling a dental practice, or buying a dental practice, there is good news there as well. Lenders across the country are echoing what our partners at Blue & Co. are saying about the effect of this crisis on the dental industry—its an interruption of business but not a change to the business. Banks have always been very favorable to dental practice loans because dentists are very good at paying their bills on time. Lenders are anticipating this will still be the case.
We’ve had a number of doctors reaching out to us during the last several weeks. It is clear that many older dentists are considering moving up their retirement plans rather than deal with the recovery. Also, younger and mid-career dentists are thinking it may be time to leave their dental associateships and go out on their own. If you are curious about your options and want to talk it over, we are here for you, with no obligation. Please feel free to give us a call at 855-546-0044 or message us through our website.