The United States is currently close to “full employment,” which, according to economists, is when unemployment rates reach a point that businesses can’t find enough workers to fill their jobs.1 Despite record-high unemployment during the past year, dental patients should now be financially stable, and offices should return to their normal workload and income. Yet, according to American Dental Association (ADA) surveys, more than 60 percent of practices are still seeing fewer patients and lower collections than they were prior to 2020. Although there has been a significant improvement from a year ago, when 95 percent of practices were completely closed or only seeing emergency patients, practices need to get back to their preshut-down levels quickly and return to working on their long-term goals.
In this article, we’ll discuss three measures you can take to bring your practice back to full production, focusing on your patients’ health and their confidence visiting your office and by employing growth-focused business practices.
Dental offices took drastic measures to protect their patients and staff from COVID-19 over the past year. These preventive measures together with vaccinations have driven infections from a peak of 300,000 cases per day in January 2021 to 48,000 today.2 This is great news, but now is not the time to relax, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)3. Continue safety practices, including:
Patients have likely been delaying treatment for two reasons: Due to lost income they have placed dental visits at a lower priority than other necessities, and they have not been comfortable visiting a healthcare facility.
This is an opportunity for you to modify the messages you include when you contact patients for recare or send appointment reminders. Assure your patients that their personal as well as dental health are your greatest concerns, and list the measures your office has taken to protect them. Explain the procedures you expect them to follow, such as waiting outside. Don’t forget to include these messages in all your communications such as emails, texts, phone calls and postcards.
When patients come to your office, they should find a clean environment with plexiglass separating staff and patients, surgical masks on all your staff and staff sanitizing chairs and equipment.
Don’t forget in reminder communications and in person to educate patients about the importance of their dental health to their overall health.
The COVID-19 emergency inflicted unusual cost-cutting measures on most practices, but you should realize these were temporary, and now it’s time to get back to smart business principles.
If you abandoned standard practices such as reviewing your month-end reports, because they were too depressing, it’s time to resume studying the reports, following your long-term goals, setting short-term objectives, and holding daily huddles.
Now is the time to focus on your revenue, and employ whatever measures will ensure revenue exceeds expenses. This might mean altering the way you’ve done business in the past. Review business hours, procedures and referrals and modify them to meet your revenue demands. You’ve likely cut expenses to their minimum, and you might feel good about how frugal you’ve become, but you should now review your policies. Running a skeleton operation does allow you the power to grow. Consider that you need to invest. Restock supplies, invest in equipment, hire the right people and research the practice management software that will help your practice recover and grow.
Don’t forget your cash flow. Ninety percent of practices keep less than one month of cash to cover emergency expenses4, and we learned in this crisis that isn’t enough. A few practices have failed to reopen. Keep enough cash on hand, at least four months’ worth of operating expenses, to carry you through any future emergencies. It took from March 2020 to March 2021 before 50 percent of practices were back to business as usual. Most offices went two months with nearly zero patients, and then 60 percent recovered to lower to normal patient volumes.5
Although this past year has been a setback for many practices, 2021 can be the year your practice thrives. Stay vigilant in keeping your patients and staff safe and comfortable in your office, and rev your business engine back to full throttle with good practices and smart investments.
Dentrix is the business tool that connects your technology into one system, provides you with the intelligence to stay on top of your practice’s health, and helps your team work smarter.