We are excited to be sharing with you the first part of a blog series being written by our valued partner and user Dr. Randy LaFrom. Dr. LaFrom was a dentist for over 30 years before he decided to become a consultant. He has incredible insight into the dental industry and has agreed to share it. He has written a series of recommendations on what dentists should do to address the situation COVID-19 has put practices in. We hope you find this information helpful and are able to stay successful during this hard time.
Preparing for the Grand Re-Opening of Your Practice Part 1:
It is estimated that 20-40% your patients will be unemployed or lose their dental insurance during this current pandemic. When we finally get the GREEN light to go back to work, a lot of dental practice owners are nervous about what to expect.
What is the best way to anticipate your future? You create it! Too many dentists I talk to are sitting home and wondering what is going to happen when they walk back into their offices.
- Are patients going to be lining up for dental work?
- Are staff even going to return to work right away, or will they stay out on unemployment for as long as possible?
- How soon will they – as the owner dentist – going to be able to consider taking home a salary again?
- How soon will it be before our patients trust the safety of coming in and getting their dental work done?
- Are they putting themselves at risk by coming in?
- Will things ever return to normal?
The answer to those questions depends what you are doing right now. Are you pulling back on everything, or are you actively recreating a new reality for both your staff and your patients? Will you be super busy or have multiple cancellations the first week of your grand re-opening?
Steps to success for dental practices during this pandemic:
There are several steps you can take to make sure your practice does as well as possible when you get back. It all starts with increasing your communication with your staff, your patients and your support team (supplies, consultants, labs, specialists, etc.)
In times of extreme uncertainty, people are first attracted to whatever will provide security and safety before they will attend to the higher up needs. If you have studied Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you may remember that physiological needs such as food, water, warmth and rest must be met before they can consider pursuing higher up needs. Personal safety and security are on the second level. During a pandemic, when you lose your job, the first thought is basic survival. You don’t have easy access to your food and cash and personal comforts that you once took for granted. On top of that, there are risks that currently challenge our personal safety and routine habits.
Only when these two levels are reasonably satisfied will individuals start reaching out for more higher-level needs. Focusing on creating employment, predictability, freedom from fear, and control in others’ lives will help produce that reach for normalcy in those around you. Apply for theEIDL loan and thePPP loans to help your business stabilize. All this will in turn help you create more predictability in YOUR own life.
Now that you know some of the steps where do you start?
- You are the owner of a dental practice and you are the leader of employees. You need to stabilize these two things first, so you have something for your patients to come back to. A leader needs to step-up and recreate the vision and provide certainty to their employees and take care of them. There are different levels of certainty. I’ve heard some doctors tell their team, no matter what, they will have a secure job when they reopen. The Unemployment Department has put out several plans that are beyond the scope of this article, promising financial support for our employees. Make sure they take advantage of that. Sit down and discuss their options and assist them in filling out the paperwork. Let them see you truly are as concerned about them as if they were family. (After all, most of us use that phrase when describing their teams.) Give them confidence in your ability to handle this storm so they don’t start doubting their job or security with your office.
- Stay in communication with your team regularly. Don’t just let them sit idle. If they sit home, without communication from their boss, they may start hearing things from other people about how they might lose their job, or come back to a half full schedule and not be needed anymore. This might push them to start worrying or looking. Many offices are creating Zoom meetings, or calling each team member individually to check in to make sure they are doing ok. That is what family members do. Either via email, or video, Skype, FaceTime, conference calling, or Zoom, make sure they see or hear from you once a week.
Stay in communication with your patients. Less than 50% of the doctors I’ve talked with have done anything more than posted a notice on their website that they are closed indefinitely. This is a HUGE opportunity for you to be the hero in their eyes. Remember what they want… security that their doctor will still be in business when this is over, and freedom from fear that they should have any concerns when they do come back. Start sending out emails to your patients using the multitude of programs out there that allow you to do email newsletters to patients. Talk about how you are first concerned about them and their safety, then talk about what you are doing to maintain the dental office they visited as a place of extreme safety. Talk about your infection control procedures, your new steps you will be taking when they come in to ensure their safety and that of your staff. This is a great opportunity to use social media marketing as well.Note: Two great solutions for patient communication that are HIPPA compliant are Medpod and Doxy.me.
- Invest some time in getting more familiar with your practice management software and all the add-on products that you are using – and paying for. Most offices are massively underutilizing the full functionality of these amazing products. Having data available at your fingertips is one thing. Knowing what to do with that data is another. Can you look at your schedule a week ahead or even one month out and make executive decisions that mean modifying activity or focus for your team to take action on? Are you setting daily, weekly or monthly goals with your software and following up properly with your patients in such a manner that helps ensure those goals will be met?
In Part Two, we will identify specific actions you and your team should be taking NOW to ensure your Grand Re-opening is a big success.
In the meantime, we wish you and your families health and success. We offer complimentary online presence evaluation, marketing advice, and team building coaching. We can help you utilize the tools and resources you already have to help you grow your practice. Give us a call or email us for more information.
Dr. Randy LaFrom
Business Consulting and Practice Strategies.