We are excited to be sharing with you the fourth 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. If you haven't read Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3 yet we recommend you do before going forward! 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 in 2020 Part 4
As the leader of your practice, the number one thing you should do now, more than ever before, is create a positive culture in your practice. You do this through developing and implementing a series of solid processes, systems, habits and principles that become ingrained in each of your employees. One place to start is by increasing quality communication in all areas, because when there is a void, it leaves room for negativity to come in.1
Preparing you team
Communicate with your team about any new protocol for scheduling, patient flow, and infection control. Cite research, science, and trusted resources when possible. Show to them how any changes will make the environment not only safer for your patients, but also for them. Be sure that they are all on board with coming back to the office once you are able to begin working again. Be sensitive to the fact that they or their families may have concerns about safety and make sure you address them. Put together a time table of activities to implement – it is too easy to feel overwhelmed with trying to keep up with all the information coming in from the media and from other sources.
When it come to your re-opening date most likely you will receive a two-week warning that the state approves going back to work. Plan specific meetings, conduct specific trainings and reassure your team that these changes will all be met carefully and as thoroughly as possible. Document all your meetings, with those in attendance and the dates. As an owner, you are required to have certain infection control and safety meetings, this is the best time to hold those meetings.
Going back to work
Coming back to work following this COVID-19 shutdown may be significantly harder than coming back from a one-week vacation. The world is different. Not only are you and your team out of a daily routine, but your patients will have their own issues – either emotional, financial or health-wise that the staff will need to be aware of while talking with them. This is a great time to consider having a daily evening “wrap-up” meeting with your teams if you haven’t already done this the past. Have everyone share feedback, observations, concerns and don’t forget to share and celebrate positive WINS and PROGRESS as the days go on.
Encourage your team
The number one thing both your employees (and your patients) will want to know is that they can trust you. Be sure you praise them for their efforts. Studies show an appropriate amount of positive to negative comments of 3:1 will improve productivity. Not surprisingly, when the number is closer to 1:1 or less, it can be demoralizing. Surprisingly, when it goes over 13:1, work groups actually become less effective; meaning no one is addressing any internal challenges.
Encourage feedback, listen to your employee’s concerns, and ask them to bring in a couple possible solutions if they wish to bring up a complaint, so it doesn’t sabotage your efforts, but rather empowers them and creates a team of “problem solvers”.
Scheduling for Success
Start answering the phones live at least one full week before you open (if possible) to welcome and cover prescreening questions and keep the new patients informed of your protocol. Encourage online completion of questionnaires if possible, and if you have a teledentistry protocol set up, start doing welcoming calls and health history reviews online. Use this time to pre-sell the patients on your doctor, the office and any treatment they are calling about in particular. Make sure your webmaster puts up a proper link online to let patients know of any new intake protocol or to encourage the use of the teledentistry to save staff time before they do arrive at the office.
Block time in your schedule if you haven’t already been doing that for emergencies. Because a lot of patients waited, there may be additional emergency treatment needed. Streamline your protocol for handling emergencies.
Line up patients who are ready to schedule. Be patient with those who are hesitant. Gently encourage them, but if they are strong in their decision to wait, ask for a date when you can follow-up with them. (Temporarily loosen your rescheduling policies.) Do your best to comfort them and reassure them that you and your team are on top of this situation in terms of implementing all the safety precautions recommended by the CDC, OSHA, and the ADA.
You should be sharing this information on your website, your social media and/or via your client email program if you have one. If not, a last resort and somewhat more expensive method to reach out to certain patients would be via direct phone calls or US mail. People are being bombarded with negative news every day, so you may need to send out your positive patient communications multiple times via different formats or platforms.
Patients in the Middle of Treatment
There will be patients who pre-paid or are waiting for delivery of services, obviously, those should be addressed quickly (to avoid a refund request, if nothing else). Patients who were rescheduled one or more times should be brought in quickly.
Patients with Outstanding Unscheduled Treatment
This is a great time to encourage those patients who have been “on the fence” about coming in – especially if your schedule is looking lighter than you would like. Reassure the patients the best way for them to avoid complications from the flu is to have a healthy mouth and be in optimal health to minimize any unnecessary drain on their immune system.
Determine quickly if you will be modifying your hours to allow for catching up on any backlog of patients. Let them know if you plan on extending your hours (or shortening them) to make sure that you ensure proper social distancing between patient visits.
Since you have had some time off, you should be using this time to properly anticipate (as well as organize) your supplies and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Many of the doctors I’ve talked to are seeing delays of several weeks on certain supplies, especially related to infection control, so the last thing you want to do is open the doors and run out of supplies within a few weeks.
Make all new protocol obvious and easily perceived by the patients. Some offices are sending patients a brief list of updated protocol the office is implementing (like a proclamation) signed by the staff, showing their commitment to safety of the patients and each other. Another option is to create a video showing many of the safety precautions you already have or are implementing so they can see them.
Footnote Reference:The No Complaining Rule by John Gordon ©2008
More on this topic will be included in Part 5 including more specific actions you should be doing right now to ensure your success and survival in 2020.
In the meantime, we wish you and your families well. We offer complimentary online presence evaluation, marketing advice, and team building coaching to help you grow your practice. Give us a call or email us for more information.
Dr. Randy LaFrom
Business Consulting and Practice Strategies.