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5 tips to recover more quickly after COVID-19

Boosting your hygiene care one of the key steps as dental practices begin re-opening across the country.


I imagine your dental practice is experiencing a severe challenge after the recent pandemic. Good news is that as of today, most dental practices are in phase I: a soft opening. 

Do you feel like you are still in a crisis mode?

Like many of our dental colleagues you may have a pit in your stomach and it seems like we have a daily reminder that we are living in extremely uncertain times.

When we experience stress, challenges and uncertainty, our minds and body go into “fight or flight mode.” This is not a good place to be and the question is, how do we recover quickly when life seems so uncertain?

Today, I list 5 things to consider as you walk through this first phase of reopening your dental practice.

1.    Take a Look.

Your first step is to look at where you are today. First of all, try to look at where we were in our world prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of January 2020, our economic climate in the U.S. was very good. Our S & P 500 was at an all-time high. Unemployment was at an all-time low. Life “seemed” so good.

Let’s take a look at the freedom we felt prior to the pandemic. Let’s remember the great profession we have and know that dentistry can still be a great career path. Our thoughts must remain positive, however, our new norm is going to look and feel different.

Next, take a close look at your dental practice. Let’s look at the numbers.

Look at your number of active patients, the number of patients who need an appointment (Restorative and hygiene patients) since the COVID-19 shutdown and a total of how many patients need to return pre-COVID-19.

Know what numbers to look at. For example: production, collection, insurance fees for your area, your case acceptance rate, hygiene patient recare, etc. Once you know your numbers you can understand your untapped potential for 2020. Remember your goals for 2020. Focus on the goals you can achieve when you reverse engineer these numbers once you take a look at them.


“Measure Only What Matters.” If you want to lose weight, getting on the scale to see how much weight you gained over the holidays is no fun. Neither is looking at your numbers and the lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, however painful you think this feels; you must look.

Not sure you know what numbers to look at?

Maybe creating your success plan seems like a daunting task.

It’s important that you have the best support and a trusted advisor, an expert, who can help you through this challenging time.


2.    Communication

Many dental practices chose not to stay in communication with their team members and their patients during the pandemic.

If you took a break from your “normal life” in your dental office without team or patient communication then today is the day to begin communication with your team and patients. Today the team and your patients need you more than ever. 

It’s also important to understand what type of communication you should have with your patients.

Brainstorm as a team about who to contact and how each of these (hundreds) of patients must be contacted.

Many people in today’s world will respond best to a text message so find out how each patient prefers to be contacted and use their preferred method to get them back on your schedule.

If doctor and even the team can create a welcome back video (approximately 60 seconds), many patients will respond to schedule their appointment when you text this video message.

Make sure to automate your appointment scheduling with a link people can click to schedule.

Now is the time to update and share your “Change of Appointment Procedure” because patients will schedule a dental appointment but when they are offered a hair or massage appointment at the same time as their dental appointment, unfortunately, most patients will choose to “change” their dental appointment over to the hair or massage appointment.

I always say: “Teach patients how you want to be treated.”

As you move through the soft opening of your dental office, schedule time with your team to discuss your new and updated processes.

How are these new processes working for your team and the patients?

The key now and always is communicate, communicate, communicate!

I always say, “Communication can never be too much.”


3.    Evaluate your patient hand-off process.

How the end of each patient appointment will occur is different once we return post- pandemic.

Do you have one person who can assist with the room turn-around?

Who is there as a back-up to support your clinical team?

Plan for one team member to greet patients, check them in using the pulse oximeter and temperature check. 1 Chose one or two different team members who can meet patients outside the office. These are the team members that complete your assessments and re-check their pre-assessment questionnaire.

Patients will enter at the time their provider is ready to seat them. No more waiting in the reception area.

Once the patient services have been completed you must have a plan in place for scheduling future patient appointments. Patients can easily pay for their services if you have a link that is automated and texted to their mobile device.

Plan out what works best for the check-in and hand-off. Reassess your various new processes and systems after each week. Reorganize your processes and systems as necessary to meet your dental practice philosophy of patient care. 

Always assess the climate of the current pandemic (check your state BOD and the http://www.cdc.gov/ for updates) and any necessary changes to your processes.



4.    Empower your team.

Part of communication with your team is empowering them. Give your team members hope for success and a positive outlook for your new norm.

Let the team know that you are open to communication and allow your team time to communicate and understand all the dynamic changes post-pandemic.

Discover how each team member can be a leader in helping to recover and grow your dental practice.

There is a lot happening in our world today and it is important to have systems with implementation. Delegate specific tasks and performance indicators to achieve your goals for 2020.

Encourage and share appreciation for everyone (including the doctor) on your team. Make sure that there is not only implementation, but accountability for everyone and every process necessary for your success.


5. Optimize and sustain a successful dental hygiene department.

Your hygiene department at this point in time, should produce no less than 30% of your dental practice production.

This is not about working faster, harder or seeing more patients.

This is about proper diagnosis of periodontitis and gingivitis. We must STOP “cleaning teeth.”We must show our patients what oral inflammation looks like and talk about the systemic risk factors associated with inflammation in their mouth.

Our message is about the “mouth-body connection”. We want to get our patients to understand that “people with a healthy body are more likely to live a longer and healthier live.” We want our patients to know that prevention costs a little money and treating disease costs a lot of money. 

Understand how much production comes from your hygiene department. How many patients in your hygiene department receive a “cleaning” and how many of these patients have completed a CDT code in the 4000 codes?

How many patients leave their hygiene appointment and schedule necessary treatment needs? Think about making sure 80% of the doctor’s schedule comes from hygiene appointments.

With a COVID-19 success strategy you will implement a schedule-to-goal formula using a blocked schedule. Once you have this formula implemented you can stage the hygiene schedule after determining how many additional hygiene days you need to open over the next 90 days.

I call this “Super Hygiene Days.” This is not to be confused with accelerated hygiene appointments. “Super Hygiene Days” refers to super-charging your hygiene schedule with more hours and days to tap into lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the days (or evening hours) you are normally closed, you need to add hygiene only days where doctor(s) is present, and he/she is only there to do “hygiene exams.”

Use a temp service, new hygienist grads or colleagues of your current hygienists to fill these Super Hygiene Days.

During “Super Hygiene Days” the doctor can utilize the dental assistant(s) to treat child prophies (under 13 years of age). You can also schedule teledentistry visits on these special days. 


Conclusion Every successful and sustainable dental practice is willing to “step outside the box.” They will look at their numbers routinely. The leaders and owners of every successful business are willing to ask for expert advice and they are open to receive support as they walk the path towards their goal.

The business owner and the entire team must have open communication. They will understand various methods of communication with their patients outside of the dental office.

Think of this global pandemic as a time to reset your business towards great success. Know that now is a time to create your best success plan.

As you take your first step forward you should recognize that along your way to success you need to make time to review these 5 tips.

Enjoy the ride and celebrate as you take each step along your path to success in 2020. 

Resources

1.    Pulse Oximeter Information for COVID-19. https://www.everydayhealth.com/coronavirus/can-a-pulse-oximeter-save-your-life-if-you-have-covid-19/  Accessed: June 2, 2020.  

2.    Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. During the pandemic this is frequently updated: www.cdc.org

3.    American Dental Association. Updated with COVID-19 Info and webinars. https://www.ada.org/

4.    United States Environmental Protection Agency. Great resource for COVID-19 disinfection. https://www.epa.gov/


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