The global pandemic of the novel coronavirus and its resultant illness, COVID-19, are causing disruption to dental practices all across the US. The American Dental Association’s unprecedented request that we postpone elective surgeries to focus exclusively on dental emergencies is putting a strain on many dental practices. Many fear that they might not be able to weather the difficulties.
What does a dental practice need to be able to survive this kind of crisis? Here are three types of health your dental practice needs to be able to survive this and other emergencies. Even if you feel like this situation caught you unprepared, there are things you can do to navigate the challenges successfully.
Of course, your dental practice needs to have financial health if it’s going to be able to survive this type of situation. Ideally, you should have fixed expenses covered and be able to pay salaries for a few months. This might seem like a dream, but it’s not unrealistic for many dental practices.
Ideally, your monthly profit should allow for adequate savings that you can put away for this type of situation. It might take a few years of operation to get this type of savings set aside, but it should be a goal and a dental practice should always be putting away extra money whenever possible.
Of course, healthy financials includes the dentist’s personal compensation. And the dentist’s salary is one that should be paid during this critical period. Many dentists might choose to forgo their personal salaries during this time, but if they do, it’s important to record this as a loan to the practice (remember: your financials should be separate from your practice). Make sure the terms of the loan are clear.
Another key to weathering this type of crisis is having a healthy organization. This means having team members who are willing and able to handle disruptions in a professional manner. To keep operating during a crisis like this means you might have to temporarily pivot to providing different types of services than in the past. If your team is well-trained and competent, they should be prepared to handle this pivot with minimum disruption. They should also be prepared to handle additional restrictions and standards imposed to stop transmission of the novel coronavirus, just as they handle new restrictions from the dental board.
In addition to professional competence, your team should have good relationships with each other and with you. People who generally work well together can handle more stress. Proper delegation will really pay off here–you can’t handle it all alone, and the more that can be done without you, the better.
Finally, you need your team to trust in your leadership. They need to have a sense that you have the day-to-day operations under control, and that you have a professional vision for the future of the practice. This will give them confidence that you will be able to weather this situation and come out well on the other side.
Hopefully you’ve already laid the foundation for this kind of trust. but you need to shore it up during the crisis. Communicate clearly with your team about your plans and any changes that need to be made. Also try to be attentive to the changing situation so that you can respond quickly to new developments. Being caught off-guard and unprepared for new developments will diminish confidence in your leadership.
Healthy Patient Relationships
Just as you need to have a healthy relationship with your team, you need to have healthy relationships with your patients. You need for them to look to you for guidance on how to handle their dental situations. You want them to accept if you need to reschedule or otherwise alter their treatment plan. You also want them to come to you if they have a situation that needs to be handled. And you want them to return to you when the restrictions have passed and people can return to a more normal routine.
Ideally, you’ve already built a good relationship with your patients. You should have a high level of trust and respect from them. Make sure you maintain that trust and respect during this situation. Before you start calling to make changes to appointments, go over the script with your team. Make sure it’s clear what changes are needed and why. Also make sure that you’re giving accurate, up-to-date information. Nothing will erode trust faster than a health provider who is giving out false or outdated information.
Also, do what you can to keep providing service during the disruption. Arrange to deliver supplies like whiteners and Invisalign trays so patients don’t have to come into the office. Make it clear what types of services you’re still performing and how best patients can contact you if they need them.
We Will Get through This Together
Although this novel coronavirus represents a novel challenge for the dental profession, it’s not something we can’t handle. We will do our part to help stop the spread of the virus while caring for people in need of our services. And we will emerge from the crisis a stronger and more respected profession than ever.
If you feel like you need help guiding your practice and your team through these difficult times, Dr. Shahin Safarian offers virtual consultation services to answer your questions and address your challenges. Please call (858) 349-7996 today to learn how he can help your practice.