As Australia inches towards a high vaccination rate, there is a silver lining looming on the horizon. This could finally be the end of lockdowns!
Of course there will still be plenty of guidelines and rules to ensure everyone’s safety. However, dental practices will need to plan strategically for their reopening with the aim of resuming business as quickly as possible.
Here’s ten tips to get you on the right track.
1. Bring team members back gradually
Over the course of the pandemic, many practices have had challenges holding onto their teams. Some, unfortunately, have had to reduce their team size or temporarily stand down team members. When you’re planning to build your team back up, it’s important to take your time. Look at your production costs and revenue when you plan out a timeline for your return to work, and consider bringing staff back one or two at a time to make the transition easier.
2. Communicate with your team
Transparent communication with your staff is the best way to help your team stay positive in these uncertain times. Make sure you have concrete policy documents that your team can review and understand, and check in regularly with your team during your morning huddles to keep a high team morale.
3. Re-visit safety and compliance measures
Don’t let your team get complacent. If you haven’t been in the practice for a while over the lockdown period, it might be a good time for refreshers on infection prevention and control protocols. It’s important that you and your team stay up-to-date with any new standards and guidelines that may be announced as the situation progresses.
4. Prioritise your most productive cases
To fast track your practice’s recovery, it is best to schedule production cases first so that you can start earning revenue quickly. New patients are important, but your active patients are more likely to accept treatments and we just don’t know what the future holds. Prioritise larger cases or your patients who are already undergoing treatment, followed by maintenance cases for your active patients who have missed their routine check-ups.
5. Maximise your hygiene department
If your practice has a hygiene department, maximise it for your regular maintenance cases to widen up the number of patients your practice can see. This can be a good way of balancing out new patient appointments with active patient appointments, allowing the dentists in your practice to prioritise the higher production cases.
6. Re-evaluate your business hours
There’s a good chance that your practice has a backlog of patients that you had to reschedule during restrictions and lockdown periods. However, coming out of lockdown means your patients will have a lot of catching up to do in their own lives, and dental care might not be their top priority. It’s worth considering extending your business hours (even temporarily) to prioritise your practice revenue while also helping your patients get back into their regular routine.
7. Be proactive with your patient relationships
Consider reaching out to your patients, whether through SMS or email, to let them know you’re ready to reopen and looking forward to welcoming them back. You should also consider extending the time you take with each appointment so you can reconnect with your patients on a more personal level. They will appreciate the extra care you’re taking after not seeing them for so long.
8. Be strategic with your marketing campaigns
Consider which patients are more likely to prioritise their oral health when they get out of lockdown, and use that as a guide when you’re planning your marketing strategy. Families with children might be eager to get an appointment, but teeth whitening cases may not be on the top of most patients’ minds. Being strategic with your marketing campaigns will help you fast track your practice’s recovery and reap a better return on your marketing dollars.
9. How can you make the payments less painful?
In our recent Dental Patient Survey earlier this year, we found that one of the biggest obstacles for patients is the cost of care. With the pandemic affecting many Australians and their jobs, it’s safe to assume this is more true than ever. So take this opportunity to revisit your payment options. See if you can explore additional flexible options to ease your patients’ financial concerns and help them accept the treatment they need.
10. We’re not out of the woods yet!
No one can predict what will happen in the future. We might be out of lockdown soon, but that doesn’t mean we’re in the clear. Draw lessons from the lockdown periods we’ve endured and how you had to manage your practice. Try to be proactive about those lessons—don’t wait for things to get difficult.
As the famous adage goes: “Hope for the best. Expect the worst.”
The only way forward in the “new normal” will be to stay vigilant and adapt quickly to changes. Taking the time to plan out strategies and proactively connect with patients will give your team a clear path to move forward.