5 Changes to Consider for Reopening
When you’re finally able to reopen your practice (and that day is coming soon) we know it’s not going to be business as usual. The coronavirus pandemic has changed us, and that will have an impact on how patients think about going to the dentist. Already fearful patients will have another reason to worry, and those still out of work or just getting back will have new financial concerns that may keep them from getting the care they need.
As much as I’d like to say patients are going to start beating down your door as soon as you’re open again, the reality is it’s likely to be slow going, at least at first. Those financial worries and lingering fears about getting the virus could make patients hesitant to schedule.
That’s why I want you to start preparing to get more patients in the chair now. Here, I’ve put together five changes you should make for a successful reopening:
1. Call every patient who needs an appointment. Not your typical process, I know, but it’s necessary. I suggest you start making a minimum of 10 calls a day two weeks before you plan to reopen. Run reports to see which patients are due or past due, and then work from the computer in real-time to ensure you have the most current information for every patient you dial.
Document the outcome of every call. In the patient’s progress notes, indicate the time of the call, your name and the result. If you weren’t able to get the patient on the schedule, include why, whether it’s money, fear, time or perceived need.
Continue this practice once the office reopens. Assign the task to a team member who will also be responsible for reporting on feedback from patients at daily meetings. This will help you make decisions about how to adapt moving forward.
2. Offer incentives. Patients are hurting financially, and, for many, dentistry isn’t a priority. Offering incentives will help make it easier for them to accept treatment.
But don’t wait until you open to let patients know about your special offers. Make it part of the conversation when reaching out to patients to talk about the treatment they need and to get them on the schedule. I suggest you say something like this:
“As part of Dr. Green’s ongoing efforts to give back to patients during this unprecedented time, he wants you to know he is offering a 15% reduction on your next scheduled periodic professional cleaning and exam between now and September 10th.”
The 15% discount still leaves the patient with an unknown bill, so charging a flat fee is another option. Just make sure patients know it’s a discounted price you’re offering to help them during these challenging times. Think of other ways to lower the price of treatment, whether it’s foregoing x-rays or not charging for your exam. The goal right now is to get patients in the chair. Remember, a little money coming in is better than no money at all. Think of this as a short-term give back to your patients.
3. Schedule longer appointments. In the beginning, appointments are likely going to take more time. Patients will want to talk with you about their shelter in place experience and will be interested in hearing about yours. You’ll also need to go over the extra measures you’re taking to ensure their safety, listen to their financial and health concerns and remind them about any incentives the practice is offering.
4. Reduce spending. Longer appointments and fewer patients (at least at first), means you’re going to be bringing in less revenue than you’re accustomed to—making it critical to focus on lowering overhead. Go through every monthly expense and ask yourself what you can reduce or eliminate. Look at your inventory and evaluate what you can do without ordering more of, at least for now, and evaluate your lab expenses. I also suggest you pay your own bills for now so you know exactly what’s happening with your practice’s finances.
5. Offer same-day dentistry when possible. It will be difficult for patients to find time for a dental appointment, as many will be just getting back to work. They certainly won’t want to come in for multiple appointments, so provide same-day treatment when you can. This won’t be possible with every patient, but when it is, you’ll offer convenience for your patients while also boosting your productivity.
You can use same-day dentistry as part of your “we’re here to help you messaging as well”:
“We understand it is difficult to balance going back to work, family and taking care of your health right now. Therefore, we are going to do our best to provide you “same-day” dental appointments for a period of time.”
Patients will appreciate the option and hopefully will be more likely to accept treatment.
I know this is a lot to think about and you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. That’s OK. Know you’re not alone. Every dentist is facing the same challenges. We’re all in this together and are doing our best to make it through.
These are difficult times, but there is help available. I’m offering virtual coaching and training that will prepare your practice for a strong reopening. If you’re interested, feel free to reach out. I’m happy to help.