It's Almost Time to Reopen. Now What?

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

Nearly two months ago, you made the difficult decision to close your office. It was the best way to keep you, your team and your patient’s safety, but the closure has likely done a number on your practice financially.

It’s been a long few months, but we’re finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Soon, your practice will reopen, but it’s important to understand things will be different. To succeed, you’re going to have to make changes now and be willing to adjust as time goes on.

This is unchartered territory, but I want to put you in the position to be as productive as possible as soon as you open those doors. These tips will help you get there:

Focus more on patient communication. These last few months have been difficult for just about everyone. Worries about getting sick, trying to keep loved ones healthy and financial strain have all taken their toll. People are tired and stressed, so it’s important to show patients empathy when you’re chairside.

Unfortunately, many of your patients have probably lost their dental insurance and might not be able to afford treatment without it. You’re going to hear this from patients over and over, so it’s critical for you and your team members to be prepared with responses that show compassion and understanding. Let patients know about incentives and third-party financing options, like CareCredit™. The option to pay in small monthly increments eases the financial burden, which is crucial right now.

I also suggest you use this as an opportunity to improve patient communication in general. Teach team members how to respond to patients with empathy and concern. Here are a few examples:

That’s a good question. Let me get you the answer.

I understand how you feel but let me assure you that Dr. Jones and our entire team will always make your health our top priority.

Thank you for sharing your concerns and feelings.

We respect your decision and want you to know we are here for you.

Show empathy and patients will start to relax, making them more likely to accept treatment and to continue coming to your practice.

Consider offering flexible hours. But before you do, make sure it’s what your patients want. When scheduling appointments, keep a tally of who asks for appointment times outside your operating hours and then try to accommodate those requests. Be prepared to offer early morning, evening and weekend hours for patients who are once again balancing job and family commitments, and who might not be able to get away during working hours.

Tell patients your plans. Use your patient communication system to update patients on the latest practice news. Let them know when you plan to reopen and the changes you’ve made to help keep them safe. If you’ve decided to offer more flexible hours or incentives on dental treatment, send an email or text to ensure they’re aware. Keep them engaged and informed as much as possible.

Make customer service a priority. While always critical, you need to focus on providing an exceptional patient experience now more than ever. Patients are going to be stressed and fearful when they enter your practice, and it’s your job to make changes that will put them at ease.

For example, space seating so it’s at least six feet apart and offer patients free Wi-Fi so they can stay entertained as they wait. Let patients know about any changes you’ve made to infection control procedures to help keep them safe and assure them their health is your No. 1 priority. Basically, be as understanding and as helpful as possible.

Fix your systems. If there was ever a time for a practice reset, it’s now. It’s important to understand the way your management systems operated pre-COVID-19 may not be right for today’s landscape. If you were experiencing a plateau in your production, for example, this outside threat will only exacerbate any weaknesses. To find out your pre-Covid19 revenue potential go here. Strengthen your systems as much as you can before you reopen.

Change the way you schedule patients. Your schedule is one of those systems. Before, you likely scheduled patients with an overlapping mode of at least 10 minutes. You had one patient in the chair and the next one waiting in the reception area. An efficient system but one that likely won’t work right now. I suggest you consider scheduling with five to 10 minutes between start time. You also can ask patients to call the practice when they arrive and to wait in the car instead of coming in. That way, you can call or text them when another patient leaves, limiting the number of people in the reception area.

Open with a downsized team. Only bring back the team members you really need. This will help you keep payroll down as much as possible until you can get productivity up. You might also consider paying your hygienist on commission or a small base plus commission until you get a feel for patient flow.

Reopening your practice is both exciting and overwhelming. There are a lot of adjustments to make but remember you don’t have to do it on your own. I’m happy to help via virtual coaching. Reach out and we’ll get started. Call 877-777-6151, Text 858-257-0278 or email me sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

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Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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