Some dentists are completely closing their offices during the COVID-19 pandemic; others are staying open and performing only non-emergency procedures. But what will the new normal look like after coronavirus is under control, stay-at-home restrictions are lifted, and your office can open again? How can your dental practice bounce back from the crisis?
While no one knows exactly when the pandemic will end or what the state of the economy will be at that time, the following tips can help position your practice for a comeback.
Stay in communication with patients
Whether you’re one of the four in five dentists who have closed their practice except for emergencies or the one in five who has closed down altogether, it’s critical to stay in touch with your patients during the crisis. Keep them posted as to when you may reopen and update them about what is going on with your office. Lighthouse 360 has plenty of tools you can use to communicate with patients, from one-on-one texting and family messaging to email newsletters and social media integrations.
Make the most of downtime
Keep your employees busy getting your office in great shape so you’ll be ready to bounce back better than ever. For example, front desk employees can update patient records, organize files, digitize paper documents or follow up on unpaid invoices and insurance claims. Designate someone to update your website to make sure it’s effective or create useful tools like checklists that can make your office more efficient when you open again. Dentists and hygienists can use the time to complete continuing education courses.
Protect patients and employees
No matter how anxious you may be to get back to work, don’t rush to reopen your office until official guidance is given. Keep up to date on recommendations for how to keep employees and patients safe. The American Dental Association’s interim guidance on how to prevent coronavirus transmission can help. In the 1980s, concerns over transmission of AIDS led dentists to adopt personal protective equipment to protect against patients’ blood or saliva. In similar fashion, some of the safety procedures dentists are using to protect against the coronavirus may become standard practice. Knowing that your office is following all guidelines to prevent disease will make patients feel safer coming back to your practice.
Plan your marketing push
Once the coronavirus crisis has passed, patients will be anxious to return to normal and to complete procedures they postponed. There may also be more demand for elective procedures and cosmetic dentistry. Plan how you can market these treatments, which tend to be higher-margin procedures that can help you restore some of your practice’s lost income. (Get tips on how to market cosmetic dentistry to job seekers.) Conversely, patients who have been laid off or lost money as a result of the crisis may need discounts or specials to persuade them to return. Plan how you’ll market your services when the time comes.
Prepare for pent-up demand
When your patients are ready to come back, it’s likely to happen all at once. You’ll need a tool that can handle the appointment scheduling, reminders and communications to make sure every patient is taken care of. Lighthouse 360 lets your staff send automatic appointment reminders by phone, text, email or even mail, and receive automatic confirmations directly to your PMS. Patients will appreciate Lighthouse 360’s Patient FastTrack feature, which allows them to fill out and e-sign time-consuming registration forms on their phone or tablet. If you’re considering new patient communication software, now is the time to get your staff familiar with the tool so they’ll be experts when patients start coming back.
COVID-19 presents challenges unlike any dental offices have ever seen. But dentistry is a necessary service, and demand will return when the crisis eases. Smart dental professionals will use this enforced downtime to prepare, plan and position themselves for the future—a future that will be here sooner than you think.