Is your dental practice suffering from the “COVID-19 dip”? While the vast majority of U.S. practices are open and have taken the precautions to keep their patients and their team safe, most offices are still seeing fewer patients—and seeing a corresponding dip in revenue. How can you “skip the dip” without raising your prices?
Patient Volume, Revenues Remain at Low Levels
Fewer than four in 10 dental practices are back to normal patient volume, according to the most recent survey by the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute. In fact, 11.3% report patient volume at 25% or less of normal. With nearly 80% of practices reporting collections below normal volume, it’s no wonder more than one-fourth of dentists are not being paid their normal salary or not paying themselves at all.
After an initial uptick in patient visits after pandemic restrictions were eased and practices were allowed to reopen, demand for dental treatment seems to have plateaued. Just 32% of patients in a recent Morning Consult poll say they feel comfortable going to the dentist in the next month, while 15% to 20% say they won’t return until there is a vaccine or proven treatment for COVID-19.
Even if patient demand resumed normal levels, sanitation and social distancing protocols prevent dentists from fitting the normal number of patients into their schedules, further reducing revenues. Meanwhile, practice costs are rising: The ADA says dental practices are spending an estimated $15 to $20 per patient on COVID-19-related protection measures.
To compensate for these changes, many dentists are considering raising their fees. But that decision could backfire at a time when a growing number of Americans are out of work and uninsured.
How to Keep Your Practice Thriving Despite Patient Anxiety
How can you maximize patient volume and practice revenues at this challenging time? Start by maintaining a strong connection with your patients (virtually, of course) and educating them to change their attitudes about visiting your practice during the pandemic.
Use Lighthouse 360’s eblast feature to reach patients and build their confidence. Begin by communicating all the changes you've made to keep them safe while visiting your office. The tools in Lighthouse 360 make it simple to create a Virtual Waiting Room that minimizes patient contact.
Patients can use the Patient FastTrack feature to complete registration forms quickly and safely right on their smartphones. Lighthouse 360 offers two-way texting, so you can communicate with patients while they wait safely in their cars until their chair is ready. Patients can also receive your COVID-19 Screener form in last-minute text reminders before their appointment.
When it’s time to check out, use the Online Bill Pay feature to text patients their bill so they can pay online—no need to linger in the office. You can also consider offering patients virtual visits – TeleDent allows you to serve patients anytime, anywhere. By communicating these protection measures to your patients, you’ll make them much more comfortable with visiting the dentist during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Next, you can also use your eblast feature to educate patients about trends in dental problems caused by the pandemic. For example, teeth-grinding and jaw clenching are both on the rise, thanks to COVID-19 related anxiety. So are gum disease and cavities, likely due to rising consumption of sweets and alcohol. Explain the risks of putting off dental visits and how a quick hygiene exam can spot potentially painful and costly problems in time to treat them early. By building awareness around these trends, you’ll discourage patients from putting off their next visit!
You can also boost productivity and keep your schedule full by using Lighthouse 360’s automated messaging tools. For example, Automated Recall reaches 100% of your patients with automated texts, emails, phone calls and postcards. In fact, Lighthouse 360 reduces recall time by 41% on average for our customers.
COVID has wreaked havoc on everyone's schedule, both at home and at work. Chaotic schedules are causing an increase in appointment cancellations—but Lighthouse 360’s Fill-in feature can help. Fill-in automatically finds and fills last-minute cancellations to keep your chairs full. On average, Fill-in helps our 11,000+ clients fill 1,250 broken hygiene appointments per week.
Lighthouse 360 has the solutions you need to skip the dip, avoid raising fees and keep your dental practice thriving during the pandemic.