2020 was an extraordinary year requiring extraordinary efforts from dental teams.
Health Policy Institute (HPI) reported in December 2020 practices were flattening at 79% of their pre-COVID-19 patient levels. We know there is more work to do for a full recovery. Reactive approaches dominated 2020 as COVID-19 created uncharted territory. The new year brings an opportunity to proactively strategize for a fuller, deeper, long-lasting recovery.
Many practices utilized virtual exams when practices closed. This technology is here to stay and will limit the impact emergencies have on the schedule. According to HPI, 42% of dental emergencies screened in a virtual format did not need to come into the practice for treatment. Virtual exams provide a high level of convenience for patients, and many won’t want to give them up. Block time in your schedule for virtual emergency exams and allow a team member to manage the start of the call to update health history, explain virtual call fees, and learn the chief complaint. This will reduce the time needed by the doctor. A HIPAA compliant platform, such as Simplifeye’s, makes teledentistry easy. Check with your state for specific regulations and any additional training required.
Comprehensive Treatment Planning
A “one tooth” diagnostic approach does not provide the opportunity for patients to plan for their future oral health needs. Take the time to prepare a comprehensive plan or “road map” for patients and let them be the driver to determine the speed they want to complete treatment. The added exam time will reap future rewards providing patients the opportunity to plan while providing dentists the opportunity to treat larger, more satisfying cases. With continued economic fallout some patients may lose their jobs and dental insurance, in the future. It is a gift to your patients to have a forward-thinking approach when diagnosing.
Added Treatment Options
The “Zoom phenomenon” has increased the desire for cosmetic enhancements. People working from home are now seeing their smiles on camera during virtual meetings at a higher rate than ever before. Consider offering limited orthodontics, whitening services, and other facial enhancements such as Botox and fillers – if you are not already.
In-House Dental Savings Plan
Given the volatility in the post-COVID-19 job market and high unemployment rate, expect to see more patients looking for practices that can support them in their oral health without dental benefits. An in-house dental savings plan fills the gap. The practice controls the discount, and the patient gains access to care that may have been financially challenging for them – win-win!
Carefully review your PPO contracted plan language for how optional services are treated. Patients have a right to select upgraded material and services (clear aligners, esthetic crown options, laser therapy, LANAP, etc.) and pay for the addition. Provide options, let them choose, and don’t write off fees unnecessarily.
We learned from the last economic downturn that continuing to do things “the way you’ve always done them” may not support your practice’s health and growth. Review this list with your team; discuss which of these you can enhance and which you’ll implement in your practice.
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