Hello to you all in this challenging time.
Let me say from the outset that this is really tough but it has also been extremely difficult and dire for us in the dental profession for the past few decades.
What I do know for sure is that we will get through this.
My experience as a dentist for 40 years has embraced almost all topics that you can cover in a dental career.
For this discussion what is important is that with my team we have assisted, guided, managed and owned dental clinics through the previous 4 major economic downturns.
So when we say “you will get through this” – you will.
We have managed over 500 clinics throughout Australia and succeeded in growing them all.
What we have learned is that even though we are all dentists’ we are also unique, in that we all think, act, treat in our own way.
The solutions or rather action points that we present to you are a broad spectrum of issues to be reviewed.
Please go through these points and select those that you have already covered and those that you need to address.
Our plan is to release a newsletter with business strategies for you plus an action plan every week to assist you to work through COVID19 and come out the other side ready for business again.
Let’s be optimistic, we have at least 2 months of this current business on hold to go. So, June could be the turning point.
We do believe that the government both State and Federal have done a good job overall in managing the ‘virus’ issues and stopping the economy from collapsing. This was not the case in previous financial crises.
The ADA’s have also done an excellent job in providing up to the minute guidance and information.
Actions to Take NOW:
(i) Practice Plan
(ii) Financial Plan
At this time most practices’ have chosen one of 2 options:
- To close
- To provide emergency care only
OPTION 1 - If you have decided to CLOSE
We will take this to mean that you are not seeing any patients under any circumstances.
The most important issue right now is to communicate this to your patients.
And make clear arrangements with nearby colleagues/clinics who are continuing to offer emergency care and who can see your patients.
This ensures that your patients are still cared for and not abandoned to fend for themselves.
We would suggest this message is given to your patients in the following way:
- Update your practice answering message to include the Drs mobile number and the names of colleagues who can look after your patients for emergency treatment.
- Put a notice on the front door of your practice.
- Email or text every patient in your practice to notify them of the practice closure.
- Regular communication with all patients should continue every week or fortnight to keep them informed about any changes and what you are offering or not in your practice.
- Once the re open date is set you should be contacting your patients again several weeks in advance and explain how you will be calling them and how appointments will be made.
Have a list of patients ready for your team to contact.
Staff Duties During A Closure
- Work with you to write or update all practice policies and procedures
This is an excellent opportunity to update every aspect of how you function effectively as a dental practice.
Include admin processes from scripts for handling new patients to training new staff; updating staff skills to surgery procedures; steri and infection control protocols to equipment maintenance and all contacts used by the practice.
This is also a great time to review your computer system so that files are allocated correctly; information is either updated or deleted and that there is a clear logical system of finding all information on your computer system.
Back up, back up and back up again all information on your server. You will need this now and in the future. Even use a portable hard drive to have an extra back up just in case there is any corruption of your server.
- Clean out and re organise every square inch of your practice.
Disinfect, remove rubbish, re organise so that you have a perfectly managed practice to return to once you re open.
List any repairs that are needed and do what you or your team can do simply and easily without the need for trades assistance.
- Go through your filing system either computer and or paper files
Review each and every patient file you have on record that have been seen for treatment in the last 2 years.
Re categorise them if needed and make sure that these patients have received communication from you now.
Identify patients that have missed appointments in the last 12 months, make a list as these will be some of the first patients you call when the practice is re - opened.
Identify patients who have not had a recall/preventative care appointment in the last 3 years. Make a list. You will be able to communicate to these patients with marketing offers again once you are up and running again.
Identify patients that have not been in your practice for more than 3 years. Reallocate as dead files and ensure that you can access this information again for reactivation in the future.
Make sure that all patients who have told you that they will not be returning have been removed from your system altogether.
- Complete a full inventory
Go through every cupboard and compile a comprehensive list of all stock/materials with expiry dates in one column.
Plus identify all instruments and handpieces that you currently have in the practice that are in perfect working condition and list any items that either need replacement or repair.
List all equipment including make, model and year of manufacture.
Also list all stationery including letterhead, appointment cards etc currently on hand.
This information will prove very useful for many reasons but particularly to finalise budgets, losses for tax etc.
Dentist and Staff Online Learning/CPD
Use this downtime to complete online learning for you as the dentist and for your staff.
Why not tick off some CPD points plus upskill your team.
Here are some Australian options – we have no affiliation with these organisations
For Dentists and Staff
OPTION 2 – Emergency patients only
We would suggest this message is given to your patients in the following way:
- Provide a printed notice of your opening hours stating emergency treatment only
- Update your answering message on practice phone
- Email and or text your patients with this updated information
Follow ADA guidelines for current Level 3 Restrictions
- If you can not source P2 masks which are in seriously short supply right now then ask the ADA what alternative is to be used when treating emergency patients.
Suggestions for Staff continuing to work
- Reception team to wear glasses and masks
- All reception and dental assistant clothing must be washed daily
- All staff to shower immediately after arriving home
- Could wear scrubs or a surgical gown if on reception
- All staff and dentists to gargle with chlorhexidine several times per day
Same options apply as above for closed practices’.
- Patient communication strategies
- Staff duties
- Dentist and staff ongoing learning
- Speak directly with your accountant
- Either your accountant or yourself to register with ATO for any payments applicable to you and your business
Prepare information for discussion with your accountant:
- Bank details – accounts; current interest rate; loans; terms of loans
- Mortgage details if you own your practice
- Leasing company details
- Landlord information if renting your premises
- Supply companies that you currently trade with and or owe money to
Devise a plan to approach these groups to secure a reduction or delay in payments and when these delayed payments need to be repaid.
Discuss with your accountant:
- Current budget and expenditure
- Cash flow
- What suggestions and or options are there to keep your staff employed and together
- Possible roster system for staff
- Potential pay reduction for staff which is then repaid once the business is operating again at full capacity
- Other options for staff with Government Job Keeper programs or terminations and what this will cost your business
Losing staff is not a great option for the longer - term stability of your practice. They can be very productive as outlined in this interim period.
Going forward positively and in control of what you can control means that you absolutely will get through this.
Yes, it is and will continue to be tough but as a team you will be much stronger.
If you have any questions regarding the above please just email us at [email protected] and we will get back to you asap.
We are with you and will continue this communication weekly until we all make it back to practice productivity.
This information is free so please share it with a colleague, it just might help them too.
In this together. Kind Regards Dr Jon Kozeniauskas and Erica King www.refocuseddental.com