Practical & Actionable Tips For Maintaining Your Dental Practice During The COVID-19 Pandemic
This post was updated as of 3 pm Monday 23rd March and will continue to be updated as we receive further recommendations from the ADA and the Australian Government Department of Health.
In the wake of this Pandemic, and all the misinformation that's floating around (suddenly my neighbour Sharon's an infectious diseases expert) we thought what would be useful is a practical and actionable list of things you can do to sustain your dental practice during these unprecedented times.
Below is a list of *actual* things you can do in your surgery right now to keep you, your team and your patients safe and also a whole bunch of stuff you can do in any 'downtime' to ensure you come back to a thriving business.
Stay safe and informed
It goes without saying to stay on top of all recommended infection control protocols. To help you we've compiled a list of all relevant (#nofakenews) bodies that will help you do this.
1. Australian Department of Health Coronavirus alerts
Need more personalised attention and training? Contact Infection Control Dental for the latest infection control measures for treating patients during the Pandemic.
Communicate, communicate, communicate!
You know you're doing the right thing to prevent contagion but do your patients know — like really know the lengths you go to? [Hint: they probably haven't a clue!]
It's imperative that you communicate to your patients what you are doing at this time to protect their health and safety. A vital tool for helping you keep up regular, personalised, communication with your patients is a Marketing Automation System (and we're not talking about your Practice Management Software). If you aren't using a Marketing Automation System (MAS) now's the time to get one. We've listed a couple below in the tools section.
At Think32, we use Autopilot for our clients and are happy to discuss helping you implement this in your surgery and train your team. Contact us to find out more.
Work from home
On the days you and your team are not working in the surgery; it doesn't mean everything must come to a complete halt. Ensure all staff have access to a computer, the internet and your Practice Management System from home. You might even want to consider paying for their internet access during this period.
Here's a list of just some of the things your team can be doing while working from home:
→ Follow up calls
→ Email coms
→ Admin tasks
→ Payments (you can set up your EFTPOS machines to use from home to process payments — contact your bank to find out how)
→ Live chat service on your website (more on this in the Live chat section of this blog post)
→ Training (more on this in the remote training section)
There are also several communication tools you can use to keep in instant contact with your team when they are working remotely. We use a system called Slack, but there are other options available — we've listed these in the tools section below. If you are interested in setting up Slack for your team but not sure how to go about it, we're here to help.
As you are well aware, people will always need emergency dental care.
Consider an after-hours phone to take any calls rather than them going to an answering machine. Delegate a different team member to take the phone home each night and book in the patients immediately.
Offer Invisalign, SureSmile or other clear aligners?
Have your aligner deliveries redirected to one of your team members homes. Supply them with postbags/courier bags so they can deliver these from home. (Credit to Dr Vandana Katyal for this great suggestion!)
The number of dentists we talk to who delay business planning because they're 'too busy' is staggering! In the words of Benjamin Franklin "Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail".
Now's the perfect time to get your game plan down so that when this is all over (and it will be), you've got a rock-solid plan to get your business back on track. Here are some tips to help you get your strategy started.
1. Set Goals
Figure out what your goals are for the next 12-months, what's the gap? How will you fill that? And by "goals" we mean meaningful SMART business goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time bound. Lofty goal (i.e pretty useless) = "Increase the numbers of new patients" SMART Goals = "Increase new patients by 20% to 300 in the next 12 months"
2. Audit your Marketing (properly)
"A Facebook funnel fixed all my marketing woes" (said no dentist ever). Are you a 'fly by the seat of your pants' type of business owner that keeps trying the 'marketing activity de jour' and stops when it doesn't bring immediate sales? Well, that ain't gonna cut it, my friend. Start with a marketing audit - figure out where you're spending your money and how much ROI it's bringing you. Here's a handy spreadsheet to help you figure that out.
3. Fix your website!
Your website should be your number one or number two source of new patients (after word-of-mouth). If you're not getting new patients from your website, it's not working.
Potential patients are still searching for dentists, even during these tumultuous times. Toothaches, chipped teeth, old crowns that fall off don't stop regardless.
FACT: If you're a general practice and you're not in listed on Google's top three positions for "dentist" in your suburb, you're not going to get found by these patients. (*Note - specialist practices and restricted practices - this doesn't apply to you).
Side note: If you're paying someone for 'SEO' and you're not ranking in the top 3 (or at least the top 5) fire them immediately - they're not doing their job.
Need a new website? Did you know that you can immediately write off a new website? You know this applies to equipment but often dentists forget that the same applies to a new website? Get it built before the end of June and claim it off this year's tax bill.
Want help to put together a strategy? We can help you plan the way big business does it but with a team of dental industry experts. Contact us to find out how.
Phone it in
Consider offering Teledentistry to your patients. You probably use Facetime or Skype to connect with your family and friends. Well, why not use it for your dental appointments.
There are several platforms you can use for Teledentistry that are relatively inexpensive and easy to set up, we've listed our faves below. Ensure that whatever platform you use is OAIC compliant. For more information on this refer to this article.
Consider installing a Live Chat service on your website; this way, your team can work from home answering any burning questions and being there for your patients when they need you - even remotely. This build an enormous traction in 'good will'. Patients always remember who was there for them in their time of need and by being accessible you increase your chances of getting a new patient.
There are several services you can use for this ranging in price and features. I've listed some below in the tools section. Our hands-down favourite is LiveChat. Want some advice on the best system for your practice? Contact us for help with installation and implementation.
Sort out your finances
Australian banks will defer loan repayments for small businesses affected by COVID-19 for six months. See here for details. The ADA is also putting together helpful information for dentists on how to manage their finances during these tough times. Find this info here.
We highly recommend applying the Profit First system for your business. With Profit First you're always turning a profit, never overspending and have funds saved up for times just like these. If you want help applying the Profit First system to your practice, we're here to help.
Upskill you & your team
Now is your time to upskill yourself & team. During the downtime, you can learn a new skill and perhaps even add a new treatment offering for your patients.
Many companies are now offering virtual training and webinars that you can do from the comfort of your own home. Here's a list of our favs:
Interested in facial aesthetics?
AADFA are now offering FREE masterclasses (YES, free!) and online training modules. They also have a whole library of online educational video tutorials, research papers & clinical articles. Find this info here.
Digital Dentistry your Thang?
Dental Axess will be offering free webinars. They will cover a number of topics including:
→ Crown & bridge
→ Implant dentistry
→ Orthodontics and clear aligners
→ Patient communication tools
They are currently taking suggestions on what topics you would like covered, click here to suggest yours.
Slack Google Hangouts Facebook Workplace
Marketing Automation Systems
Website Live Chat
Times are going to be tough; none of us will come out of this untouched. In the meantime, in the words of Richard Wilkins "be good, be kind & be careful".