A team approach to the COVID-19 recovery plan

April 30, 2020

As dental practices prepare to re-open across the country, communication between doctor, staff and patients, along with a game plan, will be key to success.

Not less than three months ago, our economy was thriving. We had more employed Americans than ever in the past five years. The S&P 500 was at an all-time high.

Life seemed so good for us Americans!

Then, in the middle of March, most states were told that dental practices could only provide emergency and essential patient care due to a global pandemic.

It’s now been over six weeks and finally some of us see a light at the end of this long tunnel.

How can we recover after COVID-19?
Two important words that come to mind are:

1.     Communication

2.     Collaboration

Communicate with your team, with your patients and your community.

What has been your normal method of communicating with your team during the COVID-19 pandemic?

“No communication?!”

Is that what you just said?

I hear this answer from a lot of hygienists.

No communication from doctor to their team most likely means no communication with patients and the community where the dental practice is located.

Collaboration should be led by the team leader, AKA the dentist or the practice owner. In some areas the practice owner may not be the dentist.

Whoever the dental practice owner is, there must be a sense of leadership.

Leadership means inspiring, motivating and empowering the people who surround you.

When there is no communication, there is usually no collaboration.

What can a dental hygienist or team member do?
During difficult and challenging times, when there is no communication, many people feel stressed and fear the worst.

It’s human nature. It’s the way we are wired. Us humans, we like to know what is ahead. We want to look into a crystal ball and see what the end looks like.

Some hygienists reached out to other dental professionals with stress, fear and uncertainty when they found out they were furloughed, and when no communication from their employer has occurred since doomsday.

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How can a dental hygienist be proactive not reactive?
Step 1. “We are all in this together.”

Yes, this is true and although your dentist, practice employer, seems to have gone MIA, let’s choose to take the lead.

Since we know dental hygienists do more than “clean teeth” and, if we know that our role as dental hygienist in the practice is extremely valuable and, if we are considered to be like a mini-association, let’s reach out to the doctor-dental practice owner.

Step 2. It’s time for dental hygienists to take the lead.

Lead with the end in mind.

As typical dental team members we spend more time with our team than we do with our actual family members so reach out to your doctor; if you have not done that by now.

Reach out to your doctor/practice owner, with compassion, empathy and an understanding of what it may feel like to have an overhead that runs (for many dentists) 60-70 percent of their total production.

Imagine how it feels to not have a lot of money collected in one month and then a second month.

I know we are all going through our own stress, but let’s have understanding for the other person.

If your end result after the COVID-19 pandemic is to return to your dental practice, where you have been furloughed, not only reach out to the doctor/owner but reach out to your patients who you have known for years. You consider these patients to be your friend. 

Right?!

Yes, you are not being paid but imagine the patients you have been seeing for years; they miss you! These patients you may not have been in contact with for the past six weeks are beginning to wonder about you and the dental practice.

These patients, who you consider your friends, are wondering what you will do differently in your office after COVID-19.
Since they have not heard from your dental office it is very possible they are seeing marketing from another dental office in the community sharing what they are doing differently.

Many offices are spending time and money to revamp their office with special evacuation systems and Hep Filters that run throughout the office.

Communication with your patients and the community is a key-factor if you plan to have a schedule with paying patients anytime soon.

Conclusion
For dental professionals: dentists, practice owners, assistants, front office administrators and hygienists, there must be a recovery plan in place.

Most states in the U.S. are returning to provide routine patient care starting up in May. This will no longer be just emergency and essential care patients seen in a dental office. Some states may not return to their dental office full-time immediately, but most dental offices in the country are planning to open their doors and see patients by June 2020.

Your recover plan begins now.

Call, text and send newsletters to your patients.
Your patients are people you care about. You have a relationship with them.

Dentistry is not a commodity, it’s a business that thrives on relationships. Relationships with humans who have feelings, emotions and have a positive response to kindness and caring.

Now is the time to let your patients know how much you care about them.

Now is the time to communicate and plan with your team.

Communication with your patients means understanding how your patients like to communicate.

This communication does not have to be a phone call, however, that is a great start to communication.

Your communication can be a text message and even a text message or email with a video message about how much you miss them and can’t wait to see them. Tell your patients what you are going to do differently to keep them safe.

When you use newsletters and/or email patients use pictures and video messages. Imagine how much a simple 30- to 60-second video message from a team member will mean to your patient.

And imagine the impact of a video message from the dentist/owner of your dental practice?!

I am almost positive few if any other dental offices in your community have sent patients a video message that seems authentically kind and caring.
When doctor is able to send a video message to their patients it will make a huge impact.

The video message can be a generic message and it will pertain to every patient. This will be one general message but delivered to all patients.

Your message is to let patients know you miss them, you hope to see them soon and let them know to check your website for all the PPE and office changes you have made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When anyone goes to your website it must let them know what you are doing differently after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Implementing one or all of these suggestions will set you apart from other dental offices in your community.

Why should a team member/employee take the lead?
Your recovery plan may become the one for the practice because dentists did not go to dental school to become an expert business owner.

Now is the time to take the lead and plan to recover.

You can’t wait another day to connect and communicate with your patients.

You may also plan to join one of the hundreds of webinars and training sessions as a team and this can help turbo-charge your plan to recover after COVID-19.

This is not a time to wave your white flag and surrender.

Now is the time to get your head out of the sand and create your success plan for 2020.

Without a plan you will plan to fail.

Let’s do this.

We are all in this together and you got this!